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The Daytona 500 “Big One” took place on lap 104 and knocked out Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.

The crash also eliminated Danica Patrick from her final NASCAR race and penultimate motorsports appearance, leading up to the Indianapolis 500 in May.

With 96 laps remaining, leader Ryan Blaney made a move to block Elliott on the backstretch. Elliott backed up to Keselowski and contact between the two sent both spiraling. Elliott hit the outside retaining wall hard and spun like a top several times until coming to a stop on the banking.  

Also involved were David Ragan, Kasey Kahne and defending series champion Martin Truex Jr.

Elliott said the crash was just a byproduct of this kind of racing.

“I was just trying to feel Blaney out and see what he was going to do; how aggressive he wanted to be,” Elliott said. “I had a big push and got light at the wrong time. Didn’t make the right move.”

Keselowski said that Elliott simply got loose.

“The (9) got loose and spun out in front of us all and got caught up in it,” Keselowski said. “It just really sucks. We had a great car and were in a great position. I guess that’s the way it goes. I went to pass the (9) on the bottom and he came down. I can’t tell if I made contact or not, but obviously he turned and there was nothing I could do. We were all wrecked.”

Harvick said Elliott had gotten away with that kind of blocking all weekend, including in the Xfinity race, but finally made one too many big blocks in the Daytona 500.

“You really can’t block that aggressively,” Harvick said. “They got away with it, especially the (9) got away with it most of the weekend and didn’t get away with it that time. Unfortunately, we were one of the cars that got tore up.”

Elliott said the big blocks were necessary because everyone wants to be up front, ahead of the crashing. Instead, they were the crashing.

“The safest place to be is out front and everybody wants to be there, that is the problem,” Elliott said. “I don’t know exactly how you fix that.  It just kind of is what it is. I hate it. Disappointing way to end the 500 this afternoon, but we will move on down the road and try to get ’em in Atlanta.”

For her part, Patrick never really raced into the top 15. The Indianapolis 500 will be her final start as a race car driver.

“Tony Eury Jr., my crew chief did an awesome job,” Patrick said. “The guys on the whole team did a really good job. I know we pulled this together not that long ago, a month ago. That is a tall order to get a car ready for a superspeedway that is competitive. But, it was. I said earlier today that I feel like the whole thing was picture perfect with GoDaddy on the car, and it being that green again. It just wasn’t meant to be today. I am proud — we raced the whole race other than a little bit at the end of that first stage when it looked silly with all the cars with tires and no tires. Other than that, we raced it and the car was competitive. That is all you can do. That is the gamble at Daytona. It can go so well, and it can go so awful.

“I’m grateful for everything. Thank you to all the fans. Still have one more. It is not a stock car, but still have one more.”

Matt Weaver

Matt Weaver

– Matt Weaver is an associate motorsports editor at Autoweek. Before becoming a journalist, he was a dirt track racer and short track cheeseburger connoisseur.

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