Gus Dean’s first race day at Daytona International Speedway lasted less than three laps.
The Bluffton driver found himself in the middle of a nine-car wreck minutes after the green flag dropped for Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200, colliding with teammate Cole Powell and at least two other cars before skidding to a stop on the Daytona infield.
Dean’s No. 98 Chevrolet suffered significant front-end damage, leaving the Mason Mitchell Motorsports team no choice but to take the car behind the wall. He placed 35th in the 40-car ARCA series opener, one spot behind Powell.
Dean, who was checked out at Daytona’s trackside care center and released, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He had gone to Speedweeks with no guarantees beyond Saturday’s race.
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Charlie Dean, the 21-year-old driver’s father, had spoken early in the week about the superspeedway’s potential to create havoc.
“One of the downfalls is that you’re not always in control of your own fate,” he said. “What the racing gods have in store for you, you just don’t know.”
It was indeed a case of wrong place, wrong time for the younger Dean, who had qualified 15th and was running in the top 10 before suffering the misfortune of being taken out by his own teammate.
Powell, running on Dean’s outside, was bumped from behind by Derrick Lancaster and began veering to his left. That pushed Dean toward the infield, where his back end got loose and turned his car back toward the track.
Dean wound up taking out Austin Wayne Self, eventually making contact with two more cars before coming back toward the grass. An in-car camera showed him trying to hold the car steady while getting pinballed, eventually taking his hands off the wheel as his car slowed to a halt.
The race was red-flagged for more than 10 minutes, taking all the cars off the track while crews cleaned up debris. The race eventually was won by John Wes Townley, with just 29 cars running at the finish.
Still to be determined is whether Dean will have the opportunity to continue racing in ARCA. His car sponsorship with Carrier Home Comfort Systems was only for Daytona, with the hope that the company might choose afterward to sign up for a full season.
Should that not materialize, Dean figures to go back into Super Late Models where he raced last year. He already had made plans to race this coming week at New Smyrna Speedway, just south of Daytona.