Earnhardt Jr. Loses Daytona 500 Pole After Practice Crash
During last weekend's qualifying session, he and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon had set the top two times in the charts, which meant they didn't have to go through this week's duels to find out their starting position for the 53rd running of the Daytona 500.
An incident during the Wednesday practice session ruined Eranhardt's pole however. While trying to pass the slower cars of Robby Gordon and David Gilliland on the outside, Earnhardt got off the throttle and was hit from behind by Michael Waltrip Racing's Martin Truex Jr. The damage to his car was so big that he'll have to switch to a back-up Chevy. More importantly though, he lost his pole position and will start the Gatorade Duel and the Daytona 500 race from the back of the field.
“I just really don't know what was going on there,” admitted Earnhardt. “The guys on the inside looked like they were going to stay low and then they started kind of creeping up, and they gave me the impression they were going to be closing the hole on the outside.”
“So Jimmie (Johnson) lifted. And he about wrecked and I got off the gas and there were a couple of guys coming behind me - Truex, and a couple other guys - and just didn't have a chance. You've got to pay attention out there, man. If you're going to come out here and race, you need to pay attention,” added a frustrated Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt's incident on Wednesday was not his first prior to this weekend's Daytona 500, as he also crashed his car during Saturday's Budweiser Shootout. His lost pole position could mean good news for teammate Jeff Gordon though. If Earnhardt Jr chooses the outside lane at the rear of the field for the start, the pole will be Gordon's, otherwise the top position for the start of the race will be up for grabs on Thursday (while Gordon would maintain his 2nd position, of course).