Tag Archives: Daytona International Speedway

Harrowing Daytona finish highlights safety, sportsmanship

(Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

As Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the finish line, Austin Dillon hurled into the catchfence.

Daytona International Speedway—a restrictor plate track—is as prestigious and dangerous as they come. The mix creates an allure one can’t ignore. The high speeds and close racing make for the type of weaving and cutting a skilled seamstress would take pride in.  The historic venue has been a stage for the most prideful moments in the sport of racing.

It’s also been the platform for the fiercest ones as well.

Sunday night was one of those moments.

The start of the Coke Zero 400 was late. Excruciatingly late. Weather shoved the sort into late-night infomercial territory, and many knew that peculiar things tend to happen in that realm. With the green flag waving around 11:45 p.m. ET, the masses settled in for a night full of adrenaline, speed, and nail biting.

In some way, they all hoped this would be worth the all-nighter. Drivers and crews desired a trophy and Chase berth by dawn. Spectators wanted their money’s worth, unsure of what that might entail.

Regardless of all wishful thinking, the festivities began.

Earnhardt was the clear favorite; starting from the pole, the No. 88 shot out front every possibly chance. His fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammates were also fast, yet no one was in the two-time Daytona 500 winner’s zip code. As the race progressed, he leaned on Denny Hamlin to draft him. Hamlin—who made risky moves work all night—obliged, and the two led a six- to seven-car breakaway in the race’s last 50 laps.

Slicing and dicing is a crucial part of restrictor plate racing, and it must be done with precision. A driver has to get it right, or things will get messy. That happened multiple times throughout the night, with two large wrecks taking out various contenders. Smaller incidents paused the action, giving everyone the opportunity to breathe and regroup.

As the laps dwindled away, urgency intensified. Minutes and hours ticked away. Time was running out—for the competitors who wanted to make a move and for the supporters who needed to clock in.

It came down to a green-white-checkered finish. The field restarted side-by-side, and they remained that way until the width expanded. As Earnhardt pulled away, followers scrambled to gain positions.

The white flag waved. At any other track, it was half past “go time,” but this was the moment Daytona—and the GWC rule—was designed to create. Its result, however, was not part of that plan.

Hamlin got loose and spun next to the finish line. The No. 11 came back and tapped Dillon, who proceeded to go airborne. More cars collected underneath the No. 3 as it flew into the catchfence. Debris rained into the stands as the machine bounced back onto the racing surface. Brad Keselowski’s car was skidding sideway down the frontstretch and slammed into Dillon’s side, putting the Richard Childress Racing car on its hood.

The mangled machine stopped at the end of pit road. Earnhardt’s pit crew rushed to the damage, falling to the ground and peering into the cockpit. The entire NASCAR community held their breath as more people flocked to the scene.

The sight of every crew member standing and giving a thumbs up filled every viewer with relief and emotion—and then fear.

Four fans sought treatment in the infield care center, while one went to the hospital in stable condition. There are two reasons no one was injured more seriously—the catchfence and the Daytona rising project. The tall, reinforced barrier did its job, keeping Dillon’s car inside the track. The expensive reconstruction plan pushed the grandstands away from the fence, placing a wide walkway between the fans and the action.

Praise is necessary. So is action.

There will be outrage over the incident; columns about danger will come out of the woodwork, and some mainstream media will broadcast this in a crooked way. A lot of good can come out of this accident if logic prevails.

The image of Earnhardt’s crew members rushing to Dillon’s side is the personification of sportsmanship. While their driver claimed victory, they chose to provide aid. Fellow competitors are thankful he survived such a terrifying accident.

Sunday night serves as a reminder to those who drive and those who observe. This is a dangerous sport. These athletes put their lives on the line to do what they love, and fans seek enjoyment from their risky lifestyle.

There is much to take away from that night, yet one is quite prevalent—there is always room from humanity and improvement in sports.

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Busch to make All-Star return, receives Chase waiver

Kyle Busch is finally back.

