After grabbing the pole position for the Daytona 500 earlier this week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will now be forced to drop to the back of the pack after getting caught up in a multi-car crash Wednesday during practice.
Early Wednesday morning, Earnhardt Jr. got caught up in an accident with Martin Truex Jr., as the two crashed into the inside retaining wall upon reaching a slower set of cars.
"We were coming around the corner and there were three guys on the inside and they moved up off the bottom, and me and Jimmie (Johnson) had to check up, and I got hit from behind there," Earnhardt Jr. told reporters after his accident.
Prior to the accident, Earnhardt Jr. had been driving behind his Hendrick-teammate Jimmie Johnson in a two-car pack, and made contact with the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet after Johnson was forced to brake to avoid hitting a slower pack of cars.
As Earnhardt Jr. slowed down, Truex Jr. hit Earnhardt Jr.’s car, sending both into the inside wall.
After winning the pole for Sunday’s race, the No. 88 team had looked dominant prior to Earnhardt Jr.’s accident. His now wrecked race car had posted the fastest speed in Wednesday’s rain-shortened practice session.
According to NASCAR rules, because Earnhardt Jr. will now be driving his backup car in the 500, he will be forced to begin Sunday’s race at the back of the pack.
"We got plenty of race cars and I ain't worried about [how] fast we'll be. We'll be fine. It never feels good tearing them up," he told reporters.
The other cars involved in the accident will not be penalized because they, technically, have not qualified for the race yet. Hypothetically, Truex Jr. could start for the pole position if he wins his qualifying race and qualifies third, which will move him up to the pole position after Earnhardt Jr. drops to the back.