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Early Coca-Cola 600 wreck takes out Elliott, Keselowski

CONCORD, N.C. — The marathon race became more like a short sprint for strong contenders Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott early in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

A part broke in Jeffery Earnhardt’s No. 33 Chevrolet at Lap 19 of 400 scheduled laps, dropping fluid and debris onto the race track. Elliott ran over the piece, causing damage to his car and losing control of his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the resulting oil. Keselowski’s careening No. 2 Team Penske Ford rapidly rear-ended Elliott’s No. 24 Chevy, crushing both vehicles and igniting fire under the No. 24.

“I saw parts and pieces flying,” said Elliott, who had qualified third. “I don’t know if he blew a tire or something and I ended up hitting something that he had on track. I hit it pretty hard. It was really solid, so I knew it was rough. I saw some fire, tried to get stopped and get out of the way and I guess Brad got in my oil and couldn’t get slowed down, so I hate it.

“Man, it is just so ridiculous. I wish I knew what to do to try to fix things like that, but at the end of the day you really can’t.”

Keselowski echoed the disappointment and helplessness of the situation.

“You couldn’t stop and turn,” Keselowski said after being evaluated and released from the infield care center. “You couldn’t do anything. It’s a real bummer for our team.

“We had a really fast Miller Lite Ford and I think we had a shot at winning tonight, but that’s how it goes.”

NASCAR officials towed both vehicles off the track and into the garage, leaving Elliott and Keselowski scored 38th and 39th, respectively.

Both drivers were running in the top 10 at the time of the incident, which brought out the caution and served as the scheduled competition caution.