Upon Further Review: Daytona Speedweeks was a weeklong wreckfest

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Daytona Speedweeks proved to be one of the costliest ever for NASCAR team owners in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series.

More than 100 vehicles were damaged in wrecks during races at Daytona International Speedway, including 35 each in the Daytona 500 and the Xfinity race, based on NASCAR reports and information from Racing Insights.

Reasons vary on the cause of the pileups — from aggressive driving to inexperienced drivers to rule changes and the introduction of stages — but Speedweeks 2017 will go down as one of the most wreck-filled weeks in years.

Among the numbers:

  • There were 106 vehicles involved in accidents in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series races during Speedweeks. That includes the Clash and Duels.
  • There was a 29.2-percent increase in the number of vehicles involved in wrecks during Speedweeks from last year.
  • Only once in the last 10 years were more vehicles damaged during Speedweeks. There were 122 vehicles in accidents in 2012.
  • The 35 cars involved in crashes in the Daytona 500, according to Racing Insights, were more than the number of cars that wrecked in the past two Daytona 500s combined (29).
  • The 35 cars involved in wrecks in the Xfinity race was nearly more than the total for that event for the previous three years combined (38).
  • The 27 trucks that wrecked in that race were the most since 2012 when 30 trucks were involved in incidents.

daytona-crash-graphic

One of the reasons for the chaos in the Daytona 500 is where the accidents started. Drivers say they want to be at the front to avoid crashes, but that wasn’t helpful this time.

Consider:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading when Kyle Busch, trying to stay on the lead lap after a green-flag pit stop, had a tire issue and spun in front of Earnhardt. Six cars were collected.

Later, a 17-car crash started after Jimmie Johnson, running third, was hit from behind. Many had nowhere to go.

“That could have been avoided and it wasn’t called for,” Johnson said. “From the minute, I got off of Turn 2 on the entire back straightaway, I kept getting hit, and the rear tires are off the ground. I know there is a lot of energy behind me in the pack, but I didn’t have a chance.

An 11-car crash started when Jamie McMurray hit the rear of Chase Elliott‘s car shortly after a restart as Elliott was running fourth.

But it wasn’t just the Cup drivers who had such issues.

Saturday’s Xfinity race featured a 20-car wreck that started when Tyler Reddick got hit from behind while running seventh.

A 12-car crash started when Brandon Jones was hit while running fifth after contact among two cars behind him.

“I thought everybody would still be somewhat smart and mindful of not tearing up your equipment early and let’s go after it with three to go,” Darrell Wallace Jr. said after he was eliminated by that accident. “But there are different mentalities out there and that’s what causes chaos.”

There was still more to go. A 16-car crash began when Elliott Sadler, running second, was hit from behind. In the Camping World Truck Series race, Matt Crafton was leading when he was hit in the right side by Ben Rhodes, who had been hit from behind. Crafton went airborne. Twelve trucks were in the accident.

 So what caused all the crashes?

Many will blame the introduction of stages and the points that are awarded as a cause, but the only multi-car crash in the Daytona 500 that happened during the first two stages was when Busch’s tire let go.

The 17-car crash and 11-car crash happened after the completion of the second stage.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch told NBC Sports that he thought the field would calm down after the completion of the second stage on Lap 120 since 80 laps remained.

That didn’t happen.

“Excuse my language but there was shit going everywhere,’’ Busch said. “Everyone was going every which way. I couldn’t figure out what was going on.’’

He wasn’t the only to notice the aggressive driving that took place in the 500.

Kevin Harvick, who was involved in the 17-car crash, wasn’t pleased with how some raced.

“We just got some cars up there that didn’t need to be up there and wound up doing more than their car could do,’’ he said.

The result was a Daytona 500 that matched the tenor of Speedweeks and left crews with mangled machines to take back to the race shop.

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NASCAR mourns Kobe Bryant

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Joining their brethren in other sports, the NASCAR world took to social media upon learning the tragic news of the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Bryant had met a number of NASCAR drivers in his career, including Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano. They were among a number of NASCAR notables who took to social media to mourn Bryant:

 

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Chad Knaus and wife expecting second child

Photo courtesy Brooke Knaus official Instagram account
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Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Chad Knaus and wife Brooke are expecting their second child.

Brooke made the announcement Saturday on her Instagram account.

The couple, already parents to one-year-old son Kip, will soon be adding a daughter to their growing family.

Brooke Knaus’s Instagram post said the baby is due in July.

Kip figured prominently in the baby revelation, coming at the end of mom and dad’s ski run while vacationing in Telluride, Colorado:

 

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Kyle Larson flips, misses finals of Australia’s biggest sprint car race

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Kyle Larson’s hope of following up last week’s Chili Bowl win with a triumph in Australia’s prestigious Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic fell far short Sunday.

Larson’s bid to race his way into the 24-car finals of the three-day race at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Australia, ended when he flipped (uninjured) on the opening lap of a last-chance qualifying heat race earlier in the evening.

Instead of being one of the featured drivers in the Classic’s 40-lap finale – the largest and most popular sprint car race of the year in the land down under – Larson was left to watch the event from the pits and cheer on Dyson Motorsport teammate and fellow American Carson Macedo.

Even that didn’t go very well, as Macedo flipped his own sprint car on the first lap of the Classic, resulting in a last-place finish. The highest finishing American was Cory Eliason, who ended up fourth.

Meanwhile, it was an all-Australian podium, with James McFadden winning the Classic for the second time in his career, followed by James Veal and Kerry Madsen.

In eight days, Larson went from capturing what he called the biggest win ever of his racing career on all levels – the Chili Bowl in his 13th try last Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma – to nothing but bad luck and utter frustration throughout his Australian journey.

Larson’s first race on Wednesday in the King’s Challenge at Borderline Speedway was rained out.

Then, in the first night of the Classic on Friday, Larson wrecked heavily in his first heat race, including flipping (he was uninjured). After his team repaired his car, Larson went back on the track, only to suffer a blown engine that knocked him out of contention to race in that evening’s feature event.

After not being on the schedule to race in Night 2 of the Classic on Saturday, Larson had one last chance to make Sunday’s featured championship event.

A total of 80 drivers battled it out in the B, C and D Mains for the eight remaining spots in the A Main, but Larson would end up not being one of those — as can be seen in the second line of the following tweet by his team:

Larson now returns to the United States to prepare for the Daytona 500 on February 16.

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Kyle Busch feeling like ‘the new guy’ during his Rolex 24 debut at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch was looking forward to his first stint at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The two-time Cup champion was less enthused about his second turn behind the wheel in the IMSA season opener. Busch will climb back into the No. 14 Lexus RCF GT3 at 2 a.m. Sunday, just past the midpoint of the endurance race classic at Daytona International Speedway.

“That’s going to suck, yeah,” Busch deadpanned. “That’s exactly when I told them I did not want to run, and I got it.  Thank you very much.

“(I’m) the new guy.  I pulled the short straw.”

Click here to read more about how Busch felt about his AIM Vasser Sullivan car.