The Daytona 500 got off to a tough start on Sunday when Aric Almirola became pole winner Alex Bowman and started a 16-car pickup on the 15th lap.
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 closed “The Great American Race” for what looked like 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 causes others to collide and sends them spinning and slipping through grass and mud. Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch were among those involved.
“We were just pushed too hard too soon,” Almirola told Nascar.com. “It is a long, long race. Man, we were in fine position, just sitting there and driving around in the top two, three and [Christopher 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. ”
Hendrick Motorsports had put Bowman and Byron in the front row.
Newman was nearly killed in a horrific accident on the final lap of last year’s Daytona 500. Newman walked safely away Sunday and even checked Busch as he sat in his Chevy.
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