DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Paul Menard started the first wreck of the 2009 NASCAR season.
Menard, the pole-sitter for Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout, spun sideways during practice Friday at Daytona International Speedway and crashed with rookie Scott Speed.
As Menard slowed down while trying to straighten out his No. 98 Ford in a turn on the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway, Speed drove his No. 82 Toyota into Menard’s left-front fender. Both cars spun across the track and came to a stop near the infield.
“The guy in front of me started spinning out and slowing down, and I had nowhere to go, so I started doing the same,” said Speed, a former Formula One driver. “I couldn’t really see much, honestly. ... It’s good we got my first wreck under my belt here at Daytona.”
Speed’s car sustained little damage, but Menard’s had to be towed to the garage area. Menard was treated and released from the infield facility. He said he thought he had a tire going flat before the spin.
Officials said Menard’s team was going to repair the damage instead of going to a backup car.
If they can’t fix it, Menard would have to switch cars and start from the back of the 28-car field. If that happens, Reed Sorenson would become the pole-sitter for NASCAR’s non-points, All-Star event that officially kicks off Speedweeks.
The two practice sessions had a few other hairy moments, too.
Kyle Busch got hit from behind shortly after Menard’s wreck.
Jeff Burton blew an engine and will have to start from the back of the pack in Saturday’s race. Kasey Kahne brushed the wall through one turn but avoided a crash.