After an offseason dominated by headlines of the Danica Patrick-Ricky Stenhouse Jr. romance, NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers were happy to return to the track on Friday.
The euphoria didn’t last long. Eight minutes into Friday afternoon’s opening Sprint Unlimited practice session at Daytona International Speedway, contact between the cars of Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch ignited a wreck that damaged both cars, as well as the machines of Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya.
As Kyle Busch led a pack of eight cars through Turn 4 at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, Busch stuck the nose of his No. 78 Chevrolet inside the left rear quarter panel of Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota. Apparently unaware that Busch was below him, Kenseth moved down the track and turned across the nose of the No. 78.
Edwards, Martin and Montoya were collateral damage in the chain-reaction wreck.
“I didn’t know he was there,” Kenseth said, noting that he was still getting used to the sightlines from the seat of his new Gen-6 Camry. “But that’s no excuse. I didn’t know there was anybody there. I had no idea.
“I didn’t really look after I entered the corner, because he was a couple of car-lengths back, and it didn’t seem like anybody was getting any big runs, because the (drafting) group was so small. And I was really just focused on the 18 (Kyle Busch, Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate) and trying some different things.”
Busch’s Furniture Row team had three cars at Daytona for Speedweeks and now will send a fourth car to replace the damaged Chevy.
“It’s tough,” Busch said after getting a clean bill of health at the infield care center. “A lot of hard work goes into these cars, and six weeks of preparation can be trashed in six laps. Matt went high, and I think he expected me to go with him.
“I went low to go with Kyle, and then Matt came across our nose.”
Busch, Edwards and Martin will go to backup cars for Saturday night’s exhibition race. Kenseth’s team was attempting to repair his Toyota, as was Montoya’s team with the No. 42 Chevrolet SS.