DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — With some drivers suggesting that, is it time for NASCAR officials to take precautions? prior to Does it rain on oval tracks?
Daniel Suarez said NASCAR should have issued a rain warning before at least 15 cars collided in Turn 1 due to a wet track at Daytona International Speedway. Denny Hamlin cited the need to “improve officiating” after being involved in that accident.
Sunday’s race marked the third time since October 2020 that rain had contributed to an incident on an oval while a Cup race was under green-flag conditions.
In October 2020, Kevin Harvick hit the wall while leading at Texas in the fog. Hamlin’s car lost traction and went up the track without hitting the wall on the lap before the Harvick incident. Cole Custer slid down the track and almost hit the wall a few laps after Harvick’s accident. The race continued for a few more laps before rain stopped the event.
In July 2021, Kyle Busch, who was leading, and Martin Truex Jr., who was running second, slid at Turn 1 in the rain at New Hampshire on lap six. Hamlin’s car also spun. Busch told NBC Sports after the incident that the race started in fog and “should never have turned green to begin with.”
On Sunday at Daytona, storm clouds could be seen near the track and radar showed rain nearby.
“We knew it was going to rain,” Suarez said. “It was raining next door. It’s just a matter of time. Why wait for it? I dont know.”
Hamlin said, “We’ll learn from this, I’m sure.”
Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told NBC Sports, “We were on top of the weather, monitoring with all of our turn spotters, in touch with the spotters above, the pace car. We had all the information we thought. We’d been dodging the weather a bit, obviously, for a while. Nothing had hit. Suddenly there was that shower.
“The pace car, sitting in there, was still dry when they hit. If you look at the (camera) of the car, you can see that some rain definitely started right before they crashed. We couldn’t really do anything about it, and it wasn’t something that could be predicted when it was going to start raining.
“Just a super bad situation for everyone.”
—Dustin Long (@dustinlong) August 28, 2022
The fact that three such incidents occurred in two years raises questions about how lenient NASCAR needs to be in allowing racing in any wet conditions, especially with the way NASCAR has reacted to rain on road courses.
Series officials came under fire from drivers last year at the Circuit of the Americas when rain and spray from cars blinded drivers and led to multiple crashes. Harvick called it “the most insecure thing I’ve done in a race car by far.”
At Watkins Glen earlier this month, the cars were on track preparing to start the race despite puddles. While some drivers said they were in favor of starting the race, officials sent the cars back to pit road to allow for more work on the wet track. The engines were restarted about 25 minutes after the cars were brought to pit road.
“If we had gone green while it was raining, it probably would have been as tough as it was at COTA,” said Watkins Glen winner Kyle Larson. “It was nice that they took us down to pit road and waited for the rain to stop and got that layer of thick moisture off the track.”
Lesson learned from COTA. Are there any lessons to be learned after Texas, New Hampshire and Daytona? The impact of rain on 1.5 mile, 1 mile and 2.5 mile races shows the need for vigilance at every style track.
It wouldn’t be fun for fans to watch a race under caution if there hadn’t already been rain on the track or just drops of rain, but NASCAR’s number one responsibility is driver safety.
All of the drivers involved in the rain-caused incident at Daytona were pushed out of the field’s spotlight, but that didn’t mean the impacts were light.
Already this season, drivers have spoken about how they feel the impacts of the new car more, even as data shows the impacts are no more severe than with last year’s car. That suggests drivers feel bumps more, and that can cause injuries. Kurt Busch will miss his seventh consecutive Cup race this weekend at Darlington due to concussion-like symptoms suffered in a July 23 crash at Pocono Raceway.
Hamlin said the impact of Sunday’s crash hurt.
“My whole body hurts, literally my jaw,” Hamlin said. “I feel like my jaw was one of those boxers that gets their whole face smashed. That was definitely the first really big one I had in this car. Everything that they have been telling us (about the impacts), all the other drivers, is true.
#NASCAR … I asked Denny Hamlin what can be done about that incident (caused by rain)
Denny: “Best refereeing”
More of what Denny said after walking out of the frame’s spotlight… pic.twitter.com/cLOqLIpfjk
—Dustin Long (@dustinlong) August 28, 2022
Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks tweeted that Sunday’s race “It costs teams collectively about $4 (million).”
it’s easy to see how a few seconds or decisions changed the financial status of some teams into potentially millions.
If NASCAR had taken the rain precaution before the field entered Turn 1, then maybe the top 15 cars wouldn’t crash. If so, Austin Dillon does not go from 16th place to the leader.
Dillon won and earned a playoff spot, guaranteeing he won’t finish worse than 16th in points.
Under the charter system, teams earn money based on multiple categories: participation in a race, historical performance over the past three seasons, the traditional points pool, and race results.
Dillon’s victory means he will make the playoffs for the second time in three years. His team will be entitled to more money in years to come the further they advance in this year’s playoffs.
“It can be, without a doubt, a $1 million day,” said car owner Richard Childress after Dillon’s victory.
Just as Richard Childress Racing celebrated a win and a financial boost, Martin Truex Jr.’s Joe Gibbs Racing team will feel the pain of missing the playoffs for the next three seasons.
Truex had finished second, seventh and second in points the past three years, making historic payouts to the No. 19 team among the best in the sport, raising the value of the team’s card.
With 14 cars eliminated from the rain-caused crash, that allowed Ryan Blaney to get ahead of those cars despite having laps behind after his car was damaged in an earlier incident. Truex also sustained damage from a separate incident. Truex entered the final stage 10 points behind Blaney for what would be the final playoff spot.
With so few cars on the track, it was harder for Truex to stay 11 positions ahead of Blaney to earn the playoff spot. He fell to three points and now he can’t finish better than 17th in points. That will impact the team’s historical pay starting next season.
It comes at a time when Joe Gibbs Racing has yet to announce a sponsor for the No. 18 car for next year. Mars Inc., which is reportedly paying $20 million or more to finance the car, will not return after this season. That leaves Kyle Busch’s future with the team in doubt.
If NASCAR had decided to cancel the race after that accident, instead of waiting 3 hours and 19 minutes to resume the event, Truex would have been in the playoffs and Blaney out. Truex was fourth at the time, while Blaney was 18th.
Running the final 21 laps, Blaney, despite being six laps behind, passed the cars that couldn’t continue and finished 15th, while Truex dropped to eighth with his damaged car.