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Wednesday May 12th, 2021 10:14AM

The Latest: Big One, lightning strike come early at Daytona

By The Associated Press
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on the Daytona 500 (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

The big one hit only 14 laps into the Daytona 500, triggered when Aric Almirola turned into pole-winner Alex Bowman and started a 16-car pileup.

Just minutes later, the race was stopped by lightning and fans who had been socially distanced in the grandstands instead had to seek shelter in the crowded concourse.

Christopher Bell pushed Almirola and forced the Stewart-Haas Racing driver to bobble as he tried to correct the car. Among the cars that sent cars spinning and flying through the mud and getting torn up include Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch.

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

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

___

3:25 p.m.

Derrike Cope was knocked out after only three laps, an ignominious end for the 62-year-old driver who won the 1990 Daytona 500.

Cope made his first Daytona 500 start since 2004 and 15th overall. Cope appeared to have a cut tire on the No. 15 Chevrolet he drove for Rick Ware Racing.

Cope was forced to the garage on the third lap as fans and crews saluted the late Dale Earnhardt by holding up three fingers in tribute for the 20th anniversary of his death. Cope zipped past Earnhardt, who blew a tire with a mile to go, to win the 1990 Daytona 500.

Cope had two wins in 428 career Cup starts.

Rick Ware Racing also finished last in the 2020 Indianapolis 500. James Davison completed only four laps in that race.

___

3:10 p.m.

Fans and crews saluted the late Dale Earnhardt by holding up three fingers on Lap 3 during the Daytona 500, recognizing the 20th anniversary of his death, which came on the final lap of NASCAR's signature event. Earnhardt drove the famed No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing.

The death of the seven-time Cup Series champion forced NASCAR to make significant improvements in safety, changes that have saved many lives in the 20 years since. Ryan Newman survived a harrowing crash on the final lap in last year's opener, walking out of a hospital two days after everyone watching feared the worst.

___

2 p.m.

Bubba Wallace’s car failed inspection twice for the Daytona 500 and will have to start at the back of the field.

The car chief for 23XI Racing was ejected as punishment. The No. 23 Toyota passed inspection on the third time.

Wallace drives a new entry owned by NBA great Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin. He had been slated to start “The Great American Race” in the third row. Instead, Wallace will be one of 10 drivers who have to drop to the back of the pack during pace laps.

Nine others already lost their starting spots because of modifications made after NASCAR’s twin 150-mile qualifying races Thursday. Former Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and front-row qualifier William Byron switched to backup cars because of wrecks. Same for Chase Briscoe, Kaz Grala, Anthony Alfredo, Cole Custer and Ross Chastain.

Martin Truex Jr.’s team had to change a radiator and oil cooler. Erik Jones’s team changed an engine.

Alex Bowman is scheduled to lead the 40-car field to the green flag at 3:05 p.m. EST.

___

More AP NASCAR: https://apnews.com/NASCAR

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Auto Racing, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup
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