Early Crash Collects Contenders

NASCAR

Among the 16 cars collected were those of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards - the top six in points. Tony Stewart’s car suffered extensive damage. (Photo: Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Ricky Stenhouse got loose and more than a third of the field - including the top six in points entering the race - got caught in a crash 20 laps into Sunday’s Coke Zero 400.

Among the 16 cars collected were those of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards - the top six in points. Tony Stewart’s car suffered extensive damage.

The incident started when Stenhouse, running toward the front on the outside line, got loose. He straightened the car but it was too late for others behind.

“I was heading straight and from the replay it looks the (Gordon) kind of checked up and got into the outside of (Stewart) and turned him into us,’’ said Stenhouse, the only driver to finish in the top 10 in each of the last three restrictor-plate races before Sunday. “Had it saved and had it straight again and got caught in the left rear.’’

The incident happened just before the competition caution, which was scheduled for Lap 20.

“It didn’t make much sense when we’re coming to the caution ... and something stupid,’’ Stewart said. “Tore up a lot of people’s cars and a lot of people’s days. Get here Wednsday night and sit here all day and run 19 3/4 laps and get wrecked by somebody doing something stupid, it doesn’t surprise me.’’

“You’ll have to ask (Stenhouse). I don’t know what he’s doing. Every week it’s something kind of with him I love him like a little brother but it makes me nervous be around him on the race track now.’’

Harvick said he had the wreck cleared “but, unfortunately with the splitters and everything on the front, the grass is what tears the cars up.’’

Said Johnson: “There were just cars spinning and I got caught up in it.’’

The damage to Johnson’s car was too severe to repair.

Trevor Bayne said he could see trouble brewing.

“The handling did not look great on a lot of cars as hot as it is today,’’ Bayne said. “I pulled to the bottom lane down the backstretch to try to get out of it. Coming off four it was too late. I was already in the middle of it.’’

Others involved were: Marcos Ambrose, Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Michael Waltrip and AJ Allmendinger.

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