Dale Earnhardt Jr will start the Daytona 500 from the rear of the field, after a costly crash during Wednesday's rain-delayed practice session wrecked his race car.
Earnhardt will also have to start from the rear in the first of Thursday night's Gatorade Duel events, which will set the final starting order for Sunday's race.
The crash happened when Earnhardt was getting some drafting practice pushing his Hendricks Motorsports team mate Jimmie Johnson. Johnson found himself coming up on Robby Gordon, Michael Waltrip and David Gilliland up ahead who got loose and drifted up the track, causing them to have to slow up. Johnson in turn had to ease up on the gas, catching Earnhardt unawares.
"I was running out of space," explained Johnson. "I lifted, and I got turned sideways from behind."
As a result, Earnhardt ploughed into the back of the reigning champion's car, turning the #88 sideways. A second pack of cars led by Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers were meanwhile approaching the duo from the rear, and Truex found himself boxed in with no where to go but into Earnhardt. As a result both Earnhardt and Vickers were unable to save their cars from going into spins: Earnhardt crashed into the inside of the wall and then rebounded back into Truex for good measure.
Truex will now start his round of the Duel from the rear of the field, but will then start the race from whatever position he qualifies in at the end of Thursday night's event. However, Earnhardt is not so lucky: as his official recorded qualifying time is the one set last Sunday in the now-wrecked car, he will automatically start from the rear of the field on Sunday regardless of his Duel performance.
Earnhardt has already wrecked one car at Daytona this week, with an early accident during Saturday's exhibition Gatorade Shootout, but Earnhardt simply said that "We've got plenty of race cars.
"I ain't worried about how fast we'll be or whether we'll be as good. We'll be fine. But it never feels good tearing them up. I'm just disappointed in myself. I didn't feel good about getting out there practicing, and didn't think I needed to be out there practicing. I just had a bad feeling about it. We come running up on some guys that didn't have their heads on straight and got into an accident."
The car wrecked during the Shootout will now be repurposed and used as Eanhardt's back-up car for the Sunday race.