(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
TALLADEGA, Ala. - Kyle Busch nudged Kasey Kahne and sparked a massive pileup early in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, causing 16 cars to be damaged in the process.
The wreck was similar to one in the Daytona 500 which also involved some of the same big names: Busch, Kahne, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart.
Others collected in the lap-43 mess included Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, David Stremme, Kurt Busch, David Reutimann, Casey Mears, Scott Speed, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon.
"I was trying to go to the outside of him, but he just moved up in front of me and I wasn't expecting it," Busch said. "I tried to go to the outside of him and before I could get to the outside of him, I got in the back of him.
"I just hate that I caused a hell of a melee for everybody. I hate that."
Most of the cars were able to continue, but Kahne, Busch and Harvick were among those who could not get back in the race.
Biffle, who was also collected in the crash, walked out of the care center carrying his young daughter.
"It can happen at any time," he said. "You just never know. We were trying to be cautious, but that didn't work."
The wreck also caught Brian Vickers, who had just subbed for Denny Hamlin in Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 11 car. After much talk and buildup, Hamlin was cleared by doctors late Thursday to return.
He immediately dropped to the back at the start of the race and friends Michael Waltrip and Stewart came with him to help keep the draft. He drove 24 laps then climbed out of a specially installed roof hatch when a caution came out for Trevor Bayne's blown engine.
Vickers hopped into the No. 11 car, making a seamless switch.
"The exchange went great," Hamlin said afterward. "That was about as smooth as it could have went for us. Everything went well. I had a checklist in the car with things that I needed to do before I got out to switch over for the next driver."
Hamlin added: "Anything Brian gets us for points today is strictly a bonus. We're going to start next week in Darlington with our hairs on fire."
But just moments after Hamlin said those words, Vickers got a piece of the wreck and had to go to the garage. Vickers eventually returned, but may only gain seven points for the team after all the effort.