Erik Jones got a push from teammate Denny Hamlin to win Sunday’s crash-filled Busch Clash with a car that, well, was quite representative of the crashing during the race.
The nose of Jones’ car was kept together by tape. The hood was buckled toward the cockpit and the Toyota markings on the front were completely disconnected from the bumper.
Hamlin’s car was beat to hell too. Pretty much everyone’s was. Every car in the 18-car field was involved in a crash at some point as drivers kept crashing and crashing and crashing.
Thankfully they didn’t crash on the final restart of the 88-lap race. Jones got his huge shove from Hamlin on the final lap as Ryan Newman made a move for the lead with his banged-up car on Austin Dillon. That opened the high side for Jones and Hamlin as they blitzed Dillon and Newman as the six remaining cars in the race raced to the checkered flag.
“I don’t care if I was going to push him into a wreck, I was going to push him,” Hamlin said. He was a lap down for the final restart and wasn’t able to race for the win. He finished sixth.
Dillon, who had the cleanest car on the track for the final stages of the race, finished second. Clint Bowyer finished third. Let’s go through the crashes in the annual exhibition race that starts the NASCAR season.
Joey Logano’s block leads to a wreck
Joey Logano tried to block Kyle Busch from taking the lead with less than 10 scheduled laps in the 75-lap race and paid the price with a crashed car. The wreck also took out Logano’s Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski.
JOEY LOGANO AND KYLE BUSCH TRIGGER A BIG CRASH IN DAYTONA 😳 pic.twitter.com/0UzYn9dP8O— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 9, 2020
Keselowski was unhappy with Logano’s blocks. A driver typically gets one opportunity to make a block on a driver behind. Logano made more than one move.
Brad Keselowski is livid with the accident that took him out, the result of his teammate Joey Logano trying to block Kyle Busch. pic.twitter.com/YY9zSuaQ6D— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) February 9, 2020
Giant restart crash
Chaos ensued as the race restarted following the crash that took out the last two Cup Series champions. Newman and William Byron had issues accelerating in the high line and look what happened after that.
That crash took out Martin Truex Jr. and damaged a bunch of other cars. And somehow the crashing continued even though there were just a handful of laps left.
Hamlin’s flat tire leads to a big wreck
Hamlin was in the lead after the restart crash but had a flat tire on the following restart with less than four laps to go. He lost control of his car entering turn 3 and spun in front of the remaining drivers in the field.
This crash put Chase Elliott into the lead. But Elliott scraped the outside wall as he tried to get around Hamlin’s spinning car. That contact caused Elliott’s right-rear tire to go flat. He had to head to pit road to get it changed and went from first to fourth.
It wasn’t much of a penalty to pay given that so few cars were left in the race. But it also forced Elliott to be aggressive on the ensuing two-lap restart. And you can guess how that went.
Elliott and Larson crash
Elliott got to second behind Kyle Larson and tried to go for the lead into turn 3 after the green flag flew again. And then they crashed together.
Aaaaannnnnddddd ... Another one. Chase Elliott's day ends in Clash overtime. pic.twitter.com/cY7CX5gIhw— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 9, 2020
That crash ended Elliott’s day, while Larson was able to continue. Heck, Larson got to the lead just before the final lap. But he got shuffled back to fifth as the white flag flew and Hamlin and Jones started to team up to go for the lead in the race that got extended by 13 laps because of all the mess.
Is it time to end the Clash?
It’s reactionary, but also fair. Is it time for the Clash to go away?
Sunday’s race cost Cup Series teams millions of dollars in an era where NASCAR and its teams are looking to save money in various ways. The Clash is a money pit. Top-tier cars cost over $200,000. Is a 75-lap exhibition race worth the cost?
The 2019 Clash won by Jimmie Johnson included a crash that involved 17 of the 20 cars in the field. Five of the 17 cars in the 2017 Clash got crashed. Twenty of the 25 cars in the 2016 race were in a wreck.
Sure, you can tell drivers that they need to be more careful with their extremely expensive cars. But that’s not really racing, is it? And drivers can get crashed while being conservative at Daytona anyway. Hamlin having a flat tire in front of a field going single-file would have still collected a bunch of others.
The demolition derbies aren’t even entertaining anymore either. Crashes are and have always been a part of NASCAR. But like a lot of things in life, moderation is key. And crashes aren’t happening in moderation at Daytona and Talladega any longer.
The 2019 Daytona 500 included a 21-car crash and the four points races last year at the two tracks had a combined 13 crashes that involved five or more cars. That’s a lot of expenses for race teams operating on a thin profit margin.
Though points races and the prestige of the Daytona 500 can at least justify some of those expenses. There’s nothing about the Clash that justifies the millions that Cup teams lost on Sunday.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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