DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A number of top contenders were caught up in a violent, major wreck during the 33rd lap of the Daytona 500, dramatically changing the competitive flavor of the race.
Top drivers including the past two Sprint Cup champions Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart, as well as past Daytona 500 champions Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick were roughed up in the nine-car collision. Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Khane and Austin Dillon were also among those involved. Kahne, McMurray, Montoya, Harvick and Stewart all headed to the garage.
Danica Patrick and race leaders including Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were able to escape the carnage behind them.
"The hell with the season, I wanted to win the Daytona 500," said Stewart, who's never won the Daytona 500 in 15 tries.
Khane, running fifth on the outside, spun out heading into Turn 1 causing a chain reaction behind him that took a series of cars before he wound up skidding through the infield grass. Khane narrowly missed Danica's car.
"Took a couple pretty good shots but we're fine," Harvick told Fox after he and Stewart were released from the infield medical center after a brief evaluation.
"That's just part of the game," Harvick said of the crash.
The race was delayed for just three laps as crews frantically worked on the cars in the garage area, meaning even if some are able to return they will be laps behind and almost certainly out of contention.
The big disappointment is Stewart, whose illustrious career has lacked a Daytona 500 championship. He's won eleven other times on this famed track, including Saturday's Nationwide race that was marred by a 12-car crash at the finish line that sent debris into the stands and injured at least 28 fans. The Great American Race has eluded him.
"It's just one of those things that you can't control," Stewart said on Fox. "If I didn't tell you I was heart-broken and disappointed I'd be lying. We had a race car that was really, really good."
Just 34 cars of 43 cars were on the lead lap after the wreck.
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