Patch of Rain Triggers 'The Big One' at NASCAR's Coke Zero Sugar 400

Over half the field suffered significant damage, while Austin Dillon got through the wreck unscathed and winning the Cup Series regular-season finale.

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Gif: NASCAR / YouTube

The Coke Zero Sugar 400 was originally scheduled for a 7 p.m. start on Saturday night, but Mother Nature had other plans for the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale. Rain forced officials to reschedule the 400-mile race at Daytona International Speedway to start at 10 a.m. Sunday morning. All 400 miles of the race were completed on Sunday, but the rain still found more ways than one to wreak havoc.

With 23 laps to go, the field raced into Turn 1 and into a rain shower. It only took a few cars to aquaplane on the banked surface at 200 miles to trigger a massive wreck. Nearly the entire field was collected into the outside wall. Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon was the only driver to make it through the pile-up unscathed, who was able to maneuver the No. 3 Chevy Camaro from 16th to the lead.

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The rain quickly worsened from there and necessitated a red flag period. Many, including the drivers, wondered why NASCAR didn’t throw a caution sooner. Many of the drivers could be heard on their radios shouting expletive-filled declarations that they knew it was raining. Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley told Racer, “I just don’t get it. My spotter said it was raining. It was raining on my windshield for a good bit, and then we literally all lost traction. The tires did not meet the road anymore; it was wet. When we’re running 200 miles an hour, you can’t do that.”

NASCAR feels it did everything in its power to avoid the scenario that played out. Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition, said, “We were on top of the weather, monitoring it with all of our turn spotters, in touch with the spotters up top, the pace car. We’ve been dodging a little bit of weather for a little while. Nothing had hit and all of a sudden, there was that shower.”

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The race did resume three hours later, but only a handful of cars didn’t suffer significant damage. Dillon was able to win the Coke Zero Sugar 400 and a spot in the playoffs, only by moving Penske’s Austin Cindric out of his way. The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs begin next week at Darlington Raceway with the Cook Out Southern 500.