Daytona 500 Thoughts

We finally had a pack race at one of the two superspeedways without a car going airborne, flipping, or flying into the catch fence.  In the second post ever in this blog, I stated how stupid and reckless I think pack racing is.  I’m not here to retract what I said in that post though.  I’m here to tell you what I think of the races that the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series (can that name get any longer?) has been doing during this month at Daytona.

Now, this post is about a week late, partially because it took me that long to be able to confirm what I said in the first sentence of this post.  Typically, whenever we have a race at one of these two tracks (especially if it’s a points race), somebody goes flipping!  And when that flip happens in the tri-oval, that someone usually goes into the catch fence where they hit one of the fence posts at almost 200 mph, come to a nearly instant stop, and are thrown onto the race track.  This is currently the most dangerous type of crash in NASCAR because of how violent it is on the car (and therefore the driver) and because you have a 3,500-pound race car punching through the catch fence with hundreds of spectators on the other side!  That and when several times the weight of the car is put entirely on the driver’s side of the roof against the safer barrier like what happened to Brad Keselowski at Atlanta in 2010, which seems to be the only time that NASCAR did something before someone died (with the exception of the addition of the Newman Bar).

So, in the “Clash”, we had a big crash where everybody stayed on the ground and right-side up.  I think it helps that the crash happened in turn 3 where the cars were being pressed into the track by the banking.  Then we had the first Duel where Kyle Bush got spun on the backstretch, but otherwise the race went caution-free.  The second Duel went without incident.  So far, things are looking pretty impressive for a series of pack races.  But then we get to the 500 where it seems like the drivers just forgot how to drive a race car for the final laps!  We had 3 crashes in a row in turn 3 of the first lap of the restart, making the race look more like the iRacing Street Stock series than a race of professional NASCAR drivers.  Nobody went airborne or flipped in any of those crashes, which is quite impressive even though the cars weren’t up to full speed yet and were in a section of track where cars almost never go airborne.

What I’m also impressed at is how the cars that were damaged in wreaks were able to keep racing with the lead pack and were able to even lead the race!  Especially Johnson who had so much damage in an incident coming to pit road that you’d expect his race to be over.  I’m also impressed at how well Chase Elliot (my favorite driver because he replaced Jeff Gordon) was able to race as part of the lead pack in spite of the fact that he was involved in several crashes with noticeable damage to the car.  His day was finally over when the sheet metal got pressed into the radiator.  For some reason, that tends to kill the engine.

Overall, with the exception of the drivers behaving like entitled iRacers at the end of the 500, I’m very impressed at the results of the race and the noticeable lack of airborne cars.  Let’s see if we can continue this trend at the rest of those superspeedway races.  And apparently, NASCAR is going to do some pack racing at Atlanta (turning it into the iRacing Rookie Street Stock Series) because they haven’t learned their lesson about pack racing yet.  I’ll want to watch the race to see how that goes and maybe give my opinion on it tomorrow.