As a NASCAR fan, I always look forward to the restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega. I fully expect to see “the big one”; otherwise known as that one, fantastic wreck where it seems that half the cars in the field are taken out in a split second. I’m not alone on this. Seemingly, all NASCAR fans feel the same way. Admit it or not, we are drawn to the excitement of big crashes and race drama associated with those crashes. Yet, after all the smoke has cleared we love to start questioning all aspects of the rules and what helped lead up to to the crash.
Last night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona was no different. During the race we had a few close calls and one relatively large crash; however what I’m here to discuss is the last lap crash between race leader Kyle Bush and 2nd place Tony Stewart. Prior to the last lap, Tony had led more laps than any other driver (other than Denny Hamlin perhaps); yet circumstances allowed Kyle to make a clean pass of Tony heading to the start/finish line at the end of the 2nd to last lap. As Kyle drove by, Tony jumped immediately behind him to take his place at 2nd (a spot Kyle held throughout a large portion of the race). It seemed apparent that as the two cars took the remaining 4 turns it was either going to be Kyle or Tony first to the finish line. All Kyle had to do was successfully keep Tony behind him. Tony spent the first two turns of the final lap trying to get to Kyle’s rear bumper. Entering turn 3 Tony had a good run and although Tony looked to have enough momentum to pass Kyle, Tony appeared to check up enough to not run into Kyle and give him that little bump Kyle would have needed to drive away. However; on the final turn on the final lap Tony made a move to the bottom of the track and Kyle blocked. Tony immediately made an aggressive move to his right and started to move past Kyle. LATE, Kyle decided to move over and attempt to block Tony again. Knowing they were only a few seconds from the finish line, Tony held his line and Kyle spun towards the fence.
At 190 mph Kyle headed towards the mile, taking a mammoth wallop and getting temporarily airborne as Tony drove by for the win. As Kyle’s crippled car straightened up Kasey Kane was still headed for the finish line and literally drove under the rear end of Kyle’s already destroyed car lifting it to almost 45 degrees off the ground!
Wow, that’s the 2nd time during this incident that Kyle took a major hit. However; the end had not yet arrived for Kyle and his wild ride on the last lap of this race. As this accident happened at the front of the pack and there were still many more cars jockeying for position and hoping to get a decent finish during all the carnage, Joey Logano in his #20 Home Depot (a rookie who’d managed to stay clean all day) found himself headed right for the driver’s side of Kyle’s Bush’s already destroyed car. The resulting T-Bone between Joey and Kyle put the final nail in the coffin of Kyle’s car.
The post-race celebration was very solemn as Tony’s primary concern was over how he’d won. He was genuinely upset that he’d won as the result of Kyle being taken out of the race. Personally, I’m fine with the current rules. Just like all tracks, restrictor plate tracks have their own unique set of circumstances and challenges requiring a driver to know how to do more than drive straight and occasionally turn left. Sure, the wrecks are larger and more fantastic. I’ve seen half the field get taken out on a road course as well, but I don’t hear anyone calling for the rules of those races to be changed. The simple fact remains that restrictor plate racing is exciting to watch, and fans want that excitement. Without the fans the sport wouldn’t exist. So, regardless of anything else, these crashes and race incidents are actually good for the sport. As far as Tony’s concern over the win. I say don’t be. If the tables were turned and Tony tried to block Kyle or any other driver in the same circumstances…well, we’d be looking at pictures of a wrecked Tony Stewart instead.
Enjoy the win.