After witnessing the horror show that was the Powershares QQQ 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway, it would be natural to worry that the Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX) might turn out to be another demolition derby.
The XFINITY race featured four huge crashes — one on Lap 23 that snared 18 cars, another on Lap 29 that involved nine cars, a 16-car scrum on Lap 104 and finally, a big pile-up at the checkered flag.
It took 3 ½ hours for the cars to complete just 300 miles and at the end, just half of the 40-car field was running when Ryan Reed took the checkered flag ahead of Kasey Kahne and Austin Dillon.
So it’s tempting to wonder if the Daytona 500 will be as much of a strugglefest as the XFINITY race was.
The short answer is, it shouldn’t be.
It could be — after all, it only one tiny error in judgment to trigger a 15-car crash — but it shouldn’t be.
And here are three reasons why:
The XFINITY cars are much twitchier in a straight line than the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars are. With lower downforce, the XFINITY cars were especially sensitive to getting bumped from behind.
“You don’t want to make the cars too easy to drive because then the race is not as good,” said Brad Keselowski after his fourth-place finish in the XFINITY race. “But if you make the cars too hard to drive, then sometimes you don’t have the drivers that can actually do it.”
Likewise, Dillon said he thought NASCAR needed to “go back to the drawing board” and come up an XFINITY aero package that doesn’t result in so many wrecked race cars.
“With the way the spoilers are cut off the back of these cars, there's not — they drive actually probably a little freer sometimes than the Cup cars,” said Dillon. “So the pushing and that that was going on, I think people were watching the Cup cars and get in an XFINITY race and think you need to side draft as much as you can and push, and it caused some of those big wrecks.”
, LAT Images www.latphoto.co.ukRussell LaBounty
No offense to the XFINITY Series drivers, but there were an awful lot of them on track Saturday who didn’t have a lot of drafting experience and it showed, especially early on when the first two big wrecks happened. Hopefully, the Cup drivers will do a better job.
“I feel like we were racing too hard,” said defending XFINITY champion Daniel Suarez, who was knocked out of the race in a crash Lap 29. “It’s too early. I don’t really know what happened exactly. I haven’t seen the replay slowly. I feel like we have to be a little bit smarter than that. I just feel like it’s a long race and we should be a little bit more smart.”
“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 (laps) to go,” said Bubba Wallace, another early accident victim. “But there are different mentalities out there and that’s what causes chaos.”
, LAT Images www.latphoto.co.ukNigel Kinrade
The consensus was that NASCAR’s decision to run the race in stages wasn’t the cause of the carnage. “I don’t think we were wrecking because it was the end of the stage, I think we were wrecking because the cars are hard to drive,” said Keselowski.
“I never really felt the stages,” he said. “It seemed like the wrecks came prior enough that to me it didn't change — I wasn't racing for points, but I was still racing to lead the stage, if possible, or whatever, to stay up front, and I didn't really feel much of a difference at the end of any of the stages, in my opinion.”