'Big One' Strikes Following Lengthy Rain Delay; Eliminates Patrick, Others

Chris Knight - NASCAR Wire Service Monday, Feb 24 1390

The intensity climbed in Sunday's primetime version of the Daytona 500 following nearly a six and a half hour rain delay, which produced some of the best racing of the night, but it also sparked the perfect recipe for the dreaded "big one" at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

After running 99 laps consecutively under the green flag following the red flag, chaos erupted on the frontstretch on Lap 146 when Stewart Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick drifted up the track and made contact with Brian Scott, who then made contact with Aric Almirola, which flared a chain-reaction incident that involved 13 cars total.

Including Almirola, Harvick and Scott, were the cars of Justin Allgaier, Marcos Ambrose, polesitter Austin Dillon, David Gilliland, Kasey Kahne, Parker Kligerman, Danica Patrick, Paul Menard, Michael Waltrip and Josh Wise.

Patrick, who led two laps in Sunday's night "Great American Race," suffered the hardest blow of the casualties, hitting the outside wall hard in her No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet that ultimately resulted in a 35th-place finish. She climbed from her car dejected, but uninjured.

"I don't know it feels like they are all pretty hard unfortunately," said Patrick, the 2013 Daytona 500 polesitter. "I think more than anything I am just upset that the GoDaddy car felt really good and it was the best car that I had all Speedweeks. It seemed like we could catch whoever and it seemed like we could move around, make lanes and just move around and move forward at the end of the day. I felt like everything was going pretty well, so it's just upsetting you know. It's a bummer, but you know that is the excitement of speedway racing that anything can happen, and it was unfortunate that I was on the short end of the accident."

She, however, wasn't the only driver frustrated following the event's third caution. Almirola, a Florida native was equally heartbroken.

"I come down here for the Daytona 500 two hours away from home and I always want to run good here, but it never works out," he said. "Somebody got loose up under us and ruined our day. That's part of it. It's Daytona. We had a really fast Smithfield Ford. Trent (Owens, crew chief) made some good calls on our strategy. ... It's just a shame to have a car that fast and be torn up."

Michael Waltrip, gunning for his third Daytona 500 triumph was also a victim in the incident.

"When cars are grippy, people are crazy -- they like to go," said Waltrip, the 2001 and 2003 Daytona 500 winner. "The cars are real grippy under the night sky and the cool temperatures, so there's a lot of lanes and people are trying to use everyone them. "I saw the cars get together ahead of me and I let off the gas and was coasting under control and someone behind me wasn't. I'm not really sure what car started it, but a black one ended it for me -- ran me over pretty hard. It was fun racing with the leaders."

All but Almirola, Patrick and Waltrip were able to continue.

Harvick, who triggered the incident bounded back and contended for a top-five run, but found himself involved in the last lap incident on the frontstretch, resulting in a 13th place finish.