The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: A Daytona Demolition Derby

Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – With crashes, controversy and a first time winner, Daytona seemed to have a little bit of everything this past weekend. As NASCAR celebrated the July 4th holiday with the Coke Zero Sugar 400, we look back on the Good, The Bad and The Ugly of NASCAR’s second trip to Daytona.

The Good

Erik Jones raced like a veteran Saturday night. While caution after caution flew, Jones kept his cool, avoided nearly all contact and put himself in position to capitalize on opportunity. There was a lot of opportunity to grab hold of.

The young Joe Gibbs Racing pilot kept a conservative game plan rolling to the final restart where he found himself restarting on the outside in second place. With a well-timed push from Chris Buescher, Jones still had to fight last year’s Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. for the win and he flat out beat him. That’s a great thing for this sport.

Jones has won in everything as he moved up the ranks of NASCAR and last night’s win just created a new young star for people to gravitate to in a time when the sport transitions to a new crop of young drivers.

The Bad

Michael McDowell’s night was ended by one of far too many cautions last night as his No. 34 machine, which looked incredibly strong all night long, was caught up in a three car accident in turn three. The under funded Front Row Motorsports team showed they were the real deal as they ran in second place behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for a large portion of the event and managed to stay inside the top ten for a vast majority of the race.

The amount of accidents that happened Saturday night was too much. Thankfully no one was injured, however NASCAR needs to decide whether they’re OK with eight cars taking the race’s final restart like they did on Saturday night. Yes the finish was exciting. Yes there was a lot of action. It was the wrong kind of action. Saturday Night’s event looked more like a high speed demolition derby than a proper race.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the accidents, it’s fairly clear that NASCAR needs to figure out whether or not this kind of multi-million dollar wreck fest is good for the sport. With the decline in participating race teams over the last few years, and money becoming harder and harder to come by in the way of sponsorship, is it in the sport’s best interest to watch 30 race cars become eligible for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s race car grave yard? Whether entertaining or not, the sport and its teams are not in a position to lose millions of dollars in race cars when they show up to Daytona or Talladega four times every season.

The Ugly

Friday Night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race was arguably one of the ugliest jobs of officiating NASCAR has done in quite a while.

Though they strive to get every call right, there were multiple occasions where drivers locked bumpers to push draft each other and were not given a penalty by the world’s top stock car sanctioning body.

NASCAR clearly states that no two drivers can lock bumpers and essentially tandem draft. Though the first car across the line, Justin Haley, was penalized by NASCAR for going below the yellow line while making what would have been the race’s winning pass, both he and Elliot Sadler were seen on the National tv broadcast locking bumpers with other drivers and tandem drafting down the backstretch or off turn four through the tri-oval.

NASCAR did nothing about these situations and Elliot Sadler was credited with second place. Haley was relegated back to 18th, however neither should have even been in position to win the race as they were coming to the white flag. NASCAR flat out missed multiple obvious rule infractions, only to luckily have the opportunity to make it right, at least in one instance.