DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kevin Harvick won the first race of Speedweeks, dominating the final two segments of the exhibition Sprint Unlimited in the debut of NASCAR's new Gen-6 car.
I'm glad we got Speedweeks started off the right way, said Harvick, who won Saturday night's non-points race at Daytona International Speedway for the third time in five years.
But with only 19 cars in the field at the start of the race — and that was whittled down to 12 after an early accident — there wasn't a great feel for what the Feb. 24 season-opening Daytona 500 will look like with a full 43-car field.
We'll have to wait a week and see what the weather is like, Harvick said. There's still a lot to learn with a full pack of cars.
There wasn't a chance for that in the 75-lap exhibition race, which was split into three segments. Fans got to vote on the format and decided on 30 laps, 25 laps then a 20-lap sprint to the finish.
But several big names were knocked out a mere 15 laps into the race. Tony Stewart was running second when he cut across the front of Marcos Ambrose, making slight contact that turned Stewart sideways and required a save to keep from crashing. Traffic stacked up behind him, triggering a chain-reaction, nine-car crash that wiped out seven cars.
Taken out just 15 laps into the first segment were defending race winner Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin from Joe Gibbs Racing, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson from Hendrick Motorsports, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch.
I didn't see much. I was just cruising along and I saw sparks in front of me — I knew that wasn't good, Johnson said.
Daytona 500 qualifying
1 p.m. today