DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jeff Burton, Elliott Sadler and Mike Skinner will switch to backup cars after a crash Tuesday proved just how risky even practice for the Daytona 500 can be.
The five-car crash came on the front straightaway of the 2 1/2-mile oval with about four minutes left in the 60-minute practice, the only Winston Cup track time on the day's schedule.
Rookie Jack Sprague, a three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, was riding in the middle of a three-wide pack, with Steve Park above him on the banked Daytona International Speedway track and Skinner on the low side.
Sprague's Pontiac appeared to slide up the track, banging off Park, then sliding down into Skinner, who went sideways. Burton and Sadler then drove into the melee.
There were no injuries, but Skinner's Pontiac and the Fords of Burton and Sadler got the worst of the accident and were put out of action for the rest of this week.
Those three will have to get their preparations for Thursday's twin 125-mile qualifying races done in the single 45-minute Winston Cup practice on Wednesday.
It was the second year in a row that Burton and Sadler have been in wrecks that put them in backup cars for the season-opening race.
''I'm tired of wrecking in practice,'' Burton said.
The other drivers heaped most of the blame on Sprague, who is trying to qualify for his first Daytona 500.
''To the best of my knowledge, we got ran into by a rookie,'' Skinner said. ''Whether he got pushed down there or not, I don't know.''
Sprague said he was in the middle, while Park was on the outside ''and he didn't stay up and he hit me in the right front, drove me into Skinner and it was all over.''
Park disagreed with that version, saying Sprague ''bounced off me.''
''I was up by the wall and couldn't go any higher, except for the grandstands,'' Park said.
''I've been here a lot more than Jack's been here. We all know how to race here, and we all know you don't even want to consider causing a crash during practice. You have to look at having the experience to run here, and not put yourself or your car in jeopardy.''
It's hard to avoid this type of crash at Daytona. Thanks to the horsepower-sapping carburetor restrictor plates used here to slow the cars, the racing is often in huge packs.
''One thing about restrictor-plate racing is to go ahead and put your nose in there,'' Burton said. ''You've got to run two- and three-wide in practice because that's what you're going to do in the race. Accidents happen.''
Sadler was less forgiving.
''It's a shame to wreck a bunch of good cars on the straightaway. I mean, we're supposed to be professionals and using our heads, and they're out there running into the side of each other on the straightaway. There's not much common sense going on,'' Sadler said.
Skinner had much the same view.
''This was our first race practice of the year, so I would say it was preventable,'' he said. ''Nearing the end of practice, people doing stupid things, I guess I made mistakes when I was a rookie, too.''
Dale Jarrett had the fastest time in the practice in a Ford at 188.494 mph, followed by the Pontiac of Jerry Nadeau at 188.336, the Ford of rookie Greg Biffle at 188.111 and the Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson, also at 188.111. Daytona pole-winner Jeff Green was 20th at 187.141 in a Chevy.
Of the drivers in the crash, Skinner was fifth at 188.025, Sprague 12th at 187.578, Park 19th at 187.149, Burton 25th at 186.939, and Sadler 41st at 186.343.
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