Long: Daytona crash shows time is now for NASCAR to make bold change

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The list grows and each time a sickening feeling returns. Cars in the fence. Even a Truck.

And fans injured.

While drivers assume risk, fans don’t and shouldn’t.

Yet, Austin Dillon’s crash into the catch fence Monday morning marked the third time since Feb. 2012 fans have been injured at Daytona International Speedway. More than 35 spectators have been hurt in those incidents.

At what point is change necessary to protect fans? At what point must changes be made to keep cars and trucks from flying into the fence like an out-of-control circus act? At what point should radical changes be considered, even if displeasing to spectators, to protect everyone?

Daytona’s catch fence did its job Monday – keeping Dillon’s car from tumbling into the stands. The car cocooned Dillon. Despite going from nearly 200 mph to zero almost instantly, Dillon walked away with only a bruised tailbone and bruised forearm – signs of how far NASCAR’s safety initiatives have come.

What can’t be ignored is another car tumbling into the fence. Even with Daytona moving fans back and keeping them away from the fence, this trend of vehicles crashing into the fence is troubling – and unacceptable.

“I hope all the fans and @austindillon3 are ok,’’ AJ Allmendinger tweeted after the race. “I don’t know how many cars we need to keep sending into the grandstands before we fix this.’’

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Former champion Kurt Busch also is frustrated with this form of roulette racing.

“I’m glad that we have night-time sessions for practice and qualifying (because) we get all day to think about how we’re going to end up all wrecking at the end,’’ he said.

“It’s like a Kentucky Derby. It’s like a Preakness. It’s like a Belmont Stakes except there are 30 horse running down to the finish and the track is only wide for three at a time. Do the math.’’

The math is scary. Consider:

Five fans were injured in Monday’s crash with one treated and released from a local hospital.

In Feb. 2013, more than 30 fans were injured when Kyle Larson’s car sailed into the catch fence during what is now an Xfinity Series race. Fourteen were transported to a hospital.

In Feb. 2012, Joey Coulter crashed into the fence in a Camping World Truck Series race. Two fans were injured. One was treated at a local hospital.

In each of those races, the crash happened either on the race’s last lap or just after the finish – as happened Monday morning. All three crashes came on a green-white-checkered finish.

There’s no doubt that a two-lap restart for the win causes fans to rise in the stands or edge closer to the TV at home, but these accidents are proof that NASCAR should eliminate green-white-checkered finishes at restrictor-plate races.

If a crash happens just before the scheduled end, the race ends under caution. Yes, it’s not the most appealing way to finish a race but it’s better than medics rushing to fans bruised and bloodied by flying shrapnel.

While there’s been a slight uptick in attendance at some of plate races, the possibility of a finish under caution shouldn’t hurt the crowds, which have not returned to their peak from years ago.

Prohibiting a green-white-checkered finish for plate races won’t eliminate the possibility cars or trucks crash into the fence and potentially injure fans. Until NASCAR finds a way to keep those vehicles grounded, the responsible action is to limit the number of times these vehicles can soar out of control and endanger mothers, fathers, brothers sisters, aunts, uncles and others.

When it gets to a final restart, the odds are great an accident is likely. This year’s Daytona 500 went to a two-lap shootout after a two-car crash. What happened next? Instead of the race ending under caution, fans saw eight cars crash. No one was injured that time.

It wasn’t surprising that there was a crash at the end of Monday’s race.

“When we came off Turn 4, I assumed that we were all going to wreck because there was a pretty good draft especially from the guys that were four or five rows back,’’ Jamie McMurray said.

What happened in race winner Dale Earnhardt’s rearview mirror was so frightening that he was near tears until he was told Dillon was OK.

“I haven’t even seen the wreck, and I don’t even know if I want to see it,’’ Earnhardt said.

No one should have to see what happened Monday again.

Daytona road course trophy: Handle with care

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A word of warning for the Cup Series driver who wins Sunday’s inaugural race on the Daytona road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

When you’re celebrating the victory, don’t get too excited with the trophy.

