Five days before the Daytona 500, the drivers are already saying it.
Sprint Cup rookie Parker Kligerman’s car ended up on its hood in an accident at practice Wednesday that sent him scraping the catch-fence along the front stretch and also banged up the cars of Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have been racing as hard as I was there in practice, but everybody was in a big pack there, trying to make things happen,” Logano said. “That’s Daytona for you.”
The practice session was red-flagged and then canceled. The second practice was run as scheduled.
Kligerman and Logano, who had the third-fastest time in the practice, will have to use backup cars and start at the back of the field in Thursday night’s qualifying duels, along with Paul Menard, Brian Vickers, Dave Blaney and Ryan Truex.
Logano said an unexpected move from Kenseth surprised him, but Kligerman remained annoyed.
“It looks like the 22 [Logano] was just being overly aggressive, and it’s a shame,” Kligerman said. “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.”
Trevor Bayne, who won the 500 three years ago, got through the accident without damage but came away with a reminder of what can happen on the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
“The problem is the closing rate is so fast that if you try to move, you have to be so decisive here,” he said. “If you commit to a lane, even if it’s gonna send you backwards, you almost have to stay there because if you try to switch back and forth a couple times, it isn’t good. It teaches me something for these Duels — to get in a lane, stay there and ride it out.”
Bayne said the nose of his No. 51 Ford got some damage but that it would be repaired.
As Kligerman went airborne and hit the fence, it provided a stark reminder of the finish to last year’s Nationwide race here, when Kyle Larson’s car went airborne and struck the fence, sending debris and tires into the stands, injuring dozens of fans.
Daytona officials said the new fencing, redesigned last year after the accident, worked as it should have. Workers had to replace one cable and some of the mesh.
There were few people in the stands, and the track said no one was injured.
Truck series champion Matt Crafton said he wants to be the first repeat champion in the series, but he won’t mention it again.
He doesn’t want to press his luck.
“Davey Allison always told me, ‘I’d rather be lucky than good,’ and there were plenty of races that we had the luck on our side as well,” Crafton said. “It’s never been done — a repeat — so I don’t want to talk about it too much. This is going to be the last time I say it, so hopefully we can do it.”
ESPN analyst Allen Bestwick said the network is as enthusiastic about its last season covering NASCAR as any other.
“It’s in nobody’s interest, personally or professionally, or the company’s interest, business-wise, to do anything but keep our right foot pressed all the way to the floorboards, and that’s what’ll happen,” he said. “When we get to the end of the season and we’re done with Homestead and we set the headsets down on the desk, I’m sure there’s going to be a hell of a party, because you spend a lot of time with people who become like a second family to you, and when that run ends, it’s a little tough.
“But between now and then, our company has dedicated tremendous resources to us. Our plans are exactly the same.”