Earnhardt ran through the frontstretch grass, which shot his car across the track and into the outside wall. His car then burst into flames. Earnhardt was able to climb out and was uninjured but his car was heavily damaged.
Earnhardt, who won the season-opening Daytona 500 and entered the race leading the Sprint Cup standings, said he simply made a mistake by running through the grass.
“I just ran into the grass on the apron on the frontstraightaway there,” Earnhardt told Fox. “I was following the 43 and just didn’t see the grass, didn’t know the grass was down there that close. … I really didn’t have a good visual on where the grass was and got down there pretty good. That’s awful.”
Drivers are running their cars closer to the ground this year due to NASCAR’s new no-height rule.
“You can’t run through there the way we’ve got these cars on the ground like that,” Earnhardt said. “Just a mistake on my part. I just didn’t know I was that close to the grass and made a mistake.”
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson was behind Earnhardt when the crash occurred and also suffered minor damage to the front of his car.
The race was postponed on Sunday due to rain and rescheduled for just after noon on Monday. The field ran the first nine laps under green and caution so NASCAR could conitnue drying the track.
While Johnson’s team continued working on his car on pit road, Earnhardt had to take his car to the garage and is unlikely to return.
Earnhardt had started the season with four top-five finishes in the first six races to lead the Cup standings.
“I’m disappointed,” Earnhardt said. “I made a mistake there and that’s going to bother me for a while. We test Tuesday in Michigan and we’ve had a long week going into Darlington, a tough track. So it’s going to be a difficult week.”