The most prevalent feature of the new Sprint Cup Series car is the increase of mechanical grip. However, the drivers involved in the multicar accident on lap 14 of the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona do not believe it contributed to the accident.
The crash began after Tony Stewart cut his Chevrolet in front of Marcos Ambrose’s Ford. Denny Hamlin lost control trying to avoid the slower cars and collected Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle and Kurt Busch. The accident collected six of the starting 19 cars but none of the drivers would blame it on the increased grip of the new car.
“As a driver have more responsibility now about how you are going to drive out there because the cars are going to move around a little bit more," Gordon said. "They are going to get turned around a lot easier, so you can’t be running into one another. You can’t be turning across guys; you have to utilize that handling to your advantage after a longer run.
"I like that part of it.”
Gordon hadn’t seen the replay prior to talking to reporters outside of the infield care center and wasn’t entirely sure what happened. The only thing he knew for sure was that Denny Hamlin’s car got loose and the casualties were collected into the melee.
For his part, Hamlin only saw Stewart get loose and that’s when the carnage began.
“I haven’t seen the replay so I don’t know,” Hamlin said. “I saw (Stewart) get sideways and as soon as one of us bobbles, we’re all right on top of each other. I got plowed into from behind… There’s no telling what we had out there and I wish we had been a part of it a little bit longer.”
Despite the cool conditions, Hamlin was fighting handling issues, leading him to wonder how the Gatorade Duels and Daytona 500 – both day races – will look like with the warmer track conditions.
“When this track is warmer and when the sun comes out, handling will be an issue,” Hamlin said.
Gordon concurred, adding that the sun could make for a ‘big issue’ the rest of Speedweeks. But ultimately, the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion isn’t going to take a lot away from the race or the accident.
“Am I surprised -- yes and no,” Gordon said. “ I thought at the start of the race everybody was doing a pretty good job of watching. Even when we were three-wide it wasn’t too bad. Then I started seeing some guys start to lose the handling on their car and start to get a little out of control. I started paying a little bit more attention and was looking for cars to slide around."