Friday 5: Will Daytona Speedweeks repeat last year’s chaos?
As a new Speedweeks dawns, NASCAR teams hope this year won’t be a repeat of the carnage that took place a year ago at Daytona International Speedway.
One hundred and six vehicles were listed as involved in accidents in Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series races during Speedweeks last year, according to race reports.
That was a 29.2 percent increase from the previous Speedweeks.
Only once in the last 10 years were more vehicles damaged in races during Speedweeks. There were 122 vehicles in accidents in 2012.
The numbers were high last year because so many accidents took place at the front of the field — where drivers say they want to be because they believe it is the safest place.
A 17-car crash in the Daytona 500 was triggered when Jimmie Johnson, running third, was hit from behind.
An 11-car crash in the Daytona 500 started when Chase Elliott’s car was hit after a restart as Elliott was fourth.
The Xfinity race had a 20-car wreck that started when Tyler Reddick was hit from behind while running seventh.
A 16-car crash in the Xfinity race began when Elliott Sadler, running second, was hit from behind.
A 12-car crash in the Xfinity race started when Brandon Jones was hit while running fifth.
A 12-vehicle crash in the Truck race started when Matt Crafton, who was leading, was hit in the right side. Crafton’s truck went airborne.
Will last year be the start of a trend or prove to be an anomaly? This will be worth keeping an eye on in the coming days.
2. FASTER SPEEDWEEKS?
With Cup going to the no ride-height rule, the question is if the cars will be faster — and by how much — since they will be closer to the ground. NASCAR also added half an inch of spoiler to offset the elimination of the ride height requirement.
NASCAR expects speeds to be about the same but a prominent team expects speeds to climb possibly as much as 8 mph.
Chase Elliott won the pole last year with a lap of 192.872 mph. The fastest lap in practice last year came in the final session before the Daytona 500 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went 198.452 mph in the draft.
Even if speeds increase, NASCAR has made improvements to the cars to where it should be less likely for a car to get airborne on its own. NASCAR stated that 201 mph previously was the minimum speed for liftoff. Now it’s 233 mph. Of course, if a car hits another in a particular way it can launch it regardless of the speed they’re going.
3. EASIER TO OFFICIATE
Xfinity cars will have a new lower front fascia with a 4-inch ride height at the restrictor-plate tracks. This is intended to eliminate bump drafting. If all goes as NASCAR officials plan, the changes will create a gap of about 1.5 feet between cars, making it easier to police the matter.
4. GOING FOR 4 IN A ROW
The No. 24 car — driven by rookie William Byron this season — is going for its fourth consecutive Daytona 500 pole. Jeff Gordon won the pole in 2015 with that number and Chase Elliott did the same in 2016 and ’17.
5. WILL DAYTONA STREAK CONTINUE?
Kurt Busch’s Daytona 500 victory last year marked the eighth consecutive year a different driver won the season-opening race.
That streak includes Denny Hamlin (2016), Joey Logano (2015), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014), Jimmie Johnson (2013), Matt Kenseth (2012), Trevor Bayne (2011) and Jamie McMurray (2010).