Big Crash Ruins Kyle Busch's Car, Changes Complexion of Daytona 500

eugene palmerContributor IFebruary 15, 2009

Aggressive driving with 76 laps left in the Daytona 500 and rain threatening to cut the event short caused a 10-car backstretch melee that eliminated Kyle Busch's dominant car and radically changed the race's complexion.

It also kicked off a spate of two more cautions in the 20 additional laps that were run before rain ended the race after 152 laps. But the big crash was the most decisive. This is a great quote by Kyle Busch:

Some guys having some bad days and not doing their best out there, they made their bad day our bad day and we had a problem.


The critical accident started after a Lap 124 restart when Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevrolet, a lap down after a pit road penalty, got a great run down the inside and attempted to pass Brian Vickers' No. 83 Toyota.

Apparently Earnhardt didn't know Vickers was also a lap down and fighting him for the free pass spot in the event of another caution. Vickers moved over a lane to block Earnhardt, forcing the No. 88 below the double-yellow out-of-bounds line halfway down the straightaway.

When Earnhardt came back onto the racetrack, he hooked the left-rear corner of Vickers' car, sending it out of control and across the backstretch in front of traffic.

Earnhardt escaped unscathed and got his lap back. But Busch, whose No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led the most laps in the race (88) and who said he was "100 percent confident" he was going to win, was eliminated on the spot, as was Vickers. Both pointed fingers at Earnhardt.

"My goal was to keep Junior [Earnhardt] behind me and I went to block him," Vickers said. "I beat him to the yellow line and then he just turned us. He hooked me in the left-rear and typically NASCAR penalizes...I think Jason Leffler was penalized five laps [Saturday] for doing the same thing.

"I guess they're not going to penalize him for it. It's kind of sad. To wreck somebody intentionally like that in front of the entire field is really kind of dangerous. That's my biggest problem with it, but apparently he wanted a caution pretty bad."

Earnhardt, who had battled back from two pit road miscues, including a one-lap penalty for pitting outside his pit box, wouldn't accept the criticism.

"I had a big 'ol run on him, and I went to the inside," Earnhardt said. "I didn't try a late move or to make up some surprise or anything.  I just kind of eased on over there and he went to block me and hit me in the fender, which sent me off toward the grass.

"In trying to recover, my car I got back into him trying come back up on the race track. I don't hate it for him, but [I do] for everyone else that wrecked."

Earnhardt bristled and raised his voice a couple octaves when FOX's Dick Berggren asked him during the live broadcast under the rain delay before the race was called if the contact was an accident.

"Yeah, it was accidental," Earnhardt shrieked. "I don't want to wreck the field. The rain was coming, it was time to try to win the race and I was trying to get back on the lead lap. So I had to run hard."

"If Vickers could have just held his ground, I had a good run.  I was a lapped car anyway and wasn't battling for the lead. But he drove me down into the grass almost and I didn't have much control of my car after that."

"That's super speedway racing," Vickers insisted. "You watch your mirror [and] you try to keep the guy behind you, behind you. My goal is not to let him pass me. People blocked me the whole race. They'd turn left and try to keep me behind them. That's part of super speedway racing.

"I don't just hook them in the left-rear and turn them in front of the field. I don't think that's an excuse to do that. Everybody has their own opinion, I guess."

That was no consolation for Busch, who was blunt in his assessment of what happened.

"Some guys having some bad days and not doing their best out there, they made their bad day our bad day and we had a problem," Busch said. "I was just playing with my teammate Denny Hamlin up there and having a great time. It was just unfortunate that two guys got together that were a lap down and were fighting over nothing."

No matter who was at fault, Busch was extremely bitter to be standing outside the infield care center before the race ended.

"It looked [like a] pretty big [mistake] to me," Busch said. "It cost the winning car the chance to win the race." These quotes show the frustration and disappointment in what should have been the 2009 Daytona 500 winner.