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‘Big One’ wipes out several contenders at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski came together in Stage 2 of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway, sparking a wreck that collected 25 cars, including many of the contenders at the front of the pack. 

The wreck occurred on Lap 53 of 160 when Stenhouse’s No. 17 Ford got close to Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford from behind entering Turn 3. That sent Keselowski sliding toward the outside wall and Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Ford.

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“You got a list of drivers that are making moves that they are unqualified to make and it causes big wrecks,” Keselowski said to NBC after emerging from the infield care center. “That was one of those. It was my fault because I lifted. I should have wrecked him and sent a message to the whole field.”

The cars for Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano were among those to take significant damage. None of those cars could continue in the race.

“The 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) turned the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and then that was it,” Hamlin said. “Once cars get sideways on the backstretch, everyone just battles to try to get through the wreck. You know most of the strong contenders in front, they got taken out in that one, so we’re going to have a crapshoot from here on out.”

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Even Busch, who was running alongside Keselowski in a contest for second place, was not immune from the stack-up.

“I was running in the high lane and I just have to giggle, there’s no safe spot,” Busch said. “I thought being in the top two or three is pretty safe, but we just got clipped from behind. Usually, there’s that danger zone that everybody knows about from third to 12th and we didn’t get strung out enough to get away from some of the action.”

The full list of the cars involved, some more than others: 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 41, 42, 43, 48, 88, 95, 72, 1, 7, 15, 32, 34.

All sidelined drivers were unhurt after being checked out at the infield care center. But a common lament was the impatience shown with aggressive racing early in Stage 2.

“Just not very smart for Lap 55 or so. Still a long ways to go,” said Daniel Suarez, who was credited with 35th in the 40-car field. “I don’t know. I mean half of the field is out so, it’s a real shame.”