Dale Earnhardt Jr. blows engine, crashes continue at Daytona
It was another rough practice session at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday as drivers in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series prepared their new Gen-6 cars for twin qualifying races Thursday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran only 11 laps in practice before his engine failed. Ryan Newman lost control of his car when leading Carl Edwards and Mark Martin around the track, with all three cars sustaining damage in the crash. For Martin, it’s the third time he’s had a car damaged in a crash while preparing for the Daytona 500, which is Sunday.
These problems follow a nine-car wreck in the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race Saturday night at Daytona, where two-time 500 winner Matt Kenseth lost control of his car and when the track was cleared seven drivers had cars that sustained too much damage to continue.
The only certain thing at this point is that Danica Patrick will start on the pole and Jeff Gordon will be alongside her in the front row after qualifying Sunday. The rest of the field will be set after Thursday night’s twin 150-mile qualifying races.
“My car came around -- I don’t know if it was the air off of Carl’s car or what,” Newman said of Wednesday’s crash. “Carl came over and said, ‘Hey, man.’ I said, ‘I don’t even know what to tell you yet.’”
Earnhardt, who triggered a multi-car accident during testing in January, didn’t get his car up to speed on Wednesday, clocking an average of 191 mph, 34th out of the 35 cars in the practice session. Patrick and Gordon were the only two drivers Sunday to average 196 mph, although several on Wednesday bettered that.
“We just broke a motor, as simple as that,” Earnhardt said. “We’ll just put a new one in there, start at the back and try to race our way through there.”
Although some drivers are perplexed about how the new Gen-6 cars handle, Edwards was more philosophical.
“Race cars are supposed to be hard to drive, it’s supposed to be on the edge, you are supposed to be sliding around,” he said. “We as drivers, it is our responsibility to learn how to drive them. If this [warm] weather stays like this, and we can run cars sideways down the corner and give each other a little bit of room, it’s going to be an awesome 500.”
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