The Big One occurred at Daytona International Speedway after rain began falling in the middle of the final stage. NASCAR officials did not throw the caution before the rain, which led to some strong comments from the Cup Series drivers.
“We saw rain. Our Fifth Third Bank Mustang was really fast,” Chris Buescher said after exiting his wrecked No. 17 Ford. “Everybody did their jobs and I felt like I was doing mine fairly well up there and had a run. We were definitely in a good spot and it was raining when we got to turn one and we all wiped out. We wiped out all the lead cars, so whoever wins this race wasn’t even in contention. It’s just ridiculous from my point of view.”
The massive wreck unfolded after a caution involving Joey Logano and Erik Jones. Denny Hamlin had the lead in the middle lane with Daniel Suarez on his left and Justin Haley on his right. They went around a turn before suddenly losing control and moving in different directions. Hamlin hit the outside wall while Suarez spun to the inside before rebounding back into traffic.
The massive wreck collected the majority of the field. This included Daniel Hemric, Tyler Reddick, Chase Elliott, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jones, Kevin Harvick, Harrison Burton, Aric Almirola, Buescher, and multiple others.
“We tore up a lot of race cars, so that was pretty unacceptable,” Haley added after leaving the infield care center. “…I don’t get it. My spotter said it was raining, it was sprinkling on my windshield for a good bit. We literally all lost traction. Like, the tires did not meet the road anymore. It was wet. When we’re running 200 [mph] we can’t do that.”
Haley did later correct himself. He sent out a tweet saying that he had gotten his laps mixed up after a hard hit. He added that the wreck was a series of “unfortunate events” and that there was nothing anyone could have done.
ALL the latest NASCAR news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on NASCAR newsletter here!
The Timing of the Wreck Will Spark Conversations
The falling rain and the wreck created numerous conversations between drivers, media members, and racing fans. There were countless debates that took place regarding the timing of the rain and whether NASCAR should have thrown the caution. Some, in particular, said that the officials should have been more aggressive with the flag.
“We know the rain is coming,” Suarez said. “I mean, it’s raining next door. So it’s just a matter of time. Why do you wait for that? I don’t know. Anyway. Maybe I’m a little biased because I was in the front. … There’s nothing you can do. You’re running 200 miles per hour, and you’re able to turn left. And then you saw a few drops hard then just you’re spinning.”
“Better officiating,” Hamlin said about what could be done in the future. “That’s all we can do is just… like Loudon, New Hampshire, we’ll learn from this I’m sure. Obviously, they should have called us down [pit road]. I mean, it was raining down the front, but it’s what we got.”
Kyle Busch Provided a Different Viewpoint
There will be countless debates in the coming weeks about the Cup Series regular-season finale, the rain, and the timing of the caution. Some drivers say that NASCAR officials waited too long to throw the caution flag despite hearing reports of rain.
Kyle Busch provided a different view of the situation. The two-time champion spoke to Parker Kligerman after the wreck and said that the situation drastically changed right before chaos on the track.
As Busch explained, there was no rain during the previous lap around the 2.5-mile Florida track. It just dropped right before the wreck. Busch also said that the rain happened “way too late” to call anything.
Following Busch’s interview, NASCAR senior VP of competition Scott Miller appeared in the booth to discuss the race. He told Rick Allen and Steve Letarte that he didn’t believe that the officials could have done anything differently in regard to the weather. Miller said that they were in contact with the spotter stand and the pace car and that they had all of the information available to them.