February 19, 2014 | By Bruce Martin
Big Crash in Practice Leaves NASCAR Teams Scrambling
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A multi-car crash just 29 minutes into Wednesday evening’s first practice session at Daytona International Speedway has sent many of the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams bringing out the backup cars for Thursday night’s Budweiser Duels 150-mile qualifying races.
Rookie driver Parker Kligerman ended up into the fence and slid on the roof of his car halfway down the front stretch in a crash that was triggered when Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano ran into each other coming down the front stretch out of Turn 4. Logano’s car turned sideways and slammed into Paul Menard. Kligerman’s car lifted off the ground and landed on Ryan Truex’s hood before it landed upside-down.
Dave Blaney was also involved in the crash that featured no injuries, but the front splitter from Kligerman’s car tore through the fence and pierced through to the other side of the grandstand. No spectators were in that area for practice and there were no injuries.
It ended practice until 6:15 p.m. when the second session began and was scheduled to run through 8 p.m.
Daytona International Speedway construction crews were able to repair the damaged fence, which held up much better than last year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race that ended when Kyle Larson’s car went airborne in a massive crash heading to the checkered flag. That crash last February tore down a large portion of the fence with the engine of Larson’s car ending up near the grandstands. Debris from the crash injured more than 25 people compared to Wednesday when the grandstands were relatively empty.
“I was going into (turn) three and trying to back out of the draft,” Kligerman said. “We were good and we were going to quit for the day -- just pack it up and wait for tomorrow or tonight. I guess from what I could see, the 22 (Joey Logano) was just being overly aggressive and it’s a shame.
“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, meanwhile I came out of Truck practice and we were running three or four-wide, no problem. I don’t quite understand that one; I’ll have to talk to him about that. I’m pretty upset about how all that went down.”
Logano tried to explain his side of the situation that triggered the crash and defend what he was attempting to do.
“We were coming off four there and the 20 started making a move to go down,” Logano said of Kenseth. “I assumed he was going to go down there. 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 and they’re trying to make things happen. As soon as he came back up I checked up a little bit, and then the 21 hit me from behind and we spun out. It happens.
“That’s Daytona for you. We have another good Shell/Pennzoil Ford in the trailer that they backed out and are getting through tech now, so we’ll get that out and make sure it’s good for the Duel and get through that and we’ll be fine.”
Logano and Kenseth were also involved in an incident in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited that resulted in a crash.
“They are two separate things,” Logano said. “I’ve got to study the replay a little bit harder to really understand exactly what happened. I’ve only seen it once and it was real quick, but they’re two separate things there.
“I talked to Matt earlier today. I’m sure we’ll talk about it. I don’t know what there is to talk about, but us drivers always find each other in the motorhome lot to talk to about it.
“It happens every year. You always hope you’re the one that’s not in it or you miss it. I saw it getting kind of crazy out there and you’re kind of in the middle of it, and you can’t really get out of it at that point when you’re in the middle. It was a little too late. It could be anyone. We’re all out there trying to learn about our car and put our car in spots to try to learn about what we can do to make it better and that’s what happens.”
Brian Vickers was involved in a crash earlier in the session and some of his debris ended up in the front of Jeff Gordon’s car. Combine that first crash with those involved in the big one that ended the session that has left Vickers, Logano, Menard, Blaney, Kligerman and Truex switching to backup cars for Thursday night’s Budweiser Duels – two 150-mile qualifying races that will determine the field for Sunday’s 56th Daytona 500. Those cars will also join Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte at the end of the field in both the Duels and the Daytona 500 after those three drivers had unapproved engine changes last weekend.
“For Swan Racing, we have to look at our backup situation,” Kligerman said. “I know we have backup cars, it’s just not as good as that race car. We’ll do the best we can to go get in this 500 and have a great finish, and start this season on a better note than this.
“I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were going to pack up until the nighttime, so I’m really upset about that. I don’t think anyone should -- you’re not learning anything racing like that in practice. For us, the backup situation is that we’ve got backups and all that stuff -- I’m not worried about that. That was just a really good race car that these guys worked on all off-season. Really came down here with a good amount of speed in the draft. We came from the back of that draft all the way to the front and was really proud of our No. 30 Swan Energy Toyota.”
Kligerman went for a wild ride on the roof of his car, which is always a very disorienting experience for a race driver.
“It’s the first time I ever flipped over,” Kligerman said. “I’ve never done that before in a race car. I assumed that it would be rougher, but it was actually really soft. I saw the whole thing go down. I’m up in the fence kind of floating along and thankfully none of the fans got injured, I hope. That’s obviously a scary situation when a car gets that close to the fence. Then it just flipped over softly and I slid on the roof. I guess the strongest thing going through me was anger at that time -- that we were wrecked. Most importantly, that the fans are okay and I’m okay and everyone is okay.”
Meantime, Dave Blaney’s team is trying to find a backup because the low-budget Plinker Arms Ford brought just one car to Daytona.
Kligerman’s plight is not as desperate as Blaney’s.
“We’re 33rd in owner’s points so we have a little bit of breathing room,” Kligerman said. “I think everyone struggles to perfectly understand how you get in this race, especially for the first time. I think our race car should have enough speed. I saw some way slower cars able to hang in the pack there, so hopefully we can have speed that we had there and be fine in the Duel and be in the top-15. If not, we’ve got that 33rd in owner’s points and last year the last car to get in on owner’s points was 39th. I think we’re somewhat safe, but we still can’t rest on our laurels.”
Ryan Truex is another driver that has to get ready for a backup race car and hope it can be competitive in Thursday night’s Duels – the first time the Daytona 500 qualifying races have been held at night.
“First of all, our car was really good,” Truex said. “We didn’t have a lot of speed yesterday in single car runs, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We were running the draft really well. We were behind the 22 (Logano) for a while and 15 (Clint Bowyer) and guys like that, so I was really impressed with the car. We were just riding.
“I’m just trying to learn this pack racing in Cup, I’ve never done it before in the Cup car. I don’t know, it seemed like people were getting a little aggressive out there and one thing led to another. I thought I had it missed, I was checking up and I’m not sure if I got hit from behind or what, but we just got collected and we didn’t deserve that at all. We have to race our way into the 500 and it’s really important for me to make it in this race. It’s my first try and I want it to be my first start too. We’ll pull out the backup and hopefully it’s as fast as our primary.”
When asked if he thought Wednesday’s crash was from unnecessary aggressiveness, Truex was judicious in his response.
“I don’t know -- I don’t want to place blame or point a finger,” Truex said. “I don’t know enough about pack racing in these Cup cars to really say this guy did that wrong or this guy did that wrong – it’s part of superspeedway racing sometimes. You’re working with inches, not feet and everybody is so close together, it’s so easy to make a mistake and once cars start spinning, especially in the tri-oval when you’re up against the wall, it’s really hard to miss. It’s hard to really place blame; it just sucks to get taken out that early in practice.
“The pressure has been on since I signed with these guys. I put a lot of pressure on myself just to go out and perform. We can only do as much as we can. They built a brand new race car and it was really nice, and they put a lot of hard work into it and a lot of overtime, so I hate to go out and destroy it like that. I’m sure the backup will be good and at the end of the day all you can do is go out and give 100 percent, and hopefully that’s enough to make us in.”
Practice continued under the lights on Wednesday night with the session lasting until 8 p.m.
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