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NASCAR mailbag: Why were there so many crashes in the Daytona 500?

Readers wonder if NASCAR’s new segmented race format is to blame for the all the crashes during the Daytona 500, if the five-minute clock is a good idea, and whether Carl Edwards will return.

NASCAR: Daytona 500 Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Each week SB Nation's NASCAR reporter Jordan Bianchi answers your questions about the latest news and happenings within the sport. If you have a mailbag question email jordanmbianchi@gmail.com.

Do you think the new segments had any impact on the racing and were the cause for all the wrecks in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series races?

Daytona Speedweeks was never going to be an accurate barometer of whether segmenting races into three parts would enhance the product as desired. Restrictor-plate racing is a unique animal unto itself, and a byproduct is frequently an inordinate number of wrecks because that’s what happens when drivers are lumped together just inches apart at high speeds.

Therefore it’s difficult to attribute any single accident in any of the Monster Energy Cup, Xfinity or Truck Series races as the sole culprit for the increased carnage level. The volume of crashing Sunday was in line with how Daytona and Talladega races play out on occasion, and not because races are now conducted in three segments.

What the stages did do was introduce strategies not commonly seen in plate races. Instead of waiting to the end of a fuel run to pit, the Toyota-backed teams of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing short-pitted, electing to stop during the middle of a run. This was done to gain track position at the end of the stage when the remainder of the field pitted, and it worked to some degree with Kyle Busch finishing first in Segment 1.

With Kurt Busch having broken his lengthy Daytona 500 drought, who is now the best current driver to have never won the race?

--Scott

Without question former Cup Series champions Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, who are both multi-time winners at Daytona and Talladega, are 1A and 1B on this list. Yet each are developing a history of being snake bit in NASCAR’s biggest race, and this past weekend offered further proof. Both had cars more than good enough to win, but neither saw the finish due to circumstances beyond their control.

Conventional wisdom suggests eventually everything will come together and Busch and Keselowski will each get a Daytona 500 victory. And considering both are in their young 30s, they will have plenty of opportunities for years to come. But as Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Terry Labonte can attest, winning the Daytona 500 is no guarantee.

I don’t know what to make of the five-minute clock teams have to fix damaged cars. I see why NASCAR doesn’t want damaged cars on the track, but it also prevented Dale [Earnhardt] Jr.’s team from fixing the 88 and getting Dale Jr. back on the track and making a comeback. Isn’t there a better balance where a driver can have a damaged car but still win?

--Ken

Kurt Busch standing in victory lane celebrating shows a driver can sustain significant damage and still win, exactly as the rule was intended. He was just seconds away from exceeding the limit and having to retire to the garage, and yet because the No. 41 team was able to make quick repairs, Busch remained in contention.

As for the idea Earnhardt was denied a chance to rally and win, it wasn’t happening. Not only was the alignment on the No. 88 car significantly askew, Earnhardt said the radiator was pushed back into the oil pump. That kind of damage is repairable, but the time needed to fix it would’ve dropped Earnhardt multiple laps behind.

Do you think Carl Edwards is actually retired or will he come back? And if Carl does come back, does he return to Joe Gibbs Racing or go to a different team?

--Chris

Edwards’ refusal to use the R-word during his press conference certainly kept the door open for his return to driving at some point, be it later this season or next. But there is no surefire evidence suggesting a comeback is imminent, nor that the 37-year-old is even second-guessing his decision. In fact, Edwards spoke with ESPN.com earlier this week and said he’s happy and expressed contentedness with life away from the spotlight.

Now, if Edwards did choose to return, he could have no shortage of options. There is always the possibility of a return to JGR, if say Matt Kenseth were to retire and opened up a spot within its otherwise solidified lineup.

Outside of JGR, it’s worth watching what develops with Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing, two upper echelon organizations each with a driver who’s not fulfilling expectations. Edwards represents an instant upgrade over Kasey Kahne and Danica Patrick, and in either situation would certainly elevate the performance of the No. 5 and 10 teams.

Of course, there is always the possibility something unforeseen occurs with an unexpected opening developing within an existing team. Or, and this may sound outlandish, Edwards actually remains on sabbatical and doesn’t come back at all.