Danica Patrick blames new NASCAR rules for so many Daytona 500 wrecks – For The Win
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick’s 2017 Daytona 500 ended early after she was involved with a crash originating with Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48, which caused a 17-car collision. She described the wreck in the middle of the pack as “treacherous.”
But she wasn’t the only one who exited Sunday’s race early, as Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, among several others, also did not finish.
With 15 of 40 drivers out of the race with about a quarter of the 200 laps remaining, the No. 10 Ford driver put part of the blame on NASCAR’s new staged racing. Starting this season, the races are divided into three stages with points awarded to the top drivers from each stage, counting toward their championship total.
“The stages are definitely going to add to it because not only is it creating a reason to push at certain points in the race that aren’t anything but the last 20, but you’re also seeing it shuffling the grid up,” Patrick said after being cleared by the in-field medical staff – a new requirement for those who don’t finish.
But that wasn’t the only rule she said is leading to so many drivers falling short of the finish line. Following an accident, teams that must return to pit road have a five-minute time limit for repairs. If cars cannot be fixed and return to the track at minimum speed within that time, they’re out of the race.
Prior to this season, teams had an unlimited amount of time to fix their cars and could eventually return to the track to try and earn even just a few points out of the race.
“What you’re seeing is the product of the five-minute clock,” Patrick continued. “You’re seeing a product of the new rules of having to go to the in-field care center if you don’t finish the race. … I’m totally fine. I drove my car back to the garage. I never would have come to the in-field care center if not for the new protocols, so I’m all for being all well, but it’s probably a bit much.”
Of course, the new rules aren’t responsible for all crashes and early driver exits. Patrick acknowledged that racing at a superspeedway like the Daytona International Speedway increases the likelihood of accidents when drivers are more often bunched together.
She said on a track like this, drivers assume multi-car wrecks have “a real high chance of happening.”
“Today was fun on a superspeedway, but I grew to not like them that much just because in the law of averages of superspeedway racing, you’re going to crash a lot,” Patrick said. “I’ve had some really, really big ones, so that was probably one of the easiest wrecks I’ve had at a superspeedway.
“That’s the name of the game. It’s what makes it exciting, too, for the fans.”