Seven-car wreck puts Daytona 500 practice under red flag (VIDEO)

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Wednesday’s afternoon practice for the Daytona 500 has ended under a red flag after a seven-car pileup that occurred on the front straight, near the flagstand and start/finish line, and affecting the catch fencing on the outside of the track. The second practice will occur starting at 6:30 p.m. ET, after track repairs.

Contact between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano, who incidentally were the two that collided in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited and caused a major crash in that race, triggered today’s one as well.

Paul Menard was spun up into the outside retaining wall, collected by rookies Parker Kligerman and Ryan Truex, with Dave Blaney in behind it. Kligerman’s car was sent up on top of Menard’s, and then went onto its roof after being hit by Truex. Trevor Bayne was also involved to round out the seven-car incident, but sustained the least amount of damage.

Kligerman’s accident marked the second of the day for the up-and-coming Swan Racing team, whose other driver Cole Whitt lost control earlier in the session, in a wreck that also collected Brian Vickers and Casey Mears.

Here’s a video of the wreck, via FOX Sports’ YouTube channel:

All seven drivers involved in the accident spoke to FOX Sports TV afterwards, and all were checked and released from the infield care center.

“I thought the 20 (Kenseth) was going to the bottom, and it hooked them, that’s partially my fault,” Logano said. “I was working a bit too hard there. Thought he was going to the bottom. That’s just what happens. Unfortunate a lot of cars got torn up there.”

Here was Kenseth’s take: “It kind of started we were running two-wide, and I couldn’t clear the 27. It got tight into (Turn) 3. We all lost a lot of speed. I was trying to stay straight. Kind of clipped my right rear, and it seemed to trigger the wreck.”

Menard, Kligerman and Truex offered their input as well, after the accident.

“I know what happened, the front half of the 20 got squirrely looking,” Menard said. “It turns out Joey was bump drafting him in the pack … and I guess that’s the end result. Fortunately Parker is OK.”

Kligerman’s take: “They slaved on that race car. To have a quick race car in the draft, I was trying to back out of the draft, pack it up and wait until tomorrow. The 22 was being overly aggressive. He’s supposed to be a veteran. Supposed to be the best of the best, but he was racing like the end of the Daytona 500. I don’t quite understand that one. We’ll have to look at our backup car situation.”

And Truex’s: “We were running well in the draft. I was right behind the 22 for a while. I checked up, and I got hit from behind, and that was all I could do. We didn’t deserve that all. Then the 30 was on my windshield. It was a brand new car. We have to race our way in. A shame we lost a really good car. That’s a big wreck for practice.”

Meanwhile, former Daytona 500 champion Bayne and near-2012-winner Blaney said they now face an uphill challenge just to make the race.

“We had a huge run up the middle, and we are trying to figure out what’s working,” Bayne said. “Having to make the race, we need to be careful. That hole closed up. Not a ton of damage but we’ll miss the rest of this practice.”

Blaney, with Randy Humphrey’s team, is in a worse spot with no backup car available at the moment.

“I couldn’t see what started it,” he said. “I was coming in behind Ryan Truex, he checked up. By the time I got checked up… yeah, (that was) bad.

“I told myself I don’t need to be out here. We’ve got no backup car. It got us. At this moment (the dream of making the field) is. I don’t know what Randy Humphrey’s got in mind. We’ll see.”

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”