Daytona Beach, Fla – After a three month offseason, the NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers were obviously anxious to get back to racing. But, call it like it is in this embarrassing start to the season. You could blame the long offseason, the new stage format, restrictor plate racing, rookie mistakes, etc, but by time we got to the end of the first stage in Saturday’s Powershares QQQ 300, only 13 of the 40 starters had escaped damage.
Yes, well over half the field was involved in a crash in the XFINITY Series season opener in the first 29 laps.
There was 46-minutes, 22-seconds of red flag action during that stage compared to 12-minutes, 7-seconds of green flag racing.
Like last night in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, it didn’t take long before the big one occurred in today’s NASCAR XFINITY Series season opener either. The first two cautions flags today were minor compared to what occurred on Lap 22. After a caution on Lap 3 for fluid on the track in Turn 4 and on Lap 17 for Brandon Hightower spinning entering the tri-oval, a yellow flew on the 22nd lap for a 18-car pile up on the backstretch.
Scott Lagasse Jr. bumped drafted rookie Tyler Reddick on the backstretch in which the contact sent Reddick into the outside wall on the 2.5-mile high banked track. That caused a chain reaction melee that ended up collecting almost half the field through Turn 3.
The crash ended the days of Jeremy Clements, Reddick, Spencer Gallagher, Cole Custer, Jeff Green and others.
It also caused the first red flag on Lap 24.
We’d go back green on Lap 28, and one lap later, another big one occurred, this time in Turn 3. The wreck started when Daniel Hemric got into pole sitter Brandon Jones who got into the side of Justin Allgaier in the third corner and sent Jones and Allgaier head on into the outside SAFER barrier. They both took violent hits. Luckily, both were able to climb out of their cars okay.
Several other contenders were involved in the crash including Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Bubba Wallace Jr. Nine cars overall were involved.
In a span of seven laps, we saw two violent crashes involving 27 cars.
It wasn’t a great start to the season as the first stage took nearly two hours to complete. That absolutely, positively can’t happen in the Daytona 500.
No one really knows where to pinpoint the fault here. Some will blame the new stages. Some will blame the rookie drivers. Some will blame plate racing in general.
Overall, it should never happen like that.