TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Instead of improving his shot at a $1 million stock car racing bonus Monday, driver Ernie Irvan found himself the target of several verbal shots from his NASCAR Winston Cup Series rivals.
Irvan generally drew the blame for triggering a 20-car crash in the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway that hospitalized Kyle Petty in Birmingham with a compound fracture of the left leg.
Irvan denied responsibility.
The chain-reaction accident took place on the 72nd of 188 laps in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series event at the 2.66-mile track when Irvan's Chevrolet appeared to make contact with Petty's Pontiac and then Mark Martin's Ford. The three were running abreast coming off Turn 2 with Irvan in the middle.
Both Petty and Martin got sideways, and Martin's car went airborne, but slammed back onto the track on its wheels. Drivers following closely -- Rusty Wallace, Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Lake Speed, Hut Stricklin, Derrike Cope, Jimmy Means, Chad Little, Dale Jarrett, Rick Mast, Rick Wilson, Joe Ruttman, Buddy Baker, Terry Labonte, Phil Barkdoll, Brett Bodine and Wally Dallenbach Jr. -- were swept into the melee.
"Ernie is totally out of control and you can quote me," a red-faced Jarrett said. "I was just three or four cars back when it started. He moved over and tried to break into the outside line, hitting Kyle. He'd done about the same thing to Davey about two laps earlier."
Said Martin: "I was far enough ahead that Ernie was out of my line of sight [to the right]. The next thing I knew I was getting rubbed. I'm told Ernie said me and Kyle pinched up simultaneously. That's not the way it happened. It doesn't matter what happened, Ernie is going to make excuses."
Allison: "Ernie got tapped. He had no room, and there was a mess. He was down in the middle, but he didn't have any business being there."
Baker: "It was mighty early in the race to be hitting like that . . . NASCAR needs to tell some folks they're not on a quarter-mile track now. They're in the big leagues. You know who I mean. They're out of control. If you touch some other car here it's like two airplanes hitting on takeoff."
Irvan offered a different version.
"Nobody wanted to stay in line . . . Everybody's got their own idea of what they're going to do . . . Kyle was up against the wall and Mark kept coming up. I was in the middle of it and they both hit me about the same time. I don't think either one of them knew I was between them. I was just stuck there in the middle . . . I got pinched between the No. 6 [Martin] and 42 [Petty] and they started spinning in front of me and that created a chain reaction."