DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Joe Nemechek, one of NASCAR's last remaining driver-owners, felt pretty good when he reached the checkered flag Saturday with a clean race car and a 12th-place finish - tying his best in the series in his last 33 starts.
The good feelings didn't last.
Nemechek was part of a eight-car crash caused by Dale Earnhardt Jr. after he crossed the finish line of Saturday's 300-mile NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway. The crash smashed his No. 87 on both ends.
"All of a sudden I got hit hard, went sliding through the grass and up on the track and then someone hit me going about 120 (mph)," Nemechek said as his mangled race car was lifted into his team's hauler. "It destroyed the race car."
Earnhardt said he was surprised at how fast Kyle Larson slowed down in front of him as the field let off the pace after the finish.
"We were all slowing down and I was looking all around trying to figure out where everybody was and I run in the back of (Larson)," Earnhardt said. "Totally my fault. I just wasn't paying attention."
Larson spun up the track and collected Nemechek and Ryan Sieg. James Buescher, Landon Cassill and Brian Scott all spun in the melee before Nemechek slid back up the banking in Turn 1 right in front of a slowing Ryan Reed. But Reed couldn't stop in time and smashed his Ford into the back of Nemechek's car. The impact jumped Nemechek's rear wheels off the ground and demolished the front end of Reed's No. 16, spewing parts, pieces and fluid across the track.
"I hate it for Joe and those guys," Earnhardt said. "They don't need to be tearing up race cars."
The crash especially stung for Nemechek, operator of a low-budget team without the resources to easily replace crashed cars like the sport's behemoths.
"That's what is probably the most disappointing," Nemechek said. "(The car) didn't have a mark on it and it was ready to go to Talladega. Now it's completely destroyed - front clip, rear clip, everything's destroyed. We'll figure it out somehow."
In a television interview after the race, Earnhardt offered to replace the bodies of the cars he crashed. There was no word if Nemechek or others were planning to take him up on the offer.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Joe Nemechek
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.