NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Friday Face-off: What Was to Blame for Daytona Carnage?

This year’s Daytona 500 saw 15 drivers fail to finish due to wrecks. Is that the result of plate racing, the segments, simply coincidence or… what? Is the damage clock the right length or do you think that was also the culprit?

Amy Henderson, Senior Editor: In the 500, it was plate racing more than anything. If you look at the bulk of the crashes, they weren’t caused by a mad dash to the line on the final lap of a stage. Plate racing is the same old crapshoot, and this time around, a lot of craps got shot. The damage clock is the worst rules change by far.  It’s not going to make the racing any safer, and it’s just going to make fans leave the stands and stop watching the broadcast if their guy goes out with no hope of return. Since we’re stuck with it, NASCAR needs to stop with the “timing and scoring doesn’t allow the clock starting at the pit” line.  Figure it out.  Station an official in the pit with a stopwatch.  Don’t cost the teams time because you can’t figure out how to time them correctly.

Michael Finley, Contributor: Just risky moves by a lot of these drivers. Unlike the XFINITY or Camping World Truck series, at least these guys knew to wait until the second half of the race before making the risky moves that caused a lot of these pile-ups. I think the damage clock made a big difference in the right way- with less heavily damaged cars on track, we had less potential of major accidents. The race had a pretty insane 50 laps in the middle, but thanks to the lack of cars on track we went wreck free for that last 40+ lap run.

Kurt Busch Flag Lap Daytona Cup 2017 Mike Neff
Even the race winner had damage in the Daytona 500. (Photo: Mike Neff)

Phil Allaway, Editor, Newsletters: It was a combination of a lot of factors.  Mainly restrictor plate racing, impatience, the dang clock rule that makes it impossible to properly repair a damaged car, they’re all in play.  I still believe that there should not be a damage clock at all.  It’s stupid, and it goes against everything that the teams work for.  These guys aren’t quitters.  They want their car to be out there at all costs, and to be parked because a clock expired is ludicrous.

Beth Lunkenheimer, Content Director: It’s easy to look at this race and point the finger straight at the segments as the reason, and to a point, you could say that since there was a hint of extra aggression. However, the main culprit was simply plate racing at its best – or worst, depending on how you choose to look at it.

Meanwhile, the damage clock definitely impacted the number of drivers that, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if none of the teams were complaining to NASCAR that it wasn’t fair, isn’t that what really matters? What true benefit is there in going back out on the track and limping to the finish, spewing debris in your wake? And really, five minutes is just about perfect; the likelihood that you’ll contend for the win with damage that requires longer than that is nearly non-existent.

Of course, there are fans that would be happy to watch their driver of the track as long as possible, but unless they’re at the track, the likelihood they’ll see anymore coverage – unless they’re part of another caution – is slim to none.

Monster Energy may have put its car in Victory Lane but there was confusion and concern about the size of their activation at Daytona. Is that a sign of things to come or is the series’ title sponsor simply a bit behind in getting up to speed on what they choose to do in the sport?

Finley: Monster signed the deal two months ago. I just don’t think the company had the time to make sure everything was ready for Daytona. There is a lot of hard work that goes into at-track activation, and I’m sure having race number one of the sponsorship also be the biggest race of the year probably complicated matters. I’m sure, after the series gets back from its western swing next month, things will be at full speed as far as at track activation goes. Besides, the biggest non-story story of Speedweeks was the Monster girls and their risqué wardrobe. I think sometimes bad coverage can be good coverage; the controversy surrounding the girls could only help a company branding itself as risky and envelope pushing.

Allaway: I’d argue that joining in December like Monster Energy did put it months behind.  You’ll see something substantial from it later in the season, but what that will look like is anyone’s guess.  I close my eyes and see an expanded version of some of the stuff it had in Daytona.  Action Sports are in.  Don’t be surprised to see skateboarders, Freestyle BMX riders and more at races this year.

Lunkenheimer:I get the feeling that Monster is in this thing for the long haul, and I didn’t really have any concerns with how the company entered the sport. Perhaps the reasoning for starting off slow and steady is to ensure that everything is done right the first time. Nextel and Sprint may have come in with more of a bang, but you’ve seen what happened with both of those.

