Danica Patrick’s 2017 Daytona 500 ended even earlier than usual after she was one of the drivers involved in a "treacherous" 17-car collision which included eventual race winner Kurt Busch who managed to stay on the track.
But afterwards, of course, it was Patrick who was loudest in finding a scapegoat.
To be fair, with 15 of 40 drivers out of the race with about a quarter of the 200 laps remaining, the No. 10 Ford driver in her fifth full season might be correct in laying the blame on NASCAR’s new staged racing.
Big crash! @JimmieJohnson, @KevinHarvick, @DanicaPatrick and others involved. #NASCAR #DAYTONA500 https://t.co/EEwW62QOHv— FOX SPORTS: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 26, 2017
Starting this season, the races are divided into three stages with points awarded to the top drivers from each stage, counting toward their championship total.
“The stages are definitely going to add to it because not only is it creating a reason to push at certain points in the race that aren’t anything but the last 20, but you’re also seeing it shuffling the grid up,” Patrick said after being cleared by the in-field medical staff – a new requirement for those who don’t finish.
But that wasn’t the only rule she said is leading to so many drivers falling short of the finish line. Following an accident, teams that must return to pit road have a five-minute time limit for repairs. If cars cannot be fixed and return to the track at minimum speed within that time, they’re out of the race.
Prior to this season, teams had an unlimited amount of time to fix their cars and could eventually return to the track to try and earn even just a few points out of the race.
“What you’re seeing is the product of the five-minute clock,” Patrick continued. “You’re seeing a product of the new rules of having to go to the in-field care center if you don’t finish the race. … I’m totally fine. I drove my car back to the garage. I never would have come to the in-field care center if not for the new protocols, so I’m all for being all well, but it’s probably a bit much.”
She explained that on a superspeedway track like Daytona International, drivers assume multi-car wrecks have “a real high chance of happening.
“That’s the name of the game. It’s what makes it exciting, too, for the fans.”