Race Weekend Central

Monday Morning Pit Box: Bubba Wallace, Kyle Busch Bounce Back

Welcome to the first 2023 edition of Monday Morning Pit Box, where we break down the critical calls that shape the outcome of each week’s race. We take a look through the minds of those on pit road and, at times, call atop race control as well.

Busch, Wallace Persevere

The thing about this type of restrictor-plate racing is that it’s a luck of the draw. As long as you are there in the end, you have a chance to take advantage of the drafts and pushes at the right time … and avoid calamity around you.

That’s what both Bubba Wallace and Kyle Busch did on Sunday (Feb. 19) up until the final-lap wreck, as both were in a position to finish in the top five up to that point. It was very much a pattern of staying focused and not panicking from the No. 23 pit with Bootie Barker calling the shots and with Randall Burnett atop the No. 8 pit box.

Both had their share of adversity; Busch had a pit-road speeding penalty and Wallace fought back from early damage from contact with the backstretch wall. Wallace battled back from being a lap down to lead at one point, following Barker’s decision to have Wallace stay out when most the rest of the field pitted, although that edge would later be negated by having to put more fuel in to compensate for having less fuel in the tank.

Going into the final laps, Busch and Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon were in prime position for a 1-2 finish before the late rash of cautions.

Dillon was swept up in the Big One on lap 203, and Busch was in a position coming to the white flag to finish in the top five prior to being hung up in the wreck that ended the race. Neither has a result to show for it, but being able to fight back to be in a position to finish near the front is a nice momentum bump heading to the West Coast swing.

Calamity Undoes Late-Race Green-Flag Stops

With less than 30 laps to go, matters appeared to be going about as textbook as possible. It’s key on plate tracks to have partners not just in drafting but entering pit road as well. If you pit by yourself, your day for all accounts is over at Daytona, Talladega and Atlanta.

That understanding was clear as the Daytona 500 approached 25 laps to go, starting with a sizeable group of Fords pitting, followed in the next laps by Toyotas and others in the next few laps. Had things stayed green, it was set up to be a Ford coast to the finish, thanks in part to the Toyotas being spaced out from one another following one of their rounds of stops.

The Fords had a strategy for another plate-race win, but all of that was undone shortly after.

Most teams on pit road played the late-race round of stops as well as anyone could, but sometimes there’s an element of the unknown. That’s exactly what happened, throwing conventional wisdom out the window in favor of a game of chance.

See also
The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2023 Daytona 500

Great American Race Decided by Video

It sounds very cliched to say about the times we live in, but this race, in the end was decided not by a race to the checkered flag but by a video review.

In NASCAR’s current overtime format, a caution on the final lap ends the race, with the final order being set by a video review of who was ahead when the caution light were displayed. That injects some gray area for race officials to work in. As we also saw with Saturday night’s Xfinity race, the race is not called when an incident happens, but when the caution light comes on.

Second-place finisher Joey Logano seemed to bemoan the sport’s biggest race not being decided on the track.

But until NASCAR decides to ditch the green-white-checkered or keep going in overtime until there is no caution, even on the final lap, what we saw Sunday night will be the norm.

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kb

Oh dear GOD, on the whole article….SMFH…………

Tom B

It seems like most of these races are decided by a video under a yellow flag. Too much interpretation by a 3rd party (officials). I could see a fuel problem coming into play when the last pit stops were not filling up the tanks. When was the last race without overtime??

Bill B

I was hoping they’d both bounce off the wall.

DoninAjax

WTH happened to Bubba? He went around the 8 when he spun and would have been running fourth when the caution came out and he didn’t even finish the lap? I thought I saw him try to duck under the car in front and start to lose it.

Steve

If I wanted to see a destruction derby, I’d got to one! The Daytona 500 is a monumental waste of time. Not real racing…l’ll go to a sprint car race over whatever the 500 is anytime!

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