Daytona Beach, Fla – For the first time ever, NASCAR has changed the way their races will be run. For 2017, all three series’ will run their races in three stages. We got the first two glimpses on Friday and Saturday for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series season opening races at the Daytona International Speedway and if you base the stages off those races, it would have been considered an ultimate failure.
Early crashes occurred often with 18 Trucks crashing on Lap 2 on Friday night and all but 13 XFINITY Series cars crashing in two separate incidents by time we even got to the end of the opening stage on Saturday.
But, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers showed why they’re at the top level of the sport as they showed us how these stages will truly be run.
Between the first two 60 Lap stages in Sunday’s Daytona 500, we only saw two caution flags. That allowed the teams to show us the games that will be played in them.
Toyota’s tried to short pit on Lap 17 of the race but they failed miserably. All six of them hit pit road but only three escaped without an issue. Rookies Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez messed up hitting their pit boxes (Suarez missed his) and Matt Kenseth needed to pit twice due to a left front tire problem.
That caused the trio of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. to barely stay in front of the draft as they were planning on all six riding together and staying out of trouble. Instead, they didn’t have enough speed to maintain their spot ahead.
The Fords pitted exactly at halfway of the first stage on Lap 30 and got lucky by virtue of the lone caution of the first stage on that same lap.
In the second stage, the Toyota’s tried to do it again. Five of the six pitted on Lap 81 (21st lap of Stage 2) and they didn’t pack up quick enough. That allowed the pack to freight train Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin while Busch and Jones tried to hold off the pack.
But, an issue occurred in this when Busch lost control of his No. 18 Toyota having a right rear tire go down and crashed in Turn 3. He collected Toyota’s Jones and Kenseth as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ty Dillon.
Overall, this stage racing seemed to work for the ‘500 as the manufacturers were playing games with one another.