DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — It wasn't a great day for historic names at Daytona International Speedway. Chase Elliott, son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and polesitter for Sunday's Daytona 500, spun just 18 laps into the race. With 30 laps remaining in the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost control of his car and also spun, hitting an inside wall and the infield grass and ending his day in 36th place.
"Just got loose trying to do too much," Earnhardt said shortly after the race. "Huge shift from last year and the year before. The balance of the car was a huge curve ball."
Junior led the race early and looked to be the driver to beat. But after leading 15 laps early, he ran mostly in the middle of the pack. He noted that a combination of the wind direction and unexpectedly difficult handling sent him to the sidelines early.
Sure hate letting everyone down today. We struggled with handling the whole race. Just busted my butt trying to make somethings happen.
Coming into the race, Earnhardt was the odds-on favorite, in large part because of the strength of his car. He'd run some of the fastest speeds in practice and qualifying, and he'd won one of the Duels on Thursday night.
But Earnhardt further noted that speed without control in a pack isn't quite as wonderful as everyone in the grandstands might have hoped. Speaking of his now-dented car "Amelia," he noted, "It's fast when it don't need to handle good."
Podcast: Q&A with EARNHARDT NATION author Jay Busbee: