by Ryan Isley
Well that was one hell of an opening act for NASCAR, huh?
If the first weekend of the 2015 NASCAR season is any indication, this is going to be one wild and crazy season. Off the track, there was the suspension of Kurt Busch that made headlines. And then there were plenty of crazy things that happened on the track as well. Here are just a few highlights of what transpired to make the NASCAR season’s opening weekend a crazy one:
Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin Altercation:
Near the end of the second Duel race on Thursday night, Denny Hamlin got into the back of Danica Patrick and spun her, causing a wreck with just a few laps remaining. It was the second time in three days that the two drivers had been involved in an incident, as Hamlin had hit Patrick in practice on Wednesday as well.
Luckily for both drivers, the wreck in the Duel didn’t cost either of them a spot in the Daytona 500. While both drivers safely transferred into the race, however, Patrick was more than a little fired up over the situation. When they got out of their cars, Patrick found Hamlin following the race and gave him a piece of her mind.
Hamlin had the look of a parent talking to a little kid, trying to calm Patrick down but it didn’t work. He tried to put his arm around her to explain his side of the story, but it didn’t matter. Patrick had to make sure her voice was heard, no matter how long it took.
The problem was that Hamlin can’t really react to her. If that was another male driver, there may have been shoves and punches, but with Patrick, that can’t happen. And she knows it. That just gives her a little more latitude than the other drivers when it comes to post-race altercations. It will be interesting to see how long drivers will put up with this before they take action – possibly against members of Patrick’s crew or her Stewart-Haas Racing teammates.
Kyle Busch Injured In XFinity Race
With less than 10 laps to go in the initial NASCAR Xfinity Series race of the season, things changed in an instant for Kyle Busch. Involved in a wreck, Busch went down the track, through the grass and straight into a concrete wall that wasn’t protected by a SAFER barrier. Busch was put on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital, where it was determined that he had suffered a compound fracture in his lower left leg and a fracture in his left foot. He has undergone operations on each injury throughout the week and is out indefinitely.
It’s a huge blow not only for Busch, but for the sport as a whole as Busch is one of the best drivers in NASCAR, whether fans like him or not. He puts on a show in all three series (Camping World Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Sprint Cup Series), even if there are people – like myself – who don’t like having the Sprint Cup Series regulars in the other series. Busch went to victory lase 15 times in 2014 across the three series.
The only positive to come out of the situation is that Daytona International Speedway has decided to make sure than every exposed wall now will be covered with a SAFER barrier. Why that wasn’t already done at a track where cars reach the speeds they do is beyond me, but at least now they are using their heads.
Daytona 500 Ends Under Caution
NASCAR just couldn’t get out of its own way at the end of the Daytona 500, throwing a caution flag during the white flag lap of the first green-white-checker attempt as the leaders were well ahead of the wreck. It looked as if they were going to let the race play out, but then threw the yellow flag which effectively ended the race, giving Joey Logano the win and his first Daytona 500 trophy. This was after NASCAR did everything they could to get the green-white-checker, even throwing a red flag after a wreck in the final laps of “regulation.”
By waving the yellow flag and ending the race, NASCAR left drivers like Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – racing second and third – without a chance to make a move to pass Logano coming down the stretch. It also left the fans without the sprint to the finish excitement that seemed to be building.
What a terrible ending to an otherwise entertaining race. The Daytona 500 should never end under caution. NASCAR should have re-racked the cars and tried the green-white-checker finish for a second time if that’s what it took. Every conceivable option should have been exhausted to make sure that the drivers had a chance to race back to the finish line.
Things didn’t get any less strange when the NASCAR schedule turned to Atlanta this week, either.
Travis Kvapil reported that his Sprint Cups Series car and trailer had been stolen from a hotel parking lot Thursday night or early Friday morning, forcing the team to withdraw from this weekend’s event. And then to top it off, Hamlin’s motor home was hit by an SUV in the Atlanta Motor Speedway infield.
Who knows what the next twist and turn will be in this already insane NASCAR season?