A 17-car crash eliminated several contenders in the second half of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
The Big One struck on Lap 118 and involved the first and second-place cars in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona.
And then it involved pretty much everyone behind them too.
Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer got a big run on the outside and took the lead away from Denny Hamlin on bottom. Once clear of Hamlin, Bowyer made a move to the inside of Dillon, and the No. 3 came down with him.
But Dillon was not clear of Bowyer and the two cars came together, spun and wrecked, sideways in front of the entire field.
All told, NASCAR confirmed that 17 drivers caught damage: Bowyer, Dillon, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Preece, Alex Bowman, Matt DiBenedetto and Parker Kligerman.
Bowyer said Dillon just kept coming down.
“What do you do? That was terrible,” Bowyer said. “That wasn’t even close. When we got together and I pulled off of him to give him some room and then he just never quit coming down and wrecked us all. It’s just part of the racing. You want to blame him. If it would have been anybody else there, they would have probably done the same thing. We had a fast hot-rod, had a good run and was going for the lead and it’s just the nature of this kind of racing. It sucks. You want to be pissed off, frustrated and blame somebody, but at the end of the day it’s just part of racing.”
The race was under a lengthy delay for lightning following the crash. Rain was in the area and Dillon said that raised the intensity of the race, ultimately leading to the massive melee.
“Rain was coming, lightning was coming, and my guys had me amped up there,” Dillon said. “We had a super-fast car. We were out front, and I didn’t think anyone could get to us. It was fun working with the Hendrick guys today — Chase and Alex had my back a lot.
“I thought I would get clear of Denny and come back down. When I got up there and (Bowyer) was behind me, I thought that’s not where I wanted to be. I wanted to come down and get in front of Denny and I just hate how many Chevrolets that took out. I hate it for Chase.
“Clint gave me a push and down the tri-oval and that was enough to get me in front of the 11. I was kind of pointed left and he hit me in the left rear and kept turning left, hoping it would kind of unlock, and it didn’t turn out that way.”
The race was especially costly for both Bowyer and Dillon as both drivers are outside of the playoff cutoff. Dillon has fallen from 10th in the standings to outside of the top-16 over the past month.
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