DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — There’s a reason as to why the best cars almost rarely win the races at Daytona or Talladega. Five of the top cars this past week during Speedweeks were among 16 total cars collected in the Lap 13 “big one” for the NASCAR Cup Series season opener.
Alex Bowman and William Byron swept the front row for Sunday’s Daytona 500 and both were collected in that incident. So was Aric Almirola. He won the first Duel and had a really fast race car this Speedweeks. Ryan Blaney was collected too. So was Ryan Newman.
If you asked me who the favorites were for this race, I would have given you all five of them. That all went up in smoke within 15 minutes of the race beginning.
Rain was coming, so naturally the intensity levels ramped up. What I can’t understand, is why. We knew that this wasn’t going to end the race but here we were.
Christopher Bell got into Aric Almirola and Almirola spun up into Alex Bowman who was running the high line above him. As a result, that contract sparked a huge crash in Turn 3 collecting Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Matt DiBenedetto, Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, David Ragan, Anthony Alfredo and Daniel Suarez.
Blaney had a top six finish in both Daytona races last year but will finish outside the top 30 though for the fourth time in his last six starts. Newman has had similar success here lately too. Yes, he had that frightening crash on the last lap of last year’s race, but he was also leading when that happened. He had five top 10 finishes in his last seven Daytona 500 starts coming into Sunday and finished third in his Duel.
“Somebody crashed in the outside row in front of us and we had nowhere to go and I got hit from some place,” Newman said. “I had the wreck missed, but got hit from some place and that was the end of our day. I just feel bad for Kohler Generators jumping on board and getting wrecked out of the Daytona 500 so early, but unfortunately that’s part of racing. I just wish we could have had some better results.”
Almirola, now has five finishes of 18th or worse in his last six Daytona starts.
“We were just getting pushed too hard too early,” Almirola said. “It’s a long, long race. Man, we were in a fine position, just sitting there riding around in the top two, three and the 20 just came with a big run and hit me really hard in a bad spot and it turned me to the right and tore up our race car and ending our Daytona 500 way too early.”
Ragan, was equally as frustrated.
“I’ve never met a driver that said I’m gonna start this 500-mile race and just be super aggressive. We all talk about give and take and making it to the end but it seems nobody does that once they get out there. It’s frustrating that everybody is pushing and shoving.”