Big crash takes out a third of Sprint Unlimited field early in race

From the Marbles

Just like in Friday's first practice session, it didn't take long for a crash to happen after the green flag dropped in Saturday's Sprint Unlimited.

As Tony Stewart followed Matt Kenseth into turns one and two on lap 16, he dove to the bottom to get in front of Marcos Ambrose but didn't have enough room. Stewart's left rear quarterpanel made contact with Ambrose's right front fender and Ambrose checked up and drifted up the racetrack.

But consequences of that contact were felt behind the two as Stewart saved his car as it slid onto the apron and Ambrose drove away. Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson were three wide just behind and as Hamlin and Johnson made contact in reaction to the contact ahead of them, the crash was on.

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"I didn’t see much," Johnson said. "I was just kind of cruising along and I saw sparks in front of me. I knew that wasn’t good. Then before I knew it just the cars inside of me and around me everybody just slid up the race track and into me and around we went.

It collected Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch and for a moment, it looked like Mark Martin would escape just to the inside. But as Gordon slid down the track, he got into the side of Martin's car and Martin went careening into the wall. (While he continued on past the crash, Kurt Busch also sustained significant right side damage.)

"I just saw somebody get sideways going down into one and then our lane checked up and they started getting turned and we started wrecking,” Gordon said.

Before the crash 18 cars were participating in the race. (Terry Labonte had already gone to the garage.) Afterwards, a dozen remained.

Following the race, Stewart said that he thought he had enough room and made the move to the inside to get in front of Ambrose before his spotter had cleared him. Coincidentally, it was the same type of contact that Stewart was involved in on the final lap at Talladega, only this time, it didn't send himself (or anyone) upside down.

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