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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Kurt Busch on contract status beyond 2018: ‘we’ll see how it all comes together’

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LOUDON, N.H. — Former champion Kurt Busch said Friday that he’s focused on his performance on the track even though his contract ends after this season.

“For me, I’ve just been racing, driving and performing, doing all the things I can do to exceed in all categories, whether it’s teammate things, things on the track … communication with (crew chief) Billy Scott,” Busch said after winning the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“I don’t know many drivers that have a primary sponsor with them. Monster Energy has been very loyal to me. It’s just a matter of when the time is to start talking about a contract. Last year, it went long just because I felt I deserved more. The landscape is changing in NASCAR on primary sponsorship values, teams with the purse and the guarantee that they get off the historical performance. There are a lot of things that move, so we’ll see how it all comes together.”

MORE: Stewart-Haas Racing makes pit crew changes

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. laments sponsor leaving after this year

Last year, Stewart-Haas Racing declined the option on Busch’s contact when there were questions about if Monster Energy would return as a primary sponsor. After that was settled, Busch signed a one-year contract with the team. The deal was announced Dec. 12.

This is Busch’s fifth season with Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s won five races, including the 2017 Daytona 500 with the team. He has made the playoffs each year with SHR.

Busch’s pole Friday was his third of the year. He has yet to win a race this season but has 10 top-10 finishes.

“When you go to a track that you have good vibes about and with the team doing well, it gives you that feeling like you’re a step ahead and you just have to execute with confidence and not get too far off expecting good things to happen,” Busch said. “Just go out there and do your job and that’s what we’re doing right now and it’s great to have the pole with the 41 car.”

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Starting lineup for New Hampshire Cup race

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Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will start from the front row in Sunday’s Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Busch starts from the pole position for the third time this season and the first time at New Hampshire.

The top five is completed by Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney.

Alex Bowman in eighth and Daniel Suarez in ninth earned their best starting position at New Hampshire.

Kevin Harvick missed the final round of qualification and starts 14th.

Click here for the complete starting lineup.

Kurt Busch wins pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

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Kurt Busch posted a lap of 133.591 mph in the final round of qualification for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and will lead the field to green on Sunday. Busch was the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver to advance to the final round.

This is Busch’s first pole at New Hampshire, but he has started on the front row twice before – most recently in July, 2013. He finished 31st in that race and was 21st after starting second in July, 2007.

He beat Martin Truex Jr. (133.502 mph) by .019 seconds.

Kyle Busch (133.431), Denny Hamlin (133.361) and Ryan Blaney (132.720) round out the top five.

Alex Bowman (132.618) had the fastest Chevrolet in eighth. This is his best New Hampshire start in his seventh race.

Kevin Harvick (132.554) failed to advance to the final round and posted the 14th fastest time.

Kyle Larson (132.039) failed to back up his practice speed. He had the third fastest car in that session, but failed to make the final round and qualified 20th.

Last year, Kyle Busch won from the pole for the first time since Ryan Newman did so in the July 2011.This is Busch’s first pole at New Hampshire, but he has started on the front row twice before – most recently in 2013. He finished 31st in that race and was 21st after starting second in 2007.

Daniel Suarez  (132.581) in ninth earned his best New Hampshire start in three tries.

NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Today’s action from New Hampshire

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and gets a jump on this weekend’s racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut.

On today’s show:

  • The New Hampshire race weekend is off and running. Carolyn and Parker have complete coverage following today’s practices and Monster Energy Series qualifying from Loudon.
  • They will get reaction from several drivers, including the one who will start from the pole in Sunday’s race.
  • Plus, New England native Parker Kligerman jumps in the NBC Sports iRacing simulator to show us the challenges of racing the Magic Mile.
  • Nate Ryan of NBCSports.com examines the dominance of NASCAR’s Big 3 of Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.