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Kahne wrecks primary car in Wednesday practice

Kasey Kahne slides though the infield after he was involved in a wreck during practice for Sunday's NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race in Daytona Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. Kasey Kahne slides though the infield after he was involved in a wreck during practice for Sunday's NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race in Daytona Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Topper)
By Jenna Fryer
AP Auto Racing Writer / February 22, 2012
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Kasey Kahne was forced to a backup car Wednesday after a wreck in practice for the Daytona 500.

Kahne's new Chevrolet spun through the grass at Daytona International Speedway after Juan Pablo Montoya tapped the back of his car. Kahne, who will make his debut for new team Hendrick Motorsports in Sunday's season-opening race, also wrecked in last weekend's exhibition race at Daytona.

He's down to his last car heading into Thursday's 150-mile qualifying race.

"They have lots of cars and they do a nice job preparing, so our backup car is just as good," Kahne said. "The problem is that we don't have another one after that. So we'll have to start figuring that out. Maybe I'll have to go borrow someone's."

Kahne's accident was the lone bit of excitement on a slow day at Daytona.

Although 43 drivers practiced in Wednesday's first session, only 25 hit the track in the second session because teams were conservative with their cars. Crew chiefs are skittish to tear up equipment, and it's led to varying discussions of strategy for Thursday's qualifying races.

"When we get into the qualifying race, we will race pretty hard, but race smart," said Dale Earnhardt Jr. "You would love to win that race and make a statement going into the 500. It would give the team some confidence; get your sponsors a little extra coverage. Winning would get everybody in good spirits for this Sunday."

But there's really nothing on the line or reason for drivers to race hard on Thursday. Because the top 35 teams are locked into the Daytona 500 already, there's only four spots available in the qualifying races.

Among the drivers trying to race their way into the 500 are: two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip, Dave Blaney, Robby Gordon and Bill Elliott.

So, the risk of wrecking a strong car had to be considered in determining strategy.

"I think we've got a really good car for Sunday, so you want to get the best finishing position you can in the Duels without beating up the race car," said defending NASCAR champion Tony Stewart. "We're going to try to do everything we can to not put ourselves in bad situations. When it comes to the end of the race tomorrow, we'll push really hard to see how far up we can get and try to get a good spot, but I guess the biggest variable in the equation is just don't hurt the car that we've got."

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