Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Jamie McMurray each had to go to a backup car after they were involved in a crash less than four minutes into Sprint Cup practice Friday at Dover International Speedway.
All climbed from their cars. They were evaluated and released from the infield care center.
This marked the first accident Stewart has had since returning to the car. He missed the first eight races of the year after suffering a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in an ATV accident Jan. 31 in the California sand dunes.
Asked about Stewart’s condition after the accident, Patrick said: “He left the medical center, so he is okay enough for that. Only he knows if he feels really sore or anything like that. I’m sure that anything that jolts his back will probably play some part. Hopefully, if it’s anything it goes away quickly.”
The incident started when Patrick dumped oil and hit the wall in Turn 4. Stewart and McMurray were behind and lost control in the oil. Both hit the Turn 4 wall hard. Both Patrick’s car and Stewart’s car came to rest along the inside frontstretch wall. McMurray stopped his car along the frontstretch.
Greg Zipadelli, competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing, told FS1 that it appeared to be a gear failure on Patrick’s car that caused the incident. He also said that Kurt Busch‘s team had a similar issue but caught it before it got worse.
“There’s obviously a manufacturer problem,” Zipadelli told Motor Racing Network.
Said Patrick: “I got back to the throttle and it was like a really muffled, like it blew an engine and then it just got sideways and hit the wall. As you can see there were lots of flames too, obviously, some kind of oil or something like that in there that created that.
“I really feel bad because Jamie’s elbow hurt pretty bad and I don’t know if Tony (Stewart) is feeling perfect, but definitely unfortunate. Not something we commonly see. Not a lot of things like that happen, I feel like, these days. Definitely, unfortunate for the first couple of laps of practice and the fact that rain is coming. Hopefully, everybody feels okay.”
Patrick said that McMurray had a “big knot” on his left elbow. McMurray later returned on track with his backup car.
All three drivers made it back on track in a backup car before the session ended.