21-Car Pileup at Daytona 500 Results in Fiery Wreck: 'I'll Take the Blame,' Driver Says

“The Great American Race” erupted in flames on Sunday after a driver triggered a 21-car pileup on the Daytona International Speedway.

NASCAR fans watched as the 61st Daytona 500 took a fiery turn after Paul Menard tapped Matt DiBenedetto, who then slammed into a wall and started the massive pileup that prompted a red flag to stop the race, the Associated Press reported.

“I’ll take the blame for that one,” Menard said, according to the AP.

Photos of the incident showed sparks flying and smoke filling the air as the crash collected several cars. One of the drivers in the crash, David Ragan, told reporters that the crash happened much too quickly for him to avoid it.

“I saw it for a split second, and before I could even do anything I’m underneath the 10 car, looking at his rear end,” he said, according to SBNation. “That’s just a product of these speedway races. It’s the Daytona 500, you’re going for the win.”

Aric Almirola was involved in the crash, with his back wheels lifting off the ground and landing on Ragan’s windshield, according to the AP. DiBenedetto had led 49 laps before the crash.

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The drivers all emerged from their vehicles without severe injuries, SBNation reported. But many of the cars were visibly damaged.

“I wrecked a lot of cars,” Menard told reporters. “I feel bad about that.”

There were a total of three crashes in the final laps of the race, SBNation reported. But that didn’t put a damper on the competition.

Denny Hamlin went on to with the second Daytona 500 of his career after holding off Kyle Busch and Erik Jones.

“It was one of those days where it was meant to be,” Hamlin told reporters, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. “Hats off to Kyle but today we would not be denied.”

Denny Hamlin held off Kyle Busch and Erik Jones to win the Daytona 500, the second of his career. He dedicated the win to J.D. Gibbs, who recently died from a degenerative neurological disease.

“We dedicate this one to J. D. That was one the closest finish in history, and I could barely catch my breath after that one,” Hamlin said, according to the New York Times. “But this one I will remember the rest of my life. Maybe this proves the first one wasn’t a fluke.”

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