Bryan Gable, Staff Writer: Daytona is only the beginning of what will, hopefully, be a long and successful partnership between Monster and NASCAR.  Not everything is going to be perfect right away.  It’s okay for Monster to learn how to be NASCAR’s entitlement sponsor over time.  No need to panic after one week.

NASCAR saw a small viewership increase for this year’s Daytona 500. Based on what you saw with the stages, do you think that can be sustained over the next few weeks or do you think Daytona was a one-week wonder? Do the stages need tweaking or were you happy with what you saw there?

Michael Massie, Contributor: FOX seemed to do a much better job of promoting the Daytona 500 this year. The network had two awesome commercials during the Super Bowl, the Simpsons one and the one where James Van Der Beek played Brad Keselowski. Those commercials hyped up the race to be exactly what it is, the Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing. FOX does not always have the Super Bowl, so it is not a platform the network can use every year, but it capitalized on it this year and I think the slight jump in ratings was a direct result.

beuty
Things looked quite bright for NASCAR in its opening weekend of 2017. (Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

The problem is that FOX only hyped up the Daytona 500. The promotions for Atlanta were lame in comparison to what the network did for Daytona. I have heard nothing but complaints about the stages from fans. It likely did make for a better finish in all three races, but the first half of each race felt like an eternity. Why do we need three stages? Why can’t NASCAR do like other sports and have a halftime instead? The cars can park for 10 minutes and not waste precious green flag laps. That was the Daytona 480 on Sunday, not the 500.

Henderson: I still think it’s much ado about not a whole lot. The caution periods between stages were way too long; each should be a three-lap quickie yellow if they have to count. The stages themselves, whatever.  If you look at the end of them as a couple of planned debris cautions, the race isn’t changed that much. I do think that if the end of the second stage makes the race official, it needs to be no sooner than halfway, and I’d like to see the stage lengths vary slightly to create more strategy.  Instead of two 40-lappers, make it a 50 and a 30 or something.

John Douglas, Contributor: I’ll fully admit to being a pessimist at times, but I really do think we will see a very blunt wake-up call this season. Daytona is Daytona. Indianapolis manages to pack 400,000 fans into IMS every season for the Indy 500. The rest of the year you don’t see even one-fourth of that at the track. NASCAR is quickly falling into IndyCar’s  world. Both have a marquee event, but the rest of the year? A lot of empty stands.

Finley: I think there’s a real level of excitement in the air right now with these young drivers. The stages didn’t really seem to matter that much in the race, outside of Toyota short-pitting and destroying its chance at a second Daytona 500 thanks to mistakes and bad luck. After the western swing, we’ll know a lot more about the stages and figuring out if they work or don’t work.

Kaz Grala, Austin Wayne Self, and Chase Briscoe were virtual unknowns this time one year ago. Is their rise to a top-three finish at Daytona a sign that this year will tilt towards the young guns of the series rather than veterans like Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter?

Gable: With all due respect to Grala, Self and Briscoe, sometimes getting a good finish at Daytona involves being in the right place at the right time.  There may be some good, young talent in the Truck Series, but Daytona is not a bellwether for which young drivers will go on to have success in NASCAR.  John King’s Truck Series victory at Daytona proves as much.  Crafton and Sauter are still two of the championship favorites.

Douglas: Absolutely. Young blood having success is what makes this sport progress, just like any other. We love to watch the young superstar achieve success, then fade gracefully so a new generation can make its mark. Just as Earnhardt gave way to Gordon, and Gordon to Johnson in the Cup Series, it will happen too in NASCAR’s Truck Series.

Massie: The young guns will give Crafton, Sauter and Timothy Peters a run for their money this year, but Chase Briscoe is the only one of those three likely to do so. Briscoe’s story will one day be one of those “started on the bottom floor, look at me now” stories. In a year’s time, he went from sweeping floors at the shop to driving for Keselowski. He’s a guy that made it into the sport due to sheer talent.

Grala and Self drove phenomenally at Daytona. They earned those finishes, but have not been impressive elsewhere. Self did next to nothing in Trucks last year. I watched Grala when he raced in the K&N Pro East Series. Justin Haley and Noah Gragson outran him on a weekly basis in that series. Those are the young guns to watch.

