NASCAR’s first crack at running the Daytona 500 in three stages of 60, 60 and 80 laps was a success in the eyes of the sanctioning body, according to NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell.
“I’d say overall, really pleased,” O’Donnell said Sunday night after Kurt Busch’s first Daytona 500 victory. “We saw a lot of great, hard racing. Everybody knows that every driver wants to win the Daytona 500. We saw drivers up on the wheel all day long, racing hard, and that’s exactly what we expected from the format.”
Asked about the myriad wrecks during Speedweeks, O’Donnell said it was the pressure and prestige of NASCAR’s biggest weekend of racing.
“People want to win at Daytona,” said O’Donnell. “And we wanted people racing up front, racing hard for wins. That’s what we expected. In terms of good, hard racing, that’s what you saw all three days.”
Another NASCAR change for 2017 was the addition of a countdown clock to repair damaged cars. If a car is damaged, teams now have five minutes from the time that car enters pit road to the time it exits pit road to make repairs.
If they go beyond five minutes, they are officially out of the race, as are cars that go to the garage.
“That’s obviously going to be a work in progress as we go,” said O’Donnell. “That’s NASCAR working with the race teams. When you look at the positives of that, no one exceeded that clock on pit road. The winner of the race was part of that policy. If you look at a car going beyond five minutes, usually their day is done anyway.”
O’Donnell said NASCAR didn’t receive any complaints from teams about the clock after the race.
“If we had a line of teams here saying, ‘We have to do something,’ we would,” said O’Donnell. “But we didn’t have one of them. They all knew that their day was done. It’s unfortunate, but that’s Daytona. It’s a tough place to race.”