Did NASCAR attempt to manipulate the finishing order at Daytona when they gave the “one to go” signal before red-flagging the race? Alright, this thought has been in my head since the race ended on Sunday. And while I don’t think it’s necessarily true it does make sense, let me explain.
On this week’s Door Bumper Clear Brett Griffin says NASCAR listens to teams to decide what to do with the caution/red flag. To most race fans this isn’t surprising news, of course, the sport listens it makes sense. It allows them to determine if it should be a quickie yellow if they should give the “one to go” if they should open pit road sooner. There is nothing nefarious about that and Brett certainly wasn’t suggesting there was. And just to be clear this thought came from us and not anyone at DBC, etc.
So NASCAR decided to open pit road following the big one triggered by Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer. Kurt Busch was the leader and decided to stay out in the hopes the rain would rush in and the race would be official. Landon Cassill stayed out with Busch and was running second. Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson, William Byron, and others pitted in the hopes the race would restart.
Ok to recap Kurt Busch, Landon Cassill, Justin Haley, and a few others stayed out. The “leaders” Byron, Johnson and others pitted hoping the race would restart.
Which brings us to lap 126 where NASCAR told teams they would go green next time by. This is where things get a little interesting. NASCAR knew where the lightning was but still gave the 1 to go knowing Kurt would pit and assuming Cassill and Haley would follow. Essentially cycling the field around to Byron leading thus putting the running order back to how it would have been pre-pit stops.
Instead, Haley stayed out and threw a gigantic wrench into the plans.
NASCAR knew how close the lightning was. If there is a strike within 8 miles then everything is halted for 30-minutes. The strike that put them under the red flag was 7.6 miles away from the track. Meaning the previous strikes all had to be flirting with that 8-mile perimeter. So, in theory, the knew this lightning delay was coming.
I believe NASCAR wanted to cycle the field so that when the red flag came out and if they had to call the race official there wouldn’t be a small team “stealing” a win. Instead, Byron would have been declared the winner and fans would be able to celebrate one of NASCAR’s rising stars first win.
Justin Haley and Spire Motorsports had other plans, they stayed out, led one lap and took home the trophy after not recording a quality pass all day.
Alright, now I’ll take my conspiracy hat off for a second. Sure NASCAR wants to protect the “integrity” of the race and a team with a previous best finish of 27th certainly wasn’t going to be a popular win with a lot of fans. However, Spire played the game and put themselves in position to get it done. I think NASCAR wanted to cycle the field through pit stops but they likely weren’t worried about a random winner. They were more than likely just wanting to get the order to reset for a potential restart of the race after the delay. It is interesting though.
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