Daytona International Speedway: Demolition Derby Weekend

2012 Daytona July NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race Finish IncidentIf you are a fan who watches Nascar Racing to see the wrecks, the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway didn’t disapoint this weekend.  Wrecked race cars and bent sheet metal were in abundance both Friday and Saturday night where each race produced a “Big One” as well as a number of after shocks.

Kurt Busch survived a six caution slug-fest in the Jalapeno 250 Friday night, and after six trips to pit road and a little help from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to take the checkered flag and make a trip to Victory Lane in his unsponsored, Day Glo Chevrolet.

The carnage started on lap 66 when Kevin Harvick and Mike Wallace were attempting to make a position swap, so the pushing car could take the lead. Wallace came down the track and was clipped by James Buscher and then ricocheted into Brad Keselowski who was in the outside lane, driving him into the wall.

The chain-reaction wreck also collected Harvick, series leader Sadler, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Cole Whitt (Patrick’s JR Motorsports teammate), Clint Bowyer and Annett, among others. Sadler’s damage was minimal, and he soon regained the lead. Annett’s crew repaired cosmetic damage on his car as well.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. caused the next two crashes as he continued to try to push cars that were navigating Daytona’s 35 degree corners. If this boy is going up to Sprint Cup next season, he needs to learn that you can’t push other cars in the corners without spinning them out.

Danica Patrick would run well early in the race, leading four laps, but got caught up in a late wreck that would send her into a familiar spot on the inside wall. Danica looked good when she was being pushed by Cole Whitt, but when she had to switch and do the pushing, she started falling back in the pack where she was collected in a wreck.

The Saturday night race started out as a major snoozer with Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle pulling the train around for 81 laps with no incidents. They controlled the inside lane, and it appeared no one was able to move up on the outside. No matter how hard the outside would pedal, they just couldn’t make up any ground on the leaders.

The Cup guys have a lot more patience than the Nationwide cars. Instead of trying to make things happen early, they were content to ride around, leaving enough of a gap to allow their engines to cool when needed. Then they would push, then they would back off, not letting their cars overheat.

The first caution didn’t come until Lap 81 — one lap past halfway — when Sam Hornish Jr., driving the No. 22 Dodge in place of suspended AJ Allmendinger, blew a tire and wrecked on the backstretch. Hornish was a last-minute substitute for Allmendinger, whose failed drug test from last weekend at Kentucky was announced Saturday afternoon, along with his suspension from NASCAR competition.

From that point on, the carnage would continue as drivers began losing their patience and pressing to make some ground up on the Rousch boys dominating the race. The big one came when Kenseth and Biffle who were leading the race, slowed to get on pit road for a green flag stop. by the time the checking up stopped, some major players were wrecked including Five Time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson. He took a hit to the inside wall where he hit so hard, the rear wheels came off the ground.

Jeff Gordon and Turner Motorsport’s new entry Bill Elliott were wrecked as they were approaching the commit cones. Bill Elliott sustained major damage and would join Jimmie Johnson watching the remainder of the race from the garage area. Greg Biffle went ahead and made his pit stop although pit road was closed prior to his making the commit cones, teammate Matt Kenseth continued without stopping and came back on the track. After considerable discussion with Nascar officials, Biffle was penalized for his stop, and had to go to the rear.

The two Rousch Fenway cars were so strong, that within 10 laps, they had gotten back together and forged there way  to the front. The tandem ran the best when Kenseth was leading and Biffle pushing. As they attempted to make a charge on the outside for the lead, Kyle Busch would continue to break up their momentum by sliding up the track to side draft them. This is the technique Tony Stewart would use on the green white checkered finish to secure his third win of the season and the 14th at Daytona.

As Stewart took the checkered flag, the last of the demolition derby took place in his rear view mirror. Jeff Burton came home second and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leader Kenseth third (after leading a race-high 89 laps), with Joey Logano and Ryan Newman completing the top five.

Biffle, involved in the last-lap crash after he and Kenseth separated, finished 21st despite having led 37 laps.

Denny Hamlin, suffering from a sore back that kept him out of practice for the event, made an ill-fated move exiting the tri-oval on Lap 153 of 160, triggering a multi-car wreck that thinned the field for the final restart. All three Joe Gibbs Racing cars — those of Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano — were involved, as were the Michael Waltrip Racing entries of Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.

Kasey Kahne who had pushed Stewart to the win was trapped next to the outside wall when Greg Biffle hit the wall, and got a seventh place finish for his effort.

I think the restrictor plate tracks need to do some tweaking. The race created a ton of wrecked cars, but didn’t create a very good race. The threat of over-heating has prevented the nose to tail racing we saw last year, but has not created  urgency for drivers to win the race. Because of the point system, and it’s penchant for punishing drivers with bad finishes,  causes drivers to hang around until they have to make a move. We will have this condition as long as the reward for winning is less lucrative than the punishment for DNF’s.

Photo Courtesy Getty Images for Nascar

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Tags: AJ Allmendinger Brad Keselowski Clint Bowyer Dale Earnhardt Jr Danica Patrick Denny Hamlin Elliott Sadler Greg Biffle Jeff Burton Jeff Gordon Jimmie Johnson Kasey Kahne Kevin Harvick Kurt Busch Kyle Busch NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Nationwide Series Tony Stewart

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