Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrecks out of Daytona 500

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With 31 laps left in the Daytona 500, two-time winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun exiting Turn 4 and slid nose-first into the inside wall near the entrance to pit lane.

Earnhardt was making an aggressive pass on the outside when the No. 88 broke loose.

“It caught me by surprise there,” Earnhardt told Fox. “I was trying to sidedraft the guy beside me …We’ve been working on the balance all day. That was our problem. We underestimated how important handling was going to be today. We had a rocket all week. But in two-car runs and in night races the car handled great. We’ve got to do a little more drafting next time when we come back we’ll be ready for the balance. We were starting to move forward, getting aggressive. Just lost it.”

Earnhardt had led 15 laps early in the race but had been mired back in the pack for much of the 200-lap event.

Earnhardt’s wreck was another case of drivers losing control of their cars out of Turn 4. Pole-sitter  Chase Elliott crashed exiting the turn on Lap 19. A few laps before that, Kevin Harvick kept his car under control after getting loose. Brian Vickers also spun exiting the Turn 4.

Earnhardt said the accidents are a result of the direction of the wind.

“It’s like this every weekend at every race track, the wind’s blowing one way and the car’s going to handle one way at one end of the track and it’ll handle a different way down at the other end,” Earnhardt said. “We were really, really tight. The wind was in the door all the way through Turn 4 and we were freeing the car up real, real big and I just got it out of shape.”