DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- As expected, the 53rd Daytona 500 is turning out to be a wild affair.
The big one occurred on lap 29 when Michael Waltrip got into the back of his teammate, David Reutimann, triggering a huge pileup that involved 17 drivers between turns three and four.
"It's a product to this kind of racing," Reutimann said.
Hendrick Motorsports drivers Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, and five-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson were among those caught up in the melee.
"Our chances of winning the Daytona 500 are over, and it's disappointing," Gordon said.
Jamie McMurray, the defending Daytona 500 winner, and his Earnhardt Childress Racing teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, were running up front when the incident occurred.
Kevin Harvick, the 2007 Daytona 500 champion, suffered engine failure just after the first 20 laps. Harvick had gone 152 consecutive races without failing to finish due to a blown engine.
The start of Sunday's Daytona 500 was marked with a tribute to the late-Dale Earnhardt on the third lap. Earnhardt was killed in an accident on the last lap of this race ten years ago.
During the moment of silence for Earnhardt on the third lap, fans attending the race stood up and raised up three fingers in the air, honouring the seven-time champion who drove the famed No. 3 car for most of his career in NASCAR's top-tier series.
Announcers from FOX television's coverage of the 500-mile race were silent during the lap, which was led by Kurt Busch.