‘The Big One’ doesn’t wait for the Daytona 500

It didn’t take long for chaos to claim its first victims Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway.

Four laps into the afternoon NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session for Sunday’s Daytona 500, Cole Whitt scraped the outside wall after a piece of debris punctured the nose of his No. 26 Swan Racing Toyota.

In an attempt to avoid Whitt’s car, Brian Vickers collected Casey Mears’ Chevrolet and shot nose-first into the outside wall. The impact sent parts and pieces flying, and one of the square cowl flaps from Vickers’ Camry lodged edge-first into the nose and hood of Jeff Gordon’s Chevy.

As it turned out, that was just the warm-up act for a subsequent seven-car wreck that sent Parker Kligerman for a ride on his roof, damaged five cars beyond repair and knocked a hole in the bottom portion chain-link fence that separates the track from the frontstretch grandstand.

NASCAR canceled the remainder of the practice session, giving track workers time to repair the fence before the start of the second practice.

Contact between Joey Logano’s Ford and Matt Kenseth’s Toyota triggered the wreck as drivers were drafting in close quarters.

“We were coming off of (Turn) 4 there, and the 20 (Kenseth) started making a move to go down,” Logano explained. “I assumed he was going to go down there (to the inside lane). I had the run, so I was going to fill that hole, and then he started to come back up and I was there.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have been racing as hard as I was there in practice, but everybody was in a big pack there, trying to make things happen.”

Logano got no argument from Kligerman, whose Toyota got airborne, rode the top of the SAFER near the start/finish line, flipped over on its roof and slid to a stop past the end of pit road.

“I guess from what I could see, the 22 (Logano) was just being overly aggressive, and it’s a shame,” Kligerman said. “He’s supposed to be a veteran.

“You go up here to the Sprint Cup Series, and it’s supposed to be the best of the best, and you have a guy who in practice is racing people like that … like it’s the last lap of the Daytona 500.”

Others involved in the wreck included the No. 27 Chevrolet of Paul Menard, the No. 83 Toyota of Ryan Truex, the No. 77 Ford of Dave Blaney and the No. 21 Ford of Trevor Bayne, which sustained damaged to the nose but was being repaired.

Menard, Truex, Kligerman, Logano and Blaney all were forced to go to backup cars and will start from the rear in Thursday night’s Budweiser Duel at Daytona 150-mile qualifying races.

From the first wreck, Vickers went to a backup, but the teams of Whitt and Mears opted to repair their cars. Swan Racing teammates Whitt and Kligerman had but one backup car between them.