Cruising around Talladega Superspeedway during afternoon practice on Friday, Earnhardt Jr.'s right rear tire exploded, destroying Junior's No. 88 Chevrolet. The action was violent as debris from the back of Earnhardt Jr.'s car sprayed across the track.
Tony Stewart was also caught up in the mess, though his crew will be able to repair his car.
"I guess the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) had a tire let go in front of us and there wasn't anything he could do and there wasn't anything that anyone else could do," said Stewart. "We were all so close and that is one of the risks of practice is something like that happening. He only had 13 laps on that tire so I don't think it was a Goodyear issue by any means. I think he just ran over something. There's no reason a tire would have failed like that."
The blow comes at the worse possible time for both Bowyer and Earnhardt Jr., both of who need a strong finish this weekend if they have any chance at catching up in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Heading into Sunday's race, Earnhardt Jr. sits eighth in the standings, 190 points back of Jimmie Johnson, while Bowyer is seventh, 164 points back.
Prior to the accident, Earnhardt Jr. had been eighth-fastest in practice. Stewart was ninth.
Qualifying for Sunday's race isn't until Saturday, which gives teams more time to regroup.
"We really aren't any further behind than we were when we unloaded today," said Earnhardt Jr. "If you are going to have that kind of a day, this is the race track to have it. They just put a lot of work in those cars. It is unfortunate for the cars that have put so many hours in to it."