Chaos Theory: Vehicles in Daytona incidents reach highest total since 2012

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More than 300 vehicles have been damaged in NASCAR’s Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races the past two years at Daytona International Speedway, a staggering total that tops two-year totals there in recent years.

This year’s races at Daytona for Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck teams damaged the most vehicles at that track since 2012.

Based on race reports and replays, Cup, Xfinity and Truck teams had 160 vehicles involved in incidents at Daytona this season. Last year’s races had 158 in altercations. Those are the highest totals since 170 vehicles were damaged in the races at Daytona in 2012.

The 318 vehicles in incidents the past two years tops the previous two-year total by 45 vehicles.

Races examined were the non-points Clash, the Duels, the Daytona 500 and the July Daytona Cup races, along with the February and July Xfinity races and the February Camping World Truck Series race.

Denny Hamlin predicted a day before last weekend’s race that the event would be a “crashfest.”

“I think it’s going to be so close competition that we’re going to leave each other no room for error and more than likely it’s going to lead to big crashes,” Hamlin said.

Saturday’s Cup race at Daytona damaged 36 of 40 cars based on NASCAR’s race report and NBC replays.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said NASCAR does not plan to change the package for the Talladega playoff race, the final restrictor-plate race of the season.

“Certainly never want to see that many cars torn up, but we don’t control what goes on behind the wheel,” O’Donnell said Monday at a media event announcing the distance for the Charlotte road course  playoff race. “But in talking with drivers, they feel that was a good package in being able to maneuver the car.”

Twenty of the 40 cars were eliminated by accidents in Saturday’s race. Eleven of those 20 cars eliminated by wrecks were gone before the race’s halfway mark.

“I think it’s a little bit typical plate racing,’’ reigning Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon told NBC Sports after Saturday’s Cup race. “But it’s just stupid because guys have got to focus a little bit. It doesn’t mean anything to lead these laps in the middle of the race.

“The stage pays, obviously, but wrecking half the field before we’re even in the final stage, it’s frustrating. Percentages show ride in the back and you’ll probably make it to the end. I raced up front as long as I could.

“Fastest plate car we’ve had in a long time. It’s discouraging because even if you’re fast and you get up there and race, there’s a good shot you’re still going to get in a wreck.”

Dillon, who was involved in one incident, finished ninth Saturday.

Martin Truex Jr. also was discouraged by the way some raced Saturday night.

“I thought it felt typical as far as the way the cars were driving,” he said after finishing second and being involved in one incident. “They were definitely a little bit more draggy, so you could get bigger runs, you could get to a guy’s bumper easier in the pack than normal.

“That’s what causes problems. Guys just don’t know when to drag the break or lift off the gas just enough and they just start running into each other. You’re not going to do anything with the cars unless you separate them to keep some of these guys from just making bonehead moves. It’s just the way they drive. You get them tight in a pack and they don’t know when to lift.”

Kevin Harvick, eliminated in a crash, wasn’t shocked at the carnage Saturday night.

“These restrictor plate races, when you get to this time of year, they turn into a mess every time,” he said.

Nate Ryan contributed to this report

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