Harrison Burton went from leading the Daytona 500 to flipping over on the backstretch all in the span of a few minutes Sunday afternoon.
Shoved off Turn 2 by Brad Keselowski on lap 63 as the two led the high lane, Wood Brothers Racing rookie Burton was shot to the left, where he bounced off the right side of William Byron’s car. As Burton was then hit by the oncoming Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell, Byron went for a long slide and crashed nose-first into the inside wall.
The contact from Busch and Bell, and with his car sitting spinning sideways across the track, Burton was sent airborne. The No. 21 Ford flipped over on its roof before being knocked back on its wheels by the sliding car of Alex Bowman.
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“I don’t know if it was too much,” Burton said of the push from Keselowski. “I just think it might have been in the wrong spot. It’s hard. These bumpers don’t line up as good as the old ones did. Through the testing I always found that dead center was the best, so when I was pushing Joey [Logano] or whatever you want to push in the center of the bumper. I couldn’t tell.
“I haven’t watched a good video of it yet, so don’t take what I say to the bank. Obviously, I’m not questioning Brad’s ability, but I think he just got a little wide on my right side and kind of shot me on the inside there. We were working good together up to that point. There were a couple moments where I was having to save it kind of sideways and obviously just one too many and we ended up upside-down.”
Burton, Byron, Hamlin, and Ross Chastain were knocked out of the race. Christopher Bell attempted to rejoin the field but went to the garage with a broken suspension.
Burton admitted he’d had harder hits before in racing. The crash left him more confused than anything about why it happened.
“I just got pushed and didn’t take it the right way,” Burton said. “The car didn’t take it the right way or got pushed in the wrong spot. I’m not sure. I couldn’t really tell. … I don’t really know what we could have done different, but we’ll move on and get better from it.”
As for the flip, Burton said he had no previous flips to compare.
“Obviously, it got real light and blew over right. I don’t know if it was the diffuser that did it or what, but once I got backwards, I just blew right over. As far as the cockpit and everything is safe. I didn’t get hit hard at all. Luckily, all good there and we’ll move on.”
It was the first multicar crash of the afternoon. For Hamlin, it is his first DNF in the Daytona 500 in 17 starts.
“The 6 [Brad Keselowski] was pushing the 21 [Harrison Burton], and you could see the 21 was kind of getting out of control there, so you know the mindset was that you’ve got to back off, but I think the 6 was just insistent on pushing him at all costs and eventually turned the 21 around,” said Hamlin. “Tough, you know, considering it was just for the stage. We were kind of boxed in there where I noticed that something was going to happen, but I was boxed in, I was behind a teammate, and I wanted to try to help. Again, just too aggressive pushing right there when they weren’t lined up and in control.”
Burton was credited with leading lap 39 and was then shoved back to the race lead on lap 59 by Martin Truex Jr. In all, Burton led three laps in his Daytona 500 debut and second career Cup Series race.