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.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 14, 2021
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.