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Early accidents, final lap mashup mar opening Truck Series race at Daytona
- Updated: February 24, 2017
By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When NASCAR’s new green-and-white flag flew to bring an end to the first stage of Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opener at Daytona International Speedway, it did so over a decimated field.
When the checkered flag flew 80 laps later, there was hardly a ‘field’ left at all.
The Big One needed just two laps to strike the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series field in their Daytona International Speedway opener.
Attempting to draft back in the pack, rookies Noah Gragson and Chase Briscoe made contact that resulted in Gragson’s No. 18 Toyota being sent into the outside wall.
Unable to control his machine, the KBM driver then spun in front of the entire field, prompting a 17-truck pileup that ultimately eliminated Gragson, Austin Cindric, Ryan Truex, Clay Greenfield, Tommy Joe Martins, Stewart Friesen, Ross Chastain, Terry Jones and Tyler Young.
— NASCAR Trucks (@NASCAR_Trucks) February 25, 2017
“I was riding probably around seventh or eighth at the time on the outside and just got popped from behind, it felt like, going through one and two,” Gragson said. “The 29 got me. He hit me, got me sideways and then I tried not getting into the 27 (Ben Rhodes) in front of me, but it was not our night tonight I guess.”
Someone got inpatient,” Truex said. “I saw smoke, I lifted and got hit right there and I got hit again right there. I got hit a few different times and also went in the grass and just killed it.
18 laps later, the battle for the victory in the opening 20-lap stage led to another crash as contact from Spencer Gallagher sent Christopher Bell and Brett Moffitt spinning into the infield off of Turn 4.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 25, 2017
Johnny Sauter went on to claim the stage, as well as the caution-free Stage 2 to earn 20 points and two precious playoff points.
The rest of the race appeared it would be contested in fairly clean fashion, though there were a handful of close calls and a crash over the event’s second half.
Then, on the last lap, bedlam.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 25, 2017
Nearly the entirety of the remaining trucks on the race’s final lap were taken out after contact between the leaders led to a last-lap melee.
Matt Crafton’s No. 88 went airborne, flipped and landed on four wheels. Bell, a survivor of two earlier wrecks, finally dealt the killing blow to his No. 4 Toyota. Defending winner Johnny Sauter’s Daytona return ended with a hit to the outside wall, and series stalwart Timothy Peters’ evening finished with a hit to the inside.
The few drivers to make it through the carnage were rewarded with great finishes.
Kaz Grala maneuvered his way through to smoke from mid-pack to claim an improbable victory, while Austin Wayne Self and Briscoe were treated to an unexpected trip to the media center after salvaging career-best finishes of second and third.
13 cars made it to the checkered flag to complete lap 100. Two of the drivers in the top 10 – John Hunter Nemechek and Bell – survived to the finish in cars that would’ve looked more appropriate at one of Daytona Beach’s three junkyards than pit road at the 2.5-mile speedway.
Kyle Busch, owner of Truck series team Kyle Busch Motorsports, took to Twitter to chime in on his thoughts about restrictor plate racing.
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) February 25, 2017
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., also took a moment to comment on the carnage, though Busch was quick to remind NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver that he, too risks the loss of money by the end of the weekend.
The XFINITY Series will get their turn on the 2.5-mile oval in Saturday’s PowerShares QQQ 300.