DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — It may have taken three-quarters of the race to strike, but the calamity bug finally bit Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opener at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
The proverbial ‘Big One’ struck on lap 73, just a few laps after Ben Rhodes and John Hunter Nemechek made contact entering turn one while racing for the lead at the head of the pack.
That contact wrinkled Nemechek’s right rear fender in towards the tire, causing a smoky rub that worried onlookers as the 20-year-old continued to battle near the lead position.
But finally, entering turn three with 28 to go, the tire finally shredded moments after Nemechek had reported a vibration, sending him careening into the pack as it steamed onto the banking and causing a massive multi-car accident.
While all drivers were unharmed during the crash, several contenders — including Nemechek — saw their nights come to an early end.
“The 41 (Rhodes) side-drafted me pretty hard early on and actually got into my right rear there,” said Nemechek. “I was trying to block; you’re doing everything to keep the lead. I think it shoved the right-rear quarter panel a little bit forward and got it into the right rear tire. Finally, it vibrated and I blew the right rear going into (turn) three.”
“I just held it wide-open, trying to stay off the race track. It definitely stinks for all my guys. Our truck was really fast tonight; my guys brought me one hell of a piece and that’s all you can really ask for in superspeedway racing. I was hoping for a little bit more; I learned a lot tonight and we’ll move forward to my XFINITY debut next week in Atlanta.”
Canadian Stewart Friesen was one of the closest behind Nemechek when the carnage broke out, with little he could do to avoid piling in.
“I saw the JEGS truck having problems … and then the problems that the 8 had a few laps before the wreck finally bit him in turn three,” said Friesen. “I turned to avoid it and ended up getting clipped in the right rear and turned into the wall. There’s not much you can do after that. It’s a shame.”
Brett Moffitt was extremely frustrated after leaving the care center, with his Hattori Racing Enterprises truck demolished and one of the smaller teams in the series taking a solid financial hit early in the year.
“It looked like the 8 (Nemechek) lost a tire getting into turn three, and I tried to move up just a bit to avoid him coming back up the track and the 52 (Friesen) just got into us from behind and turned us into the outside wall,” admitted Moffitt. “It’s just really sad. We had a great truck tonight. The guys worked hard, we overcame our motor battle and we were good in the draft. It’s just disappointing to come here two years in a row and get wrecked out, but that’s plate racing.”
“It’s just unfortunate that in a series where we’re trying to be conscious of the budget, we come here and wreck 25 trucks every year … it makes it tough for us small teams, but we’ll bounce back and move on.”
Rookie Myatt Snider was the final driver whose night was ended as a result of the crash, a sour note ending his first outing with ThorSport Racing in the team’s debut with Ford Performance.
“Yeah, I could sense something was coming,” admitted Snider. “I was running about mid-pack, and I saw the 2 (Cody Coughlin) go off-track, and after that there was just debris everywhere. I couldn’t tell what was going on, but I guess the 8 blew a tire and everyone went everywhere. Nemechek ended up coming down and slapping me off the track, and from there the splitter dug into the ground and took us out.”
“It stinks. We had a really good truck. I’m happy to have been racing here at Daytona, but it sucks to end it like this because we were really, really strong.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
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