DiZinno: Daytona fence crash ripple effect could extend to other motorsports

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The prevailing mindset I had immediately following the wee hours of Sunday night, into Monday morning’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway was very simply, “they got away with one.”

After watching both the Verizon IndyCar Series’ MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway last week and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona last night (or early this morning), the stark difference between the type of racing at the respective high-speed tracks couldn’t have been more obvious.

For cries that the MAVTV 500 IndyCar race was pack racing… no, it wasn’t.

The typical restrictor-plate style of racing at Daytona, with upwards of 20-30 cars usually 10 to 12 rows deep either two or three-wide, had its usual consequences.

It again reared its ugly head, again ended with a car careening into the catch fencing in the final lap, and again showcased the immediate, obvious and persistent danger that exists from this type of racing.

And again showed how fine of a line that type of racing is flirting with disaster that could have far-reaching repercussions beyond the series itself.

From a pure carnage standpoint, Sunday night’s NASCAR race had four crashes involving eight cars or more.

Last week’s IndyCar race had three two-car crashes.

Sunday night’s NASCAR race went a full two laps before the first caution flag flew.

Last week’s IndyCar race didn’t see a yellow interruption until Lap 136.

The similarities are that both races ended with severe accidents, but their severity differed in magnitude.

The Ryan Briscoe/Ryan Hunter-Reay accident in Fontana ended better than it could have given how Briscoe’s car dug into the grass and flipped upside down before coming back down to earth. The likable Australian was OK, and even joked about tearing up a divot in a video posted mere hours after the race.

And likewise, the last of the “big ones” where Austin Dillon’s car was launched and almost thrown into the catch-fencing ended better than it could have, too. The car sprung back from the fence onto the track, and although some debris got through the catch-fence, it was not the magnitude that it could have been. Dillon emerged nearly 100 percent unscathed, save for a bruised tailbone.

Where restrictor-plate racing flirts far too closely with going over the line is in airborne accidents that launch cars directly into the catch-fencing.

Although IndyCar has had its share of airborne accidents this year, and that’s not a good thing, none have occurred in the same type of way that ones at Daytona or Talladega seem to occur: directly in front of tens of thousands of paying customers, fans, who don’t buy their tickets thinking they could become part of the story, or the action.

It’s happened way too frequently in recent years at Daytona. The Kyle Larson last-lap accident a couple years ago in the NASCAR Xfinity (then Nationwide) Series race that injured more than 30 fans should have been the trigger for change… and it wasn’t.

It came a year after Joey Coulter’s accident in a Camping World Truck Series race.

It came a year before Parker Kligerman’s accident in the tri-oval in practice for the Daytona 500.

It has now been exceeded in shock value by Dillon’s wreck, which clearly scarred the drivers from their post-race quotes.

The specter of fans being hurt, or worse, killed, is the single biggest story that could emerge from Sunday night’s race.

We live in an era where innocence getting attacked is the thing that sends shock waves down your spine.

It’s what’s happened in numerous national instances the last few years; it rarely inspires any change, but it should be enough to get you angry and want to shout loud enough about the situation that the right people that need to listen do so.

Sunday night’s NASCAR race was a NASCAR story that has tentacles extending to other forms of motorsport, and could affect them if they’re not careful or change before a major tragedy strikes.

For more reaction from last night’s race, head over to NASCAR Talk.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)