The Big One strikes early in Daytona 500

The 2021 Daytona 500 ended early for several favorites Sunday. On lap 14 a crash that started at the front of the field ended with a 16-car crash followed by a red flag stoppage.

Christopher Bell in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota went to push the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of Aric Almirola as a run started to form in the inside line while Almirola was running second. The cars were misaligned, and Bell’s bump to the right-rear corner turned Almirola just before the entrance of Turn 3. The No. 10 went up the track into polesitter Alex Bowman’s Chevy and ended with a 16-car pile-up. Bell was able to continue.

“We were just getting pushed too hard too early,” Almirola said. “It’s a long, long race.  Man, we were in a fine position, just sitting there riding around in the top two, three and the 20 just came with a big run and hit me really hard in a bad spot and it turned me to the right and tore up our race car and ended our Daytona 500 way too early.”

In addition to Bell, Almirola and Bowman others involved were Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, David Ragan, Anthony Alfredo and Daniel Suarez.

“Somebody crashed in the outside row in front of us and we had nowhere to go and I got hit from some place,” Newman said. “I had the wreck missed, but got hit from some place and that was the end of our day.  I just feel bad for Kohler Generators jumping on board and getting wrecked out of the Daytona 500 so early, but unfortunately that’s part of racing.  I just wish we could have had some better results.”

Almirola, Bowman, Suarez, Ragan, Newman, Jones and Cope were all listed as out of the race under the ensuing caution which was short lived as lightning from threatening storms struck near the track and the field was put under a red flag. The rain followed shortly after.  After a five hour forty five minute rain delay the race resumed with Michael McDowell winning early Monday morning.

Greg Engle