After months of healing and rehabilitation, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was cleared to return to competition. He is set to make his comeback during Saturday night’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The news came Tuesday morning, along with a video Busch posted to Twitter.

The driver broke his leg in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway, the season-opening race for the second-tier series. After he wrecked, his car went into an inside wall with no SAFER barrier. Busch has been out of a car since that incident, which was nearly three months ago.

NASCAR announced Wednesday morning that Busch will receive a waiver for The Chase, excluding the requirement of starting all regular season races. To make the playoff field, however, Busch needs to win a race and be in the top 30 in the point standings.

“Our decision to grant [Busch] a waiver that allows him to continue running for a championship is one we discussed extensively,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, in an official press release. “The spirit of the rule never was designed to punish drivers who are unable to compete due to extenuating circumstances such as recovering from a racing accident.”

This will be a big month for Busch, whose wife Samantha is expecting their first child any day now. The baby boy will add to the emotional resurgence his father is currently weathering.

Welcome back, Kyle Busch.

Logano wins 2015 Daytona 500, helps Ford sweep weekend

(Credit: @ChadWillis)
(Credit: @ChadWillis)

Joey Logano survived hours of intensity to win NASCAR’s biggest race –under a yellow flag.

The Penske driver started in the top five, motivated by the fact that two fellow Ford teams won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series events. His stellar performance in The Budweiser Duel gave him that spot; there was no doubt he had a strong car.

Four-time champion –and soon-to-be retiree—Jeff Gordon led the field to the green, soon overpowered by teammate Jimmie Johnson. Their fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., was competitive early on as well. For a while, it looked like HMS would crash the party.

A majority of the race involved the cars racing side-by-side as if they were about to load into Noah’s ark. Lines would gain momentum, fall back, and then gather up the energy once again. Multiple cautions provide the chance for breaks, but nothing extravagant happened. That just created more tension as the laps dwindled down.

When was The Big One going to occur?

Engines began to let go, and two made Logano nervous. His teammate Brad Keselowski went sent to the garage. Rookie Ryan Blaney –running the Ford-powered Wood Brothers Racing machine—suffered the same issue. Paranoia set in. The driver of the No. 22 thought he had voltage problems.

His team let him know about Keselowski and Blaney’s issues, and Logano simply replied, “Say a prayer.”

Things heated up as the laps faded away. The entire field ran three-wide in that disorganized/calm way the sport has perfected over the years. Everyone kept to themselves and raced smart. Logano pulled ahead, followed by Kevin Harvick.

Justin Allgaier lost his engine, and that created a Green-White-Checkered situation. It was clear that Logano was in the best position; passing the leader grew difficult with each lap Sunday afternoon, and that wasn’t going to change.

The machines took off, running three-wide and going full throttle. Logano secured the white flag lap, ensuring that the next flag would end the race. Harvick and Earnhardt Jr. struggled to hang with him. The field dove out of turn 2, and that’s when the wreck happened. Austin Dillon hit Gordon from behind, triggering the wreck that lurked the entire day.

NASCAR threw the caution flag, freezing the running order and crowning Logano the winner.

Fans quickly spewed venom at the decision, feeling cheated that the frontrunners couldn’t race back to the line. NASCAR’s choice to fly the yellow flag erred on the side of caution; the incident Saturday evening with Kyle Busch’s wreck most likely influenced the call. This is neither a good or bad thing. It is what it is, whether fans agree or not.

While the Connecticut native starts 2015 on a high note, Gordon’s final season is currently sour. The last-lap wreck puts him in a points hole that may be difficult to scale. However, it’s only the first race of the season.

Because of Busch’s wreck, NCWTS reigning champion Matt Crafton wheeled the No. 18 to finish 19th. In the same boat was NXS regular Regan Smith, who filled in for Kurt Busch after the Stewart-Haas Racing driver was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR on Friday.

At the end of the day, Joey Logano wrote a piece of history, becoming the second driver to win the Daytona 500 for owner Roger Penske. To him, it tasted sweet –even if it ended under caution.

