DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Five things to know about what’s going on at Daytona International Speedway in advance of the season-opening Daytona 500 on Sunday:
Crashing cars: A seven-car accident in the first full practice of the Daytona 500 sent workers scrambling to repair a section of the grandstand fence and left teams hustling to get backup cars ready. The session ended early after rookie Parker Kligerman’s airborne car damaged the fence. Kligerman’s car ended up sliding on its roof halfway down the front-stretch at Daytona International Speedway.
No one was injured, but the incident stirred memories of last year’s last-lap crash in the Nationwide Series season opener. In that one, Kyle Larson’s car destroyed a large section of the fence, sent debris into the stands and injured nearly 30 people. The stands were virtually empty during practice Wednesday. Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth started the melee when they got together coming out of turn 4 during a drafting session. Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard, Ryan Truex and Dave Blaney also were involved. All but Kenseth were forced to backup cars.
Confusing qualifying: No one really has Daytona 500 qualifying figured out. It’s confusing, cryptic and often chaotic to say the least. But this much everyone knows: the higher you finish in Thursday night’s dual qualifying races, the better your chances of making “The Great American Race.” With 49 drivers vying for 43 starting spots in the season opener, there will be plenty of disappointment following the prime-time event. Maybe the easiest way to look at it is to understand who has the toughest task. Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, Dave Blaney and Morgan Shepherd must race their way into one of the 15 automatic spots from the qualifying race because they are so low in qualifying speed and owner points. “I think everyone struggles to perfectly understand how you get in this race, especially for the first time,” said Parker Kligerman, one of eight rookies vying for the 500.