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Multi car crash in practice

Oct. 20, 2001 at 2:33 PM   |   Comments

TALLADEGA, Ala., Oct. 20 (UPI) -- A multi-car crash during Saturday's NASCAR Winston Cup Happy Hour practice session has sent several teams preparing backup cars for Sunday's EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The crash happened in the second turn as a large group of cars were drafting in the final practice. Jeff Purvis bobbled up the track and Ward Burton ran into him, starting a chain reaction crash that also involved Rusty Wallace, Terry Labonte, Kevin Harvick, Ken Schrader, John Andretti, Buckshot Jones and Jeff Burton.

None of the drivers were injured.

"I just sat in there with NASCAR President Mike Helton and (NASCAR CEO) Bill France and watched the replay of the accident about six times," Ward Burton said. "He (Jeff Purvis) didn't have anybody on the outside of him, so I thought he had room to go up. He did. He just didn't know I was there. I had the left front on the apron. I just couldn't hold it down any more basically. He better get a rear view mirror so he can see a little better. At the same time, it takes two to tangle.

"I'm sorry it happened for everybody. It didn't hurt my car. Nobody is blaming anybody. NASCAR is in a touchy situation. Everybody in the world is analyzing the best motorsports program in the world. I'm sorry to have them be analyzed even more."

Purvis was going to start 13th but will have to start at the back after switching to a backup car.

"It wasn't a hard hit," Purvis said. "I was behind Ricky Rudd and all of a sudden, I felt the back end coming around so I knew somebody was there. About the time the car got sideways, my spotter said he wasn't looking. We tore up a good race car, but I have another good race car here with the backup.

"The main thing we have to do is make sure the backup car drives pretty good. I was going to come in on that lap and I was one lap too late coming in. The backup is a good race car. I'm not worried about this car."

John Andretti is another driver that will have to use a backup car and start at the rear of the field. Andretti's car is a brand new Dodge Intrepid R/T that has never been raced.

"The whole race track is blocked and you get hit from behind as you're hitting the guy in front of you," Andretti said. "It's unfortunate because our car is junk. I like Ward an awful lot, but he didn't start at the bottom and get pinched. He came from the top and came across and came down. Then he might have got pinched, which is a bad deal, but it was a stupid accident. It should have never happened. I was being pretty careful, but careful didn't do me a lot of good."

Jeff Gordon, the current NASCAR Winston Cup point's leader who enters Sunday's race with a 334-point lead over Ricky Rudd, was able to narrowly avert the crash without any damage.

"I was in a situation I knew wasn't good," Gordon said. "I was in the back of a pack and it was about four or five wide. I wanted to get out of that group. Kyle Petty and I were in the back of that group, we saw a lot of smoke and I barely got by it. I nearly got into the back of Jeff Burton. It only takes one little mistake for something big to happen."

Harvick, the leading rookie in the series, was able to avoid any major damage, but his Chevrolet did suffer some cosmetic sheet metal damage.

"I saw the 51 spinning sideways up there and I headed for the grass," Harvick said. "Somebody hit me, but the damage was minor. We'll be OK for tomorrow. We'll straighten some of the body work up so we'll be fine."

Kenny Wallace had a good view of the crash when he was driving the Pennzoil Chevrolet.

"The outside lane was moving there and Johnny Benson was leading the draft followed by Jeff Purvis and Ward Burton," Wallace recalled. "Purvis came up just a little bit and Ward barely tapped him. That's the way it is here at Talladega - you blow on somebody a little bit and that's all it takes."

The crash brought out the red flag to stop the practice session.

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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