By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor
When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega, there is always a chance that a driver might get caught up in a crash that ends their night prematurely and for the 2016 Sprint Cup Series rookie class, that is exactly what happened in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
Throughout the first 89 laps of the race, three of the four rookies (Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, and Chris Buescher) had made their way through the field into the top-five and were showing that they could be a threat as the race progressed, but as the field stormed into Turn 1 on that lap, a massive, multi-car crash broke out and collected Elliott, Buescher, and Brian Scott in the melee.
Blaney was able to escape the crash without damage as he was running ahead of where the crash started, but the damage to the other three rookies was too much as they were relegated to the garage for repairs. Buescher and Scott were done for the night, while Elliott returned to the track, albeit many laps down by that point.
“It all happened in front of us. I tried to get on the brakes and just slid right in to it. There was nowhere to go. I tried to go up the middle. There seemed to be fewer cars there at the time but by the time we got there the hole filled up and we ended up in it. It was a really tough day. We really wanted to have a good weekend. We had the Special Forces Charitable Trust on the car with Love’s this weekend and wanted to have a great Fourth of July weekend and it didn’t turn out that good. I want to wish everyone back home a happy 4th,” said Buescher.
“I didn’t see a lot. I was on the outside and our lane seemed to get a good run entering turn 1 and I saw guys check-up and hands out the windows so I started checking up. Then the check-up kept going and it became an accordion effect. We were in the wall and jacked up and I guess the 4 came up under me and drove underneath my car and then I was up in the air. It was a pinball effect. It is an unfortunate end. You always seem to get those big ones here in the Fourth of July race. Sometimes there is nothing you can do. There was no chance to ever miss that for our 44 Ford,” said Scott.
Though Blaney avoided damage in the first crash, he was not as lucky later in the race. Trying to make up some ground from the back half of the back with 12 laps to go, Blaney was in the wrong place at the wrong time as Tony Stewart lost control of his car and made contact with the right-front of Blaney’s car. Blaney was able to continue on to the finish, but the damage took him out of contention for a top-five or top-10 finish.
“It was a long night, that’s for sure. We had a really fast car, I’ll say that. All of the Fords were really fast. It’s cool to see Brad win it. That’s awesome. We were really fast in the beginning. We had a little incident on pit road. We were still really good after that. We were in a good spot and the 14 wrecked, turned in front of us and hurt the right front pretty bad. There just weren’t enough laps to go after that to go anywhere. Unfortunately we couldn’t get out with a finish we deserve. I thought we were a top five. But not bad,” said Blaney.
When all was said and done, Blaney was tops among the rookies in the finishing order, coming home 14th, while Elliott, Scott, and Buescher finished 32nd, 37th, and 40th, respectively.
As the series heads to Kentucky next weekend, Elliott continues to lead the rookies in the points as he sits eighth with nine races remaining until the Chase begins. Blaney leaves Daytona 15th in points, just 10 points ahead of falling out of Chase contention, while Scott is 31st in points and Buescher is 34th in points.