Anticipation had been building over the course of testing as everyone wanted to see it – everyone wanted to see the pack hit the track with the new Generation 6 cars. Friday afternoon brought forth a pack of 20 cars that let everyone see what they’d expect with drafting. However, it didn’t last long as contact between Marcos Ambrose and Dale Earnhardt Jr. would cause a wreck, collecting a total of 10 cars.
Coming down the back straightaway, Earnhardt Jr. was trying to push Ambrose in the draft, though a tap near the end of the back straight sent Ambrose spinning in front of the whole pack.
““We were just out there running around,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I felt like Marcus (Ambrose) was backing up to me in (turns) one and two to get a run down the back. I was just going to give him a push down the back straightaway and see if he could get the lead. I was trying to eventually get the lead myself. We got off the back straightaway and were just kind of pushing him along there and our cars sort of just didn’t match up very well. I got him hooked into the fence. I pushed Martin (Truex) a little bit in his Toyota and they matched up good. The bumpers were good, didn’t have any problem with any of the cars. That is the first time I pushed a Ford. The roll bar of the front of my car is just at the right place where his car sets right up on top of that. I sort of had him going down the back straightaway like a forklift. It was a big mess and tore up a lot of cars down here trying to work on their stuff.”
“I just feel bad for my Stanley and Richard Petty Motorsports team,” Ambrose said. “You know, I had junior pushing me. He’s just a great drafter, really can feel it well. I guess I just got caught on the edge of the bumper there and with the shaped noses and the tires, just spun me out. It was hardly even a bump. It was just enough at the wrong angle, wrong time and just went for a spin. I feel bad for everybody because quite a few cars were torn up there. But we’ll repair this one and probably build a couple new ones and get ready for Speedweeks.”
Collected in the wreck was Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Regan Smith and Carl Edwards.
“I am not sure what happened,” Almirola said. “I saw Marcos get hooked but couldn’t tell who it was. It is just part of this kind of racing. We are in a big pack and if something goes wrong at the front we are all in it. Maybe the bad luck is out of the way before we come back here for Speedweeks. You never want to tear up race cars, that is no fun. The bright side is that the change we made is better and hopefully when we come back down here for Speedweeks we won’t be in that big one.”
“I know we were in a pack drafting, just trying to learn the cars and what this aero package is doing,” Gordon said. “Some guys started forming a line on the inside and things started getting a little more aggressive at that point. Somebody must have turned or got turned or something and then they just all started stacking up.”
All teams were sent home packing due to the damage except for Busch and Edwards – Busch made repairs while Edwards was the only one with a back-up car.
“I didn’t see anything happening in front of me,” Busch said. “Just saw the smoke and then a car sideways and I started trying to check up. I feel like I did a pretty good job checking up. The guy behind me got into me a little bit so I knew I couldn’t slow down more so I just had to try to find a lane to get through and I saw the 43 (Aric Almirola) come across the race track so I turned left to miss it and I shot the gap and when I did somebody was on my inside and just hit me in the left rear a little bit. That’s just the major damage right there on the left rear.”
The anticipation had been building as the 2013 season marks the debut of the Generation 6 car, which is part of NASCAR’s continuing work to improve the cars. The new car is meant to be safer than the Car of Tomorrow. The other main difference is NASCAR getting back to their roots as the cars look like the cars right off the street.
Though another thing that seems to be happening is they’re going back to the old roots with the old style of drafting and no tandem racing.
“Definitely the drafting is not like it used to be,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “You can’t really tandem certain cars; certain cars don’t match up well. Our bumpers on the Chevy’s have a little bit of a point. It makes it a little bit of a challenge to get into guys and kind of help them. We definitely weren’t doing that in the corner at all because it was pretty hairy trying to do it on the straightaways.”
When it comes to the speed charts, Trevor Bayne topped the charts driving the No. 21 for Wood Brothers Racing. He will attempt to win his second Daytona 500 with the Wood Brothers while running the full Nationwide Series schedule for Roush Fenway Racing. Logano was second, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin and Edwards.
Testing continues on Saturday, which will comprise of single car runs.