Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wrecks Big At Daytona 500 Testing, Most Popular Driver To Get Own Brand Of Chips (VIDEO)

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Jan 14, 2013 01:03 PM EST
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Matt Kenseth, in his number 17 car, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in his number 88 car, Martin Truex, Jr., in his number 56 car, Kevin Harvick, in his number 29 car, and Joey Logano, in his number 20 car, tangle as they come out of turn 2 during the 34th annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, February 18, 2012."

The new "Gen 6" car that NASCAR drivers have been testing at Daytona still might need a little work.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 11 other cars were involved in a crash on Friday at Daytona International Speedway, causing Thunder testing to finish a day early. The crash occurred after a push from Earnhardt Jr. when he was trying to bump draft with Marcos Ambrose on the back straightaway of the track.

The car ended up spinning off the side of the wall and took out Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Regan Smith, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Aric Almirola.

Luckily for Earnhardt Jr., his car made it through the crash without any issues, but every other drive apart from Edwards, Biffle and Busch were finished since they did not have a backup. According to ESPN.com, Edwards has a backup and the damage on the cars of Biffle and Busch wasn't significant.

The issue with backups has to do with the longer than expected wait for parts and pieces on new "Gen 6" car. Hendrick Motorsports had only four approved decklids needed for cars to test at Daytona. The next test will be for the Jan. 17-18 test at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"We definitely had a list of things we were wanting to accomplish tomorrow," Gordon said, referring to Saturday's third and final day of testing. "So that's unfortunate."

NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said that more pieces will be distributed and that teams will have enough time to assemble care for the testing at Charlotte and will be ready for Speedweeks at Daytona in mid-February.

"We haven't seen anything that didn't look like it wasn't in our favor to put on the grid,'' he said.

NASCAR is working to avoid bumper pushing, while Earnhardt said the crash at Daytona was the result of the front bumper of his Chevrolet not matching up with the back bumper of Ambrose's Ford.

"I felt like Marcus was backing up on me in [turns] 1 and 2 to get a run down the back," Earnhardt said as he explained what happened. "I was going to give him a push down the back straightaway to get the lead. Our cars didn't match up very well. I got him hooked into the fence.

Some of the drivers were frustrated about losing a day of practice at the track, including the reigning Sprint Cup champion.

"The sport is rewinding," Keselowski said. "That is the important thing to say. The sport advanced to the two-car tandem three or four years ago and there were certain things you could do then that you couldn't do in the past without wrecking. Now the rules package is back to where we were in the early 2000's, when the fans enjoyed the racing better."

The crash did delay some practice runs for other drivers, but it also shows why Earnhardt might be in a position to dominate in 2013. The new cars will help avoid the two-car racing and allow drivers to have more control on the track.

"I'm not setting it up to say I'm going to run better because of this package, but the racing is going to be different," Earnhardt said to ESPN.com. "It's definitely a move back to the way the cars used to be."

NASCAR had asked the teams to simulate race conditions during testing, which is one reason why the crash went down. The drivers made large drafting packs and there were 18 cars racing when the crash occurred.

"You can't push, which I think is a good thing," Gordon said. "The bad thing is you can still get to the guy's bumper, but the cars just don't line up very well. ... It's something that is going to have to be dealt with very carefully. You are going to have to be cautious when you do it and do it with the right guys, but most of the time you're going to need to stay away from it. That is certainly something we learned."

Earnhardt had some crash issues last season and missed two races while dealing with the effects of a concussion. Earnhardt, a five-time winner at Talladega, was caught up in the big crash that wrecked at least 20 cars at the track in 2012.

At the time Earnhardt was visibly frustrated and called restrictor plate racing "bloodthirsty".

"It's not safe. It's not. It's bloodthirsty," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said to the Associated Press. "If that's what people want, that's ridiculous."

The injury ended his streak of 461 consecutive starts, which according to ESPN was the longest active streak in the Sprint Cup. 2012 was shaping up to be a special season for Earnhardt. He won his first race in four years, taking home the 2012 Quicken Loans 400 in Michigan to break a 143-race winless streak and put himself in a good position by making the Chase for the second straight year. But the crash ended any chance at a Cup title.

Earnhardt will look to regain that form in 2013 that propelled him to his first win in years and will be one of the favorites in the Sprint Cup this season. He said that winning a Cup was a priority for the team this season.

"We have an opportunity," he said. "Our time is now."

While he isn't racing on the track though he will still be busy. According to ESPN, Earnhardt now has his own brand of potato chips to go along with his racing career.

The driver has created Dale Jr. Foods through a partnership with Minnesota-based snack company KLN Family Brands and will put a four Dale Jr. flavored chips -- Carolina barbecue, crispy original, Creole and green onion, and zesty jalapeno.

"I like the jalapenos the best," Earnhardt said during Friday's test at Daytona International Speedway. "I thought I'd like the barbecue best."

Earnhardt is the most popular driver in NASCAR and already has many business ventures, including the ownership of a Nationwide Series team and a chain of bars called Whisky River.

"We've been working on this deal for a while," Earnhardt said of the chips. "I didn't expect it to get that much attention. Everybody I know ... is wanting bags of chips now. I'll bring some in here as soon as we get a truckload."

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