Daytona Beach, Fla – Entering Sunday’s 59th annual Daytona 500, it would have been easy to pick someone from either Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing to win the season opener at the Daytona International Speedway. After all, someone out of these three camps have won 17 of the last 19 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races during Daytona Speedweeks.
But, by time we got to Lap 150, most of them were already eliminated or at least caught up in a crash at some point in the final half of the race.
On Lap 105, Kyle Busch lost a tire on his No. 18 Toyota in Turn 3 taking out his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate of Matt Kenseth, Hendrick Motorsports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a few others.
Then, shortly after we went green for the third and final stage of the Daytona 500 with 75 laps-to-go, the “big one” occurred in Turn 3 again. Jamie McMurray got into the back of Jimmie Johnson entering that corner causing his No. 48 Chevrolet to get out of shape and spinning in the middle of the pack. Johnson’s spinning Hendrick Motorsports entry took out several other contenders as a result meaning most of the top contenders to win were already out.
16 of the 40 starters were taken out in that crash including, Johnson, Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and others.
The wreck was a by product of everyone racing too hard too soon as most of the field was three wide all the way through. With still several laps left, the racing being that hard that soon was unwarranted. There was really no reason to be racing that many cars deep and that many cars wide that soon.
It wasn’t a coincidence carnage happened because of that.
That’s why 16 cars suffered damage in that wreck.
We’d race one lap before another crash occurred when Ryan Blaney was signaling he was going to pit. Jeffrey Earnhardt who was running behind Elliott Sadler, who Sadler was running behind Blaney, didn’t see it and got into Sadler causing him to get into both Roush/Fenway Racing cars of Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
But, those weren’t the only big crashes. As we went back to green on Lap 142, McMurray again caused another melee when he was pushing Chase Elliott too hard on the backstretch. That caused Elliott to wiggle and McMurray to hit head on in the outside wall and creating a mess once again.
Several cars were taken out behind them, some of which were involved in the last wreck, including Ryan Newman, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and others.
By this part of the race, only five of the 40 cars escaped damage through the race.
In a span of 27 laps, nearly half the field was taken out including race winning contenders of Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez.
It wasn’t a good look for the year’s biggest NASCAR race that’s for sure.