Rain-soaked 'Big One' red-flags Coke Zero Sugar 400

Lesley Ann Miller/Motorsport Images

Rain-soaked 'Big One' red-flags Coke Zero Sugar 400

NASCAR

Rain-soaked 'Big One' red-flags Coke Zero Sugar 400

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It was definitely raining in Turns 1 and 2 at Daytona International Speedway, but it’s a matter of whom you ask as to when the rain began and if a multi-car crash could have been avoided.

“I just don’t get it,” Justin Haley said. “My spotter said it was raining. It was raining on my windshield for a good bit, and then we literally all lost traction. The tires did not meet the road anymore; it was wet. When we’re running 200 miles an hour, you can’t do that.”

Haley was drafting behind race leader Denny Hamlin when the lap 138 crash broke out. It began with drivers at the front, Hamlin and Suarez, spinning on their own. Hamlin was leading the outside lane, and Suarez was on the inside lane.

“We knew the rain was coming; it was raining next door,” said Suarez. “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.”

NASCAR officials and the teams were racing the rain from the start of the race just after 10 a.m. ET. Cells had developed around the track, and the sky darkened off Turns 3 and 4 before the end of the second stage. The wall of rain that hit the track and caused the multi-car crash came from behind the front stretch and across International Speedway Blvd.

“I feel like they have a lot of technology to know that the rain is very, very close,” Suarez. “I don’t think it’s hard to not put us in that position.”

Kyle Busch, however, said there was nothing happening in Turns 1 and 2 when the field came by the previous lap.

“And then that lap it was…just drop,” said Busch. “What do you do? You can’t check up that fast. You’ve just got to try to drive through it. Thankfully, I was on the right side. I saw water and saw everything and everybody wrecking in front of me.”

Regardless of when it was started, the rain-caused crash changed the dynamic of the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale. At least 13 drivers were collected.

Haley, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were among those in the crash. All lost their chance at contending for a race win that would have put them in the playoffs.

The first driver to emerge from the carnage was Austin Dillon. Dillon needs to win the race to make the playoffs, and he is the leader under the red flag.

“Just throw the caution before the rain came,” Hamlin said when asked what could have been done differently. “We had rain down the front, so about 10 seconds before we got into Turn 1, it was raining. I’m sure the fans felt it, and then they watched us all pile in there.”

NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller doesn’t believe officials could have done anything differently.

“We were on top of the weather, monitoring it with all of our turn spotters, in touch with the spotters up top, the pace car,” Miller said. “We’ve been dodging a little bit of weather for a little while. Nothing had hit and all of a sudden, there was that shower. The pace car was sitting down there on the inside, and it was still dry when they wrecked, and if you watch the in-car [cameras], you can see that some rain definitely started right before they wrecked.

“But we really couldn’t do anything about that. It’s not something you can predict — when it’s going to start raining. Just a super bad situation for everybody.”

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