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Daytona as the Decider is a Disaster in Every Way

NASCAR making the choice to take away Daytona’s traditional second weekend was a bad move. It is even worse when the deciding race has little control from those at the wheel.

Sunday afternoon, control of any sort went the way of the wind, or in this instance the rain.

Let’s face it, NASCAR and rain have not once gotten along. For almost 75 years, the wet stuff has been evil to a sport that races in a circle. Sure, in the last decade and a half, we’ve been able to see moments when left and right turns mean an opportunity to literally “test the waters” with the wipers, lights, and grooved tires.

But no fan, crewman, or official wants to spent an afternoon trying to do their job when their firesuit becomes so saturated that it is uncomfortable.

On the opposite end, a track like Daytona is not the right choice to have it be the literal deciding event with so much on the line. That is truly playing Russian roulette with a loaded firearm. One must put the trust, and belief, in so many others in order to complete their own task. Entering Sunday, we expected to have a battle for one playoff spot that seemingly was between two drivers, but others could play spoiler if needed. Then, days earlier, that excitement went away when one proclaimed they weren’t ready, and didn’t find it fair to take away a spot.

So, the excitement went away, and it seemed the two expected to make the title hunt now had everything in their favor to do so.

Still, it’s Daytona, a track that can give so much, but takes so much more.

There is no true control at a track where the control of one’s fate is in the grasp of every other driver in the field. Daytona, and Talladega as well, both have their own set of rules, their own aerodynamic setup, and their own way to race. It is not, never has been, and should never be the race to actually decide who makes the playoffs. It shouldn’t be the one event that teams decide is their best chance to make it into a championship hunt.

Rain aside, Daytona should not have the final regular season race…period.

But, the rain truly did overshadow what up to that point was a rather decent race. The biggest flaw in having Daytona be so late in the season, and any time during the summer for that matter, is that the weather is unpredictable. We all know that when it gets so hot and any cold front suddenly makes it’s way in, the two will clash and suddenly it is going to be pouring rain. Just look at Orlando when Monster Jam had it’s biggest event two months ago. That show got delayed, then during the finals it rained like Niagara Falls right when the race went green.

It was clear that the people around the track, at the spotter’s stand and in the corners, were feeling rain fall and it was getting heavier.

This has not been the first time NASCAR was on the track, on an oval, when the rain hit and the caution didn’t wave. Anyone remember New Hampshire last year?

Or how about not just once, but twice, in 2001? The entire field nearly got taken out that year in the Winston in the first corner, just like nearly the entire field got wiped out one day ago. That same year, barely weeks later, the then-Busch Series had the same thing happen at Dover, where drivers were on the radio as the pace car ducked to pit road for the green flag saying, “Why are we starting, it’s raining here?”

Is there a better way to monitor the weather on a weekend where it could impact an event?

There is no right answer. Someone could be stationed at the track with the sole purpose of being the meteorologist and have all the needed data to watch the skies, and they could say that there’s no potential chance for rain, but it still then rains. It is not an exact science, and constantly changes. Weather in general is not a guarantee, but a guide or suggestion of what to expect.

None of us can predict the weather, just as we can’t predict what our day will bring. However, there has to be something to at least say “hey, we need to stop.”

There’s already a rule for lightning strikes, why not a rule stating if weather is heading towards the track, within a certain distance, make the call to “put it out.”

Having Daytona be the deciding race for the regular season is an outright disaster. This needs fixed, but sadly won’t be fixed for 2023.

The solution that comes to mind is one that could actually benefit all: give teams another weekend off, move Daytona back to it’s traditional home on July 4 weekend. If teams want a tough task to make it into the playoffs, the final change…make Darlington the deciding race. A track that is consistently a challenge, and even tougher when adding another 100 miles compared to the spring, would make the most sense.

NASCAR needs to fix this, as their trust and value from their drivers after Sunday is hurting. There is no true immediate solution, but there needs to be immediate action.

No one wants a repeat of Dover, Texas, New Hampshire, nor the chaos of Daytona.  No one wants to have to worry that everyone else does their job exactly right.

Daytona is not the place to finalize the playoff field.  It is, and until changed, will forever be a disaster.

About Dustin Parks

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