DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR officials came under fire for a wreck on Lap 139 of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway.
The wreck occurred when multiple drivers, including leader Denny Hamlin, got loose entering turn 1. Replays showed rain suddenly started falling as the field entered turn 1, which caused them to get loose.
The top 14 drivers were involved which gave the lead to 15th-place Austin Dillon who made it through and took the lead. Dillon, a playoff hopeful, was involved in a wreck on Lap 126 and received the free pass on Lap 132.
Fellow hopefuls Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Todd Gilliland, Chris Buescher and Justin Haley were involved in the wreck and were knocked out of the race, along with Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Daniel Hemric. Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch, plus hopefuls Harrison Burton, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon were also involved.
Many of the drivers were not happy.
Denny Hamlin: “We had rain down the front. So about 10 seconds before we got into turn one, it was raining. I’m sure the fans felt it and then they watched us all pile in there.”
Daniel Suarez: “We knew the rain was coming.. it was raining next door. It was just a matter of time. Why would we wait for that.. I don’t know. Maybe I’m a little biased because I was in the front, but there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes you are running 200 mph and you’re able to turn left. And then you see a few drops hard and you’re just spinning.”
Justin Haley: “Yeah, it was raining for a good lap before we got into turn one my spotter said. Coming out of (turn) two the previous lap, it was raining and we just lost traction. It’s pretty unacceptable.”
Chris Buescher: “We saw rain. Our Fifth Third Bank Mustang was really fast. Everybody did their jobs and I felt like I was doing mine fairly well up there and had a run. We were definitely in a good spot and it was raining when we got to turn one and we all wiped out. We wiped out all the lead cars, so whoever wins this race wasn’t even in contention. It’s just ridiculous from my point of view.”
Fan video surfaced showing rain falling from over the grandstands while the field was on the backstretch entering turn 3.
In response, NASCAR’s Senior VP of Competition Scott Miller told NBC, “We were on top of the weather monitoring it with spotters on the roof, our spotters and the pace car driver. We had all the information we thought and all of a sudden there was a shower. Pace car said it was still dry when they wrecked. We couldn’t do anything.”