By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In a span of three laps, the 63rd Daytona 500 went from calm to chaos. One for the dreaded Big One and the other being lightning.
Coming to the end of the Daytona Superstretch, Christopher Bell was running in fourth when he hooked Duel Race No. 1 winner Aric Almirola on Lap 13.
The contact led Almirola’s No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang darting him towards the top lane and collected pole sitter Alex Bowman. Both made tremendous impact towards the outside wall, causing an accordion effect unfolded as the incident wiped out several drivers’ aspirations of winning “The Great American Race.”
In the end, a total of 16 cars were involved including the likes of Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, William Byron, Matt DiBenedetto, Erik Jones and Ryan Newman.
Bowman felt that Almirola “kind of got turned” by Bell, leading to his early exit.
“Bummer – I hate it for Ally. Obviously, we had a really fast Camaro,” said Bowman. “The Chevrolet’s were working good together; hopefully a Chevy still ends up in Victory Lane.”
While Bowman was disappointed, Almirola was displeased with the type of racing that unfolded.
“We were just getting pushed too hard too early. It’s a long, long race,” said Almirola. “Man, we were in a fine position, just sitting there riding around in the top two, three and the 20 just came with a big run and hit me really hard in a bad spot and it turned me to the right and tore up our race car and ended our Daytona 500 way too early.”
As of this moment, Almirola, Bowman, Jones, Newman, Daniel Suarez and David Ragan are officially out of the race.
Minutes later, the red flag would come out. Not for the carnage, but for lightning. Soon after the field were brought to a halt, torrential downpour ensued and delayed the race for 5:40:29.
When the engines re-fired, DiBenedetto and Anthony Alfredo fell out of the race due to their six-minute DVP limit expiring.
Sunday’s stoppage was the third consecutive year the Daytona 500 was red-flagged and the 20th overall in its 63-year history.