Early crash knocks out Chase drivers
DOVER, Del. — Tony Stewart stood with a hand on his hip, looking grim faced as his crew worked on the No. 20. Kevin Harvick folded his arms and could only watch the rest of the field speed around the track.
Both drivers were helpless in the garage after a massive wreck only 17 laps into the race at Dover International Speedway wiped out five of the top-12 cars in the points standings.
Danny Hamlin was knocked out of the race, and Stewart, Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer all had their cars towed to the garage and missed laps.
“I can’t really says it’s anybody’s fault right there,” Hamlin said on Sunday. “It’s just tough racing.”
Kasey Kahne’s car also was damaged in the accident and he finished 31st.
Elliott Sadler was turned into the wall and went spinning down the concrete track after he made contact with David Gilliland. There was no where for the other cars to go.
“We just tried to survive,” Kahne said. “It’s very tough to go fast when these cars are perfect and impossible if you have any type of damage to them.”
The race was red flagged on lap 22. The Monster Mile became a Monster Mess.
“It was just a complete road block,” Hamlin said. “I had to just choose who I was going to hit.”
Stewart got the No. 20 Toyota back on the track 113 laps later and finished 41st. Harvick also returned — without the hood and the set up entirely out of whack — and finished 34th.
The damage continued in the points standings. Hamlin fell four spots from fourth to ninth, and Bowyer, Harvick and Stewart all dropped three spots. Kahne remained stuck in the 12th and final position to make the Chase for the Cup title.
Harvick and Stewart had their cars repaired side-by-side in the garage and Earnhardt huddled with his crew a few stalls down, the garage humming with activity like it was a qualifying day.
“It’s critical any time you fall out of the race this early,” said Harvick’s car owner, Richard Childress.
Greg Biffle cringed when he watched the replay in the media room after the race, letting out a big “ooooh!”
Sadler said he tried to go under and pass Sam Hornish Jr. until Gilliland sped by to make it three wide. Stewart, though, took full responsibility for the wreck for driving too close to Sadler.
“When I hit him, it caused all the guys behind me to wreck,” he said.
This was the second straight race Stewart was the victim of bad luck. He had victory in sight in the Coca-Cola 600 until a flat tire with three laps left cost him his shot at the victory.
“Unfortunately, adversity is our motto here at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Stewart said.