It could wind up all over Victory Lane.

That’s because the trophy waiting at the end of the 65-lap/234.65-mile-race is made out of glass.

More: Will chaos (and rain) reign on the Daytona road course?

Via: NASCAR

The 18” tall/4.5” wide trophy for the Daytona road course race was produced by the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. It’s the same institution that’s been responsible for designing the Watkins Glen International trophy since 2012.

Sunday’s race is being held in the place of the Cup Series’ annual visit to Watkins Glen.

Incorporating a blown glass cup, the trophy is inspired by the history of NASCAR and racing at Daytona.

“Thinking about the history of the track and long-held traditions, I was reminded that historically, trophies used to be cups and have evolved into sculptural forms,” said Eric Meek, Sr. Manager of Hot Glass Programs at The Corning Museum of Glass, said in a media release. “We took this trophy back to a more traditional shape. Daytona is the most historical track, and in thinking about a trophy design for a race held in this storied location, I was transported back to the golden age of speed. I wanted to design something that felt like a bit of a throwback – like it belonged in the era of streamline racers and the quest to go faster.”

NASCAR Pinty’s Series 2020 TV schedule released

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The NASCAR Pinty’s Series, which competes in Canada, will get its season under way this weekend after it was postponed back in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shortened season will consist of three doubleheaders with twin 125-mile races.

The races will be held at Sunset Speedway (Aug. 15), Flamboro Speedway (Aug. 29) and Jukasa Speedway (Sept. 12).

More: Xfinity Series start time for Daytona road course

No NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion or Rookie of the Year will be crowned in 2020 due to the shortened schedule. There will be special recognition for the overall winner of the shortened season.

All races will air delayed on TSN and RDS in Canada and MAVTV in the United States. Fans in the United States can stream races after they air on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

Here is the full schedule with TV information.

 

Saturday’s Xfinity race at Daytona road course: Start time, forecast and more

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Saturday’s Xfinity race at Daytona will mark the first time the series has competed in the track’s road course circuit.

Austin Cindric, who has won four of the last five races, is on the pole. He is joined on the front row by fellow Ford driver Chase Briscoe.

Here are the details for the Xfinity race at the Daytona road course (all times ET):

START: The command to start engines will be given at 3:07 p.m by Dr. Jeff Jarvis, president of UNOH. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 8:30 a.m. Drivers report to their cars at 2:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 3 p.m. by Chaplain Farzad Nourian. The national anthem will be performed at 3:01 p.m. by Temecula Road.

DISTANCE: The race is 52 laps (187.72 miles) around the 3.61-mile road course

PACE LAP: At the direction of race control, the entire field will go down pit road during a pace lap for pit road speed verification. If a driver stops in the pit box for any reason, pulls over or slows down, they will start at the rear of the field.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 15. Stage 2 ends on Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Its coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. with Countdown to Green followed by the race broadcast at 3 p.m. ET. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast will begin at 2:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for cloudy skies, a high of 88 degrees and a 70% chance of rain and thunderstorms at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Austin Cindric beat AJ Allmendinger and Chase Briscoe to win at Road America.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

Justin Marks planning to start new Cup team

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Former NASCAR driver Justin Marks is in the process of starting a new Cup Series team and competing as early as 2021, Marks detailed to the Sports Business Journal.

Marks, who has 80 NASCAR starts and last competed in 2018, is building a team called Trackhouse that would have a “cause-marketing focus around promoting STEM education” according to SBJ.

More: Bubba Wallace lands multi-year deal with DoorDash

Marks, who once was a co-owner of an ARCA Menards West team with the late Harry Scott, said a goal of the team is to “serve America’s minorities and underrepresented youth population”

Marks told SBJ he is in negotiations to acquire a charter for the team, that his family foundation will use investment capital to fund 50% of the team’s budget and that a “nationwide family entertainment business” will be a sponsor.

One of Marks’ partners will be Ty Norris, a former executive at Michael Waltrip Racing.

Click here for more from Sports Business Journal.