Daytona pole-winner Bowman in 16-car pileup

The big one hit only 15 laps in the Daytona 500, triggered when Aric Almirola turned into pole winner Alex Bowman and started a 16-car pileup.

Minutes later, the race was stopped by lightning, and fans who had been socially distanced in the stands had to seek shelter in the crowded hall instead. Heavy rain followed and shut down “The Great American Race” for what will be a long delay.

Christopher Bell started the melee as he pushed Almirola too hard near the front of the field, forcing the Stewart-Haas Racing driver to bubble as he tried to avoid a slide. Almirola ended up turning right into Bowman. Their contact caused others to collide and sent them spinning and slipping through grass and mud. Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Ryan Newman Daniel Suarez and Kurt Busch was among those involved.

“We were just pushed too hard too soon,” Almirola said, according to NASCAR.com. “It’s a long, long race. Man, we were in a nice position, just sitting there and driving around in the top two, three and the 20 [Bell] came right with a big race and hit me really hard in a bad spot and it turned me right and tore up our race car and ended our Daytona 500 way too early. “

Almirola, Bowman, Newman, Jones and Suarez are among those listed now as out of the race, according to NASCAR.com.

Hendrick Motorsports had put Bowman and Byron in the front row.

Newman was nearly killed in a horrific accident in the final lap of last year’s Daytona 500. Newman safely walked away Sunday and even checked Busch as he sat in his Chevy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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