Monday, February 9, 2009

Pole-sitter Menard wrecks in practice

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Paul Menard started the first wreck of the 2009 NASCAR season.

Menard, the pole-sitter for Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, got sideways during practice Friday at Daytona International Speedway and crashed with rookie Scott Speed.

As Menard slowed don while trying to straighten out his No. 98 Ford in a turn on the 21/2-mile superspeedway, Speed drove his No. 82 Toyota into his 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 car facility. He said he thought he had a tire going flat before the spin.

Team 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. And Carl Edwards narrowly avoided a crash when he had to make a quick move at high speed to avoid a piece of debris that flew off another car.

Busch and three-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson had the fastest laps in the first practice. Johnson was atop the speed chart in the second session. Johnson's top speed was 192.620 mph.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press.

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