Lunkenheimer: One race is simply not enough to make any determination, especially since guys like Crafton, Sauter and Timothy Peters were all running at the front of the field when less experience triggered the last-lap big one that took the trio out of the top 10. That’s not to discount the finishes the top three had at Daytona, but does anyone in NASCAR know where John King is now? Exactly. There’s no doubt this crop of younger drivers is significantly talented, but it’s going to take more than a single race to determine whether that talent is translated on the track in the long term.

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12 Comments
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Ivan Balakhonov

“It’s stupid, and it goes against everything that the teams work for. These guys aren’t quitters.”

This.

Bill B

I don’t get why fans of a driver would care if their driver was still on the track running 30th ten laps down or in the garage. Once they have no chance of coming back to contend for a good finish, it really doesn’t matter. In fact, having my driver on the track running multiple laps down is like salt in a wound every time I see them pass by at the back of the field.

Ken

I think the combination of the 5 minute clock and not being able to replace sheet metal will cause great harm to racing. Replacing a fender or other parts during cautions by making several pit stops to avoid losing a lap has allowed many good drivers to remain in the race and win. If this rule had been in place in past years, we would have had different championship winners. A team can have a driver running for a championship run to keep out of trouble and have other team members race the best drivers of other teams hard in the hopes of them being forced into an accident that will eliminate them from the competition. It will give team orders a new meaning.

Ron R

Nascar has ruined Nascar racing.

Upstate24fan

I have no problem with the 5 minute clock, maybe lengthen it depending on the size of the track. I saw many a car that was able to repair a car/truck under the limit and get back out. If you need more than that or have to start replacing panels, your likely laps down anyway. Under the current playoff format, this will not be the difference in a team winning or losing a championship.

Moe Foe

The blame for the carnage had nothing to do with those stupid rules in the pits…the blame is square on the ivory tower. Ya ever hear the phrase, “cautions breed cautions”? It’s been a mantra in racing from the day they replaced horses with horsepower. I can see them stopping a race for safety reasons, or weather, but stacking them up to run again so they can ‘check their tires’, or (the new thing) a segment, to send them out in a crowd is ludicrous. Especially at a restrictor plate race, where close racing is the norm. Competition cautions were stupid to begin with. If’n a racer can’t tell his handling is off in the first five laps, nature will show him, he doesn’t need to stop the whole field to find out, and those on the track with him should know it from the myriad of watchers reporting to him. STOP THE CAUTIONS! Let the racers race

DoninAjax

It starts with Brian’s vision for the “product.”

John Matthew

Two things caused the carnage at Daytona: 1. Restrictor plates. 2. Jamie McMurray driving like an idiot.

DoninAjax

And Johnson blocking for Elliott and Kahne. Which is why Jamie and the cars behind him “urged” Johnson to pick it up down the straight.

Dan

What! Jimmie Johnson blocks for no one or helps anybody. Johnson is for himself. Always has been and always will be.

DoninAjax

Didn’t look like that the way he was weaving behind his “teammates.”

Besides, it wasn’t the end of the demo derby. He didn’t have to show how much better his car was.

Charles

The reasons for the carnage in the Daytona 500 were numerous. The first big wreck, which took out Dale, Jr. and most of the Toyotas, was caused by a tire failure on Kyle Busch’s car. Obviously nobody’s at fault there. But Jamie McMurray caused quite a bit of the mayhem that followed, first by shoving Jimmie Johnson into Trevor Bayne’s right front, causing a huge crash in turn three, and then McMurray turned Chase Elliott, causing another huge crash on the backstretch in which McMurray was among those eliminated. Then there was the incident in-between the two McMurray-caused wrecks in which Ryan Blaney was trying to make a pit stop and got run over, simply because the guys behind him couldn’t see that he was trying to pit. And I wouldn’t fault anyone for that one wreck, either.

One of the curious aftereffects of the multiple crashes was the single-file racing in the final 50-75 miles, when you would think drivers would be at their most aggressive, but the reason for the single-file action near the end was the fact that many of the drivers knew they couldn’t try to be aggressive, because not only might they be put to the back by making a move, but also by making a move, he could actually run himself out of fuel, so the drivers were in fuel conservation mode the final 20-30 laps, hence the single-file racing at the end. And of course, several drivers, including Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, and Martin Truex, Jr. did run out of fuel in the final few laps, all of whom led in the final three laps.

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