Two unknowns won Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and today’s Nationwide Series stock car race because, in both cases, just about everybody else crashed.
John King (who?) was the winner of the truck race after surviving three attempts at green-white-checkers finishes that featured a truck flying up into the catch-fencing on the last one.
Today, as the laps wound down on the Nationwide race, they had not one but two Big Ones, the first involving 17 cars and the last involving 20.
James Buescher (who?), who was running 11th on the last lap when chaos erupted in front of him and all the leaders were taken out, found himself in Victory Lane.
For the second straight race – the first Sprint Cup qualifying race on Thursday and the Nationwide feature today – Danica Patrick was crashed out. Thursday, Aric Almirola rammed her in the side and sent her into the wall on the backstretch and today she was hit from behind by her rookie teammate, Cole Whitt, and rammed the third turn wall.
Between the two wrecks, she won the pole for the Nationwide race and led the first two laps.
The on-track mayhem in the first two feature races of NASCAR’s showcase weekend suggest that Sunday’s Daytona 500 could also be a wreck-fest and that pileups will determine the winner, not skill.
Lots of crashes will certainly entertain folks who like that kind of thing but lots of crashes also tend to disrupt the rhythm of a race and interrupt any racing that actually might be taking place.
The Sprint Cup drivers, for the most part, are among the best in the U.S. and, given their druthers, would undoubtedly rather show how good they are by outracing their rivals rather than by watching them crash out.
Of course – and nobody likes to talk about this, but – there is also the possibility that somebody going into a wall at 180 miles an hour might get hurt.
NASCAR has had incredible luck since 2001, when Dale Earnhardt didn’t survive what looked to be a routine (for NASCAR) trip into the wall, and sooner or later, it’s not going to be good news again.
But NASCAR wants it that way, apparently, because they’ve gone to great lengths since the end of last season to recreate the “pack racing” that sees dozens of cars tear around the speedway at extremely high speed and extremely close quarters.
The problem with that, of course, is that if anything goes wrong with one car, or a driver makes a mistake, everybody crashes and not just one or two.
Which means, as was the case twice already this weekend, somebody not a household name could wind up winning NASCAR’s biggest race by accident - literally.