With 22 laps remaining in Sunday’s regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway, a massive pile-up at the first corner triggered by falling rain led to most of the lead-lap cars being wiped out.
The race was red-flagged after this as the rain intensified at the time.
Austin Dillon came through the chaos at the 20-car pile-up and went on to take victory when the race was restarted, bagging himself a place in the playoffs.
Denny Hamlin called for “better officiating” after the incident and felt it was a simple decision to neutralise the race when the rain started to fall to avoid the eventual pile-up from happening.
“Just throw the caution before the rain came,” Hamlin fumed.
“We had rain down the front. So about 10 seconds before we got into turn one, it was raining. I’m sure the fans felt it and then they watched us all pile in there.”
Daniel Suarez, who was caught up in the chaos as he entered Turn 1 alongside Hamlin said that the weather radar technology available to race officials meant they could have done something sooner to avoid the incident.
“We knew the rain was coming,” Suarez said.
“It was raining next door. It was just a matter of time. Why would we wait for that? I don’t know.
“Maybe I’m a little biased because I was in the front, but there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes you are running 200 mph and you’re able to turn left. And then you see a few drops hard and you’re just spinning.”
“I feel like they have a lot of technology to know that the rain is very, very close. I don’t think it’s hard to not put us in that position.”
Justin Haley, who also got caught up the crash, added: “Yeah, it was raining for a good lap before we got into turn one my spotter said.
“Coming out of [Turn] two the previous lap, it was raining and we just lost traction. It’s pretty unacceptable.”
Despite the criticism, NASCAR’s vice president of competition Scott Miller defended the calls made and doesn’t believe it could have done anything differently.
“Well, I really don’t,” he said when asked if race officials should have taken another course of action.
“We were on top of the weather, monitoring it with all of our corner spotters in the turns, in touch with the spotters up top, and the pace car, and we had all the information that we thought.
“We’d been dodging a little bit of weather obviously for a little while. Nothing had hit.
“And you know, all of a sudden there was that shower that I guess the pace car was sitting down there on the inside.
“It was still dry when they wrecked and if you watch the in-car, you could see that some rain definitely started right before they wreck but we really couldn’t do anything about that.
“And it was not something that you can predict when it’s going to start raining. Just a super bad situation for everybody.”