DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Now that the 2018 Daytona Speedweeks is behind us, one thing was clear following the seven races at the Daytona International Speedway, drivers are pushing way too hard at the end of stage breaks or races. Take the ARCA Series season opener on Feb. 10, the race didn’t have stages, but the ending was an embarrassment. It took over an hour to run one lap.
The Clash one day later was calm throughout the second half of the race, but a last lap crash ended it.
The Duels were calm, but that was expected, especially on the last laps because who wants to tear up their Daytona 500 car on the final lap?
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night and the NASCAR XFINITY Series on Saturday afternoon had six total cautions through the first two stages of those races, four of which for stage breaks, but all hell broke loose over the final half of their races. The Cup season opener on Sunday, well the only time things got wild was at the end of stages and the end of the race.
The three “big ones” in Sunday’s Daytona 500, occurred on Lap 59, Lap 103 and Lap 198. The end of the first stage was Lap 60, the second stage Lap 120 and the race was Lap 200. See a common denominator there?
The problem is, drivers are pushing way too hard when they know a break is coming. Luckily, the lower divisions stayed calm in their stages, but things heated up at the end of both races. On the Cup level, they act like they don’t know how to race when breaks are on the horizon. The drivers are pushing way too hard for those coveted stage points. That’s not the only problem, the drivers that are pushing are trying to put their cars in places there’s not any room. When they find some real estate though, the drivers in front are blocking.
Take what Kyle Larson did on Lap 123 of the XFINITY Series race on Saturday and what Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did on Lap 59 of the Cup race on Sunday, those blocking moves were unnecessary. They were blocking way too much which caused mayhem. Those were dumb moves. When the car behind you has that much more speed in the draft, you shouldn’t block. I get why they do, because they want to win, or finish second in a stage in Stenhouse’s case, but it causes catastrophe behind. Doing this while battling for the lead is sure to create chaos like we saw. It jumbles everyone up behind and causes a multi car incident.
I’m not real sure what NASCAR could do to fix this. It’s really not their problem. Yes, they created the restrictor plate racing, but there’s no alternative. These cars need restrictor plates to race at Daytona and Talladega. Period. It’s an art and fun to watch when ran properly. The only thing they can do is police blocking better. Maybe ban it all together? Make a penalty severe enough where blocking isn’t even thought about at a plate race.? Heck, the outcome of the Daytona 500 was decided because of blocking.
This is a driver problem, not a NASCAR or track issue. The drivers need to be smarter or this is what happens.