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XFINITY Drivers Comment on Hectic Daytona Race

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A lap before Stage 1 of the PowerShares QQQ 300 ended, the second “big one” of the day occurred in Turn 4 of Daytona International Speedway.

The accident collected a dozen cars and ended any opportunity of a win for many of the race’s favorites.

Pole winner Brandon Jones was on the outside of Richard Childress Racing teammate Daniel Hemric in Turn 4 and made just enough contact to get loose and shoot up the track into the wall.

He collected a few XFINITY Series stars including Justin Allgaier, Darrell Wallace Jr., and all three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers — Daniel Suarez, Matt Tifft, and Erik Jones.

“Unfortunately, we were a victim of circumstances — we were all just racing really hard there,” Allgaier said of the wreck. “I got clipped and got into the side the 33 [Brandon Jones], and that got us back into the outside wall.

“That was one of the hardest hits I’ve ever taken in my NASCAR career. It was a pretty head-on crash.”

Three laps before the melee, Speedy Dry was applied to the track during a red flag because of the first “big one” on the backstretch, which involved 20 cars — literally half the field.

Hemric’s No. 21 wiggled when he ran over it and cited that as part of the reason for the crash.

“It just felt like I was on ice and I slid up into the 7,” Hemric said.

Suarez, last year’s XFINITY champion, wasn’t pleased about the incident. He said, “I just feel like we have to be a little more smart — it’s a long race. I don’t know why we were racing like that really early.”

Some rumblings from the fans about yesterday’s event were that NASCAR’s new three-stage format played a significant role in the race’s narrative. Drivers want to be in the top 10 at the conclusion of a stage to earn extra points.

“I think the stages create a lot of urgency,” Brennan Poole, who was involved in a later accident on Lap 59, told POPULAR SPEED. “At a track like Daytona, it puts us in a position to try to get those extra points. I think yes, everyone is trying to get those extra points, but that’s just racing too, and that’s how it goes.”

Another reason could be the new aero package for XFINITY cars, which feature smaller rear spoilers and less downforce than in previous seasons.

“[The cars] are way different — entirely different than the way it’s been the last couple of years,” Poole said. “To me, it reminds me of the Cup cars. You saw guys moving around … I think it’s good, but you have to be patient, or there’s going to be a lot of accidents.”

Erik Jones, who makes his Daytona 500 debut on Sunday, said he was trying gain knowledge from the 300-mile race to help him on the Cup side.

He said, “It’s unfortunate because I was learning quite a bit for [Sunday]. Unfortunately, we just got caught up in a wreck. I don’t know if [the car] was good enough to win — we would have had to wait and see. It definitely was driving well in the hot conditions. I felt like we were aggressive and we put ourselves in as good a position as we could to try to avoid a wreck, it just didn’t work out.”

Perhaps it was a combination of a new rules package and the new race format that caused Saturday’s race to be such a crash fest. The cars become harder to handle with less downforce, and it puts more emphasis on the driver to control his car. But being in the top 10 at the end of a stage is crucial to the points standings too.

Your thoughts?

Did less downforce in the cars or the new stages cause a wild race on Saturday?

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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John Haverlin

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.