Welcome to our weekly post-race column of fire takes. Let’s see what’s in store this week after Saturday’s race at Daytona.
• Ricky Stenhouse likely entered Saturday night’s race at Daytona knowing he needed to win to make the playoffs.
The defending champion of the race hasn’t been fast throughout the 2018 season. He was fast on Saturday night, winning each of the first two stages. But he also played a significant part in two of the biggest wrecks of the evening.
Stenhouse was pushing Brad Keselowski as Keselowski went to make a move for the lead on William Byron on lap 54. Byron went for the block and Keselowski crashed, collecting a host of other really good cars.
Stenhouse made it through unscathed and was part of a wreck just a few laps later. As he and Kyle Busch were chasing Byron, Stenhouse’s car slid up into Busch’s and sent Busch into the wall and other drivers — including Byron — were collected.
“I was really bummed,” Stenhouse said about his role in the wrecks. “The first one, [Byron] blocked [Keselowski] and from where I was sitting I thought we were gonna get to the inside of him, so I wasn’t really expecting him to check up that quick.”
The second one with [Busch], I was just too aggressive trying to get to his left-rear, trying to get back to the lead and back out front where our Fifth Third Ford was really dominant. We definitely brought, I feel like, the best car here in the field. Winning two stages was nice, but obviously we wanted to win at the end and it’s a bummer we basically crashed all of our teammates out of it.”
Thank you to everybody @StewartHaasRcng, car was fast. Sucks we got caught up in the #StenhouseDD (DemolitionDerby) but it’s a product of him being 17th in points and racing “for every point” pic.twitter.com/ai2rej6AhY
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) July 8, 2018
While Stenhouse can take a lot of the blame for the second accident, we’re not sure he should shoulder the blame for the first accident. While you can argue that Stenhouse shouldn’t have been pushing a driver ahead of him so early in the race, Byron’s block was what precipitated the accident. Keselowski even called it a “late, bad block.” Stenhouse didn’t have an opportunity to get off Keselowski’s bumper once Byron threw that block.
“Yeah, I thought he blocked him, but I did that here in February and threw an aggressive block down the back straightaway that in turn caused a big crash like that too,” Stenhouse said, referencing a big crash caused by a block at the end of the first stage of the Daytona 500. “I can see it from Byron’s side and from my side I was a little frustrated he threw the block, but then again I can’t be too mad because I felt like I did that in February.”
Stenhouse went on to win that second stage and the fun continued after that. He got caught up in a wreck after Kyle Larson went spinning with a flat tire — a wreck that caused an audible cheer from the fans in attendance. Stenhouse then himself spun with a flat tire after he and Aric Almirola had contact in the tri-oval and eventually finished 17th.
And after all of that Stenhouse is still tentatively out of the playoffs. He’s 19 points behind Alex Bowman for the final playoff spot.
Keselowski’s deja vu
Take a look at how similar Saturday night’s wreck involving Keselowski was to the crash he was involved in during the Daytona 500.
Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott’s big crash at Daytona looked an awful lot like the wreck that collected both of them tonight at Daytona.
(Wrecks spliced together for comparison’s sake) pic.twitter.com/SupoE50y9A
— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) July 8, 2018
Both came entering turn 3 as a push went awry thanks to a block. The similarities are a good reason for Keselowski’s sarcasm on Saturday night.
“Ricky was doing the best he could to give me a good push and had a great run to take the lead and the car in front of me just threw a late, bad block,” Keselowski said. “I made the mistake of lifting instead of just driving through him and that’s my fault. I know better than that. I’ve got to wreck more people and then they’ll stop blocking me late and behind like that. That’s my fault. I’ll take the credit for my team and we’ll go to Talladega and we’ll wreck everybody that throws a bad block like that.”
Is it time for NASCAR to rethink the current rules at Daytona and Talladega? It may not be a bad idea. Passing can be so difficult at Daytona that drivers throw blocks like crazy to keep their track position. Is there a sweet spot that can be found to make passing a bigger priority than being passed?
ISC president’s comments live on
With Saturday’s race coming two days after the president of International Speedway Corporation tried to pin an attendance decline at ISC tracks on young drivers not winning, 22-year-old Erik Jones’ win was the subject of some jokes at ISC’s expense. As it should have been.
“They’ve been fighting hard to get to where they’re at, and always good to see a first‑time winner,” Martin Truex Jr. said. “Now maybe ISC and those guys can be a little bit happier about things.”
Bubba Wallace got in on it too. We expect ISC to report that attendance was up in its third quarter investor call thanks to Jones’ win.
Big congrats to @erik_jones!! Way to wheel it for the Young guys!
Bet ole ISC Pres is enjoying some crow for dinner tonight!!
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) July 8, 2018
Ty Dillon’s gets a first
Ty Dillon got his first-career Cup Series top 10 on Saturday night. He finished sixth despite fuel pump issues that forced his car to slow on the track twice. 13 cars finished on the lead lap.
Attrition reigns again
Only 18 cars officially finished the race, meaning 22 cars failed to finish. It’s the most cars that have failed to finish a race since … October, when 26 cars failed to finish at Talladega. The two previous restrictor plate races this season had 15 (Daytona) and 14 (Talladega) cars that didn’t finish, respectively.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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