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Wednesday December 8th, 2021 11:43PM

The Latest: Drivers make fast-food stops during rain delay

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

6:15 p.m.

Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick gave new meaning to fast food during a rain delay at Daytona International Speedway.

The drivers left the famed track during a lengthy red flag during the Daytona 500 and made quick trips across the street to grab some grub.

Briscoe's wife, Marissa, tweeted a photo of Chase wearing his firesuit in the drive-thru at Panda Express.

Ross Chastain followed suit a short time late and posted a pic of him in the drive-thru at McDonald's, a sponsor. He noted that this is “rain delays in '21.”

Reddick sat down inside Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, also a sponsor, and ate some chicken pot pie, saying “some much needed comfort food.”

NASCAR's season opener was halted after 15 laps because of lightning and then heavy rain. The 2 1/2-mile track takes hours to dry. Sixteen cars, including the one driven by Reddick, were involved in a huge crash 14 laps into the race.

Lightning in the area a few minutes later prompted officials to clear the motorsports stadium, send socially distanced fans into a crowded space. Drivers got out of their cars, and once the rain hit, they hit the road.

___

4:15 p.m.

Pitbull’s Daytona 500 party ended well before last call.

The platinum-selling rapper bought into Trackhouse Racing, which placed driver Daniel Suarez in the field. Suarez drives the No. 99 Chevrolet and was among the drivers collected in a 16-car pileup early. He was forced out after 13 laps completed.

“Mr. Worldwide” also gave the command for drivers to start their engines.

Pitbull says he’s all in as one of NASCAR’s newest team owners.

“Now that there’s no touring going on, I’m going to be pretty much at every race,” Pitbull said. “There’s a higher calling to this.”

Pitbull joined NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan as celebrity owners entering NASCAR this year. Trackhouse was launched late last year by former driver Justin Marks and he watched the race with Pitbull from a suite.

“There’s no hidden agenda. We’re here to win,” Pitbull said.

___

3:50 p.m.

The Big One hit 14 laps into 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 grandstands instead had to seek shelter in the crowded concourse. Heavy rain followed, shutting down “The Great American Race” for what will be a lengthy delay.

Christopher Bell started the melee when he pushed Almirola too hard near the front of the field and forced the Stewart-Haas Racing driver to bobble as he tried to avoid a slide. Almirola ended up turning right into Bowman. Their contact cause others to collide, sending them spinning and skidding 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 getting pushed too hard too early," Almirola said. “It’s a long, long race. ”Man, we were in a fine position, just sitting there, riding around in the top two, three and (Bell) just came with a big run and hit me really hard in a bad spot and it turned me to the right and tore up our race car and ended our Daytona 500 way too early,” Almirola said.

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

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