Kyle Busch out indefinitely after injuring leg in NXS race

Kyle Busch is out indefinitely due to a right leg injury sustained during Saturday evening’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

Busch, who was driving the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, was in contention with nine laps to go when a wreck occurred behind him. He got loose, and his left front tire blew. This caused the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular to skid across the grass and hit the inside wall head-on. The wall had no SAFER barriers.

When trying to get out of his car, Busch struggled and required help. He rested on the ground and talked about his injury with the medical personnel. He was loaded onto a stretcher and rushed to the local hospital.

Joe Gibbs Racing released a statement Saturday night that revealed Busch suffered a compound fracture to his lower right leg. He also fractured his left foot. Busch is currently undergoing surgery.

Matt Crafton, who races the No. 88 Toyota in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, will run the No. 18 in Sunday’s Daytona 500. An intern driver for the remainer of Busch’s absence has not been named.

Follow this page for further updates.

Reed wins NXS race at Daytona; Busch injured in late-race wreck

Amid much wreckage and various red flags, Ryan Reed prevailed and won his first NASCAR Xfintiy Series race.

Daytona International Speedway is known for producing carnage and entertainment, and both elements were present late Saturday afternoon. Running two-by-two, the field rung in the new NASCAR season with the sound of thundering engines.

Things got crazy near the end of the event, when an 11-car wreck brought out the red flag. Contact between rookie Daniel Suarez and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson caused Suarez to spin and dive through the field. Regan Smith flipped yet climbed out, uninjured.

As the unscathed cars parked on the backstretch, Mike Wallace failed to slow down and rear-ended Austin Dillon. Wallace’s radio transmission malfunctioned and left him unaware of the red flag.

The field went green with 21 laps remaining, and it was fast-paced and calm until nine laps remained. Another large wreck ensued, taking 10 cars out. One of the cars involved was NSCS regular and frequent NXS race winner Kyle Busch.

Busch, who was ahead of the melee, blew a tire and skidding through the infield grass, hitting the inside wall head-on. The wall didn’t have a SAFER barrier, which is a device in place at many tracks that absorbs the shock on impact. Busch needed help getting out his car and rested on the ground. He was quickly taken to the local hospital to evaluate his ‘right leg pain,’ according to Fox Sports 1.

When the debris was cleaned up and the field went green again, only five laps remained. Swerving and slicing took place, as did help from friends and teammates. At Daytona, no one has a clear advantage when it comes to the actual racing.

Ryan Reed and Chris Buescher shot to the front, a rocket that refused to fade. The two Roush Fenway Racing cars finished first and second, mustering up momentum for the upcoming season.

Reed, a young diabetic, used his victory lane time to talk about the disease and reflect on the journey he took to get into the sport. The future has just begun for him.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series never fails to bring excitement and newsworthy happenings. Updates on Kyle Busch’s condition will be posted as the information comes in.

Daytona 500 qualifying makes Gordon happy, others furious

Jeff Gordon winning the pole for the Daytona 500 almost erased NASCAR’s blunder –almost.

In his final full-time season, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion starts the sport’s biggest race from the front row. The storybook feel was present, yet it couldn’t overshadow the confusion and anger boiling in many drivers’ veins.

Sunday’s qualifying session at Daytona International Speedway only sets the front row for the Daytona 500. The remaining drivers find their spots on Thursday when two 150-lap races go underway. Traditionally, single-car runs would determine the first two positions and the lineup for each Budweiser Duel race. This year is different with NASCAR adopting the ‘knockout’ qualifying format for deciding the slots.

Knockout qualifying debuted last season yet wasn’t run at Daytona or the spring race at Talladega Superspeedway, its fellow restrictor plate track. The fall race at the Alabama racetrack, however, proved drivers, fans, and media that the format and restrictor plate tracks didn’t mix.

Despite this, the sport decided to try it again in an attempt to ramp up the once mundane session.

The field split into two groups for the first and second rounds of qualifying, eliminating drivers along the way. Those remaining came together for the third and final session. Each round lasted five minutes.

