By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- So much for pack drafting.
A brief experiment with the multicar draft ended abruptly Friday afternoon when contact between Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Chevrolet and Marcos Ambrose's Ford triggered a wreck that damaged 12 of the 18 cars running together on the second day of Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway.
Earnhardt said he was attempting to push Ambrose, but the nose of the Chevy didn't line up comfortably with the rear bumper of the Ford. Ambrose said he felt two taps from Earnhardt's car down the backstretch before the third hit sent him spinning.
Ambrose was running second in the pack when he was turned into the outside wall. The ensuing wreck damaged 10 other cars behind him -- those of reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Regan Smith, Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards.
With rear deck lids in short supply and no backup cars available for teams other than Edwards' Roush Fenway Racing outfit, the wreck effectively ended testing for most drivers involved.
"I didn't see anything," said Keselowski, who was near the front of the pack when the wreck occurred. "I saw cars smoking and wrecked in front of me. I think I ran into the back of the 43 (Almirola), and someone ran into the back of me. That's just the way this deal is. It's unfortunate, but sometimes you've got to wreck ‘em to learn."
Both Keselowski and Earnhardt agreed that, with the configuration of the new 2013 Gen-6 race cars, tandem drafting -- with one car aggressively pushing another -- might be a thing of the past.
"The sport is rewinding," Keselowski said. "That's an important thing to say because the sport advanced to where we got the two-car tandem about three or four years ago. There were certain things that you could do with them that you could never do in the past without wrecking. Now the rule package has been changed back to where we were in the early 2000s, where I think the fans and everybody else enjoyed the racing a little better.
"So, as drivers, we have to rewind back to how we used to drive those cars. This is how you do it. You learn, and you make mistakes, and that's part of it. I might be the guy that makes the mistake next time, so I can't really be mad about it. It's unfortunate that there are torn-up cars, but let's be honest -- it's January, and we've got another month and a half to build ‘em right."
That's a ongoing process. According to Jimmie Johnson, the only Hendrick Motorsports driver not involved in the wreck, his entire organization had a total of four rear deck lids, one for each car.
For those, including Earnhardt, whose test sessions didn't end with the wreck, there won't be any more pack drafting when drivers return Saturday.
"We'll go back to single-car runs," Earnhardt said. "I don't think anybody wants any more drafting after that.
"So we'll just go back to running single-car runs. We're probably going to be here till 5 o'clock tomorrow working on our cars. We've got to find a little more speed."