The pole-winning driver wrecked in practice while working on a two-car draft with Jimmie Johnson, damaging his pole-winning car. As a result, he'll be sent to the back of the field for both Thursday's Duels and Sunday's 500. (No, he won't be able to improve his field position in the 500 during the Duels, even though everyone else will. Don't ask why.)
Earnhardt and Johnson were practicing the two-car draft that had worked so well for many in the Bud Shootout when they spotted slower traffic ahead, slowed up, and got tagged from behind by Martin Truex and Brian Vickers. Ironically, Truex, who also will have to switch to a new car, will have to start at the back of the Duels, but won't have to start at the back of Daytona because he's technically not locked in yet.
"We got run over from behind," a clearly frustrated Earnhardt said afterward. "It was just a tough deal. Same old stuff that always happens here."
This marks the third car that Earnhardt will have to use at Speedweeks, given that his Bud Shootout car was wrecked on Saturday night. That car is now in Charlotte being repainted, and the third car, a repurposed Jeff Gordon chassis from Talladega last fall, according to SB Nation's Jeff Gluck, will be used as the primary.
"I'm disappointed in myself," Earnhardt said. "I didn't feel good about practicing. Didn't think I needed to be out there practicing. I just had a bad feeling about it."
Obviously, this puts the lie to any talk of conspiracy ... or does it? Wouldn't a run through the field be so much more dramatic than a win from the pole position?