As the first group ventured onto the track to log times, only a few minutes passed before chaos ensued. Reed Sorenson and Clint Bowyer collided and tore up their machines. Sorenson –who only had one car for Daytona—blocked Bowyer and ended up ruining both their days.

The red flag waved, and it quickly sunk in that this format was dangerous for drivers and their teams’ wallets. The driver of the No. 15 decided to express these concerns to NASCAR on FOX reporter Jamie Little. (Click HERE for the YouTube video of Bowyer’s rant. There is cursing in the video’s title.)

“It’s idiotic to be out here doing this anyway. There’s no sense in being able to try to put on some cute show for whatever the hell this is.”

He also added, “But it ain’t [Sorenson’s] fault. It’s NASCAR fault for putting us out in the middle of this crap for nothing.”

Once the words were said, other drivers began voicing their opinions. Richard Childress Racing driver Ryan Newman said on FOX, “It’s hard to stand by NASCAR when no one on pit road understands why we’re doing this.”

Kurt Busch compared the format to using bingo balls while team owner Tony Stewart vented on Twitter. Under his official handle @tonystewart, the three-time NSCS champion noted, “Today use to be about showcasing the hard work from the teams over the winter. Now it [sic] a complete embarrassment for our series.”

Meanwhile, the final round produced a product that was script-worthy; Jeff Gordon will start first in his final Daytona 500, with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson in second.

Though the end was magical, Sunday’s qualifying session was lackluster.

STARTING POSITIONS IN THE BUDWEISER DUELS

Duel One: Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Johnny Sauter, Trevor Bayne, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, JJ Yeley, Paul Menard, AJ Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Casey Mears, Michael Annett, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Clint Bowyer, Justin Marks, Cole Whitt, Landon Cassil, and Ron Hornaday, Jr.

Duel Two: Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ty Dillon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Martin Truex, Jr., Greg Biffle, Sam Hornish, Jr., Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ryan Blaney, Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte, Alex Bowman, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick, Brian Scott, Justin Allgaier, David Gilliland, Jeb Burton, Reed Sorenson, David Ragan, Josh Wise, and Mike Wallace.

Where we left off: Sprint Unlimited thrills, signals NASCAR’s return

Matt Kenseth managed to thrive and capture the checkered flag in a carnage-filled Sprint Unlimited.

The exhibition race marks NASCAR’s return every year, and this year’s edition didn’t disappoint. Multiple cautions and two red flags kept fans’ attention as the 2015 season began at Daytona International Speedway.

Chaos began when Kyle Larson moved into Brad Keselowski, sending the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion through the grass and eventually to the garage. This occurred on lap 23, two laps before the first segment ended. Things died down a bit after the field went back to green.

Lap 44 is went it all went down. Greg Biffle tapped the rear of Jamie McMurray’s machine and caused a domino effect, one that swept up 14 cars in the process. The red flag halted action for about 15 minutes before racing resumed. However, that banner reappeared on lap 68 when Biffle, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart wrecked on the backstretch.

Kenseth, who’s won the Daytona 500 twice at Daytona, first took the lead on lap 10 and remained in the picture all night. The lead shifted hands various times, yet he held onto it when it mattered most. After a sluggish 2014, the former Roush-Fenway Racing driver isn’t letting that happen this time around.

His biggest threat –Martin Truex, Jr.—fought in the final laps yet didn’t have enough momentum to pressure the former champion. Truex, Jr.’s strong showing, however, is a blessing for him and his girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who battled ovarian cancer late last year. His valiant push signals focus and determination.

Although the sport took a few months off, it seems like it’s picking up right where it left off. After Kenseth performed his burnout, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano bumped and banged their machines on the cool down lap. The reigning champion was upset with the Penske Racing driver’s on-track behavior, and they confronted each other on pit road. Although only words were exchanged, it reminded fans of last year’s temper-fueled Chase.

Racing’s return didn’t just bode well for Matt Kenseth; fans everywhere rejoiced at the sight of fast cars and angry drivers. It’s like NASCAR never left.