Yes, it was a little ridiculous that NASCAR used to allow cobbled-together cars to continue to compete after pit crews tried to repair a car that suffered some major damage.
Now, if you take the car to the garage, you’re done. And if you can’t fix it on pit lane in less than five minutes, you’re done. If, however, you can get your car repaired and are able to hit the minimum speed mandated by NASCAR for a given race, you’re good. If not, time to load up the hauler.
The general consensus among teams is that five minutes is pretty brief — maybe 10 minutes might be a little more appropriate.
Accidents took out 15 of the 40 cars in Sunday’s Daytona 500, including contenders Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski. Busch won the first stage of the race and Earnhardt Jr. started on the front row.
Danica Patrick, who finished in the top 10 in each of the first two stages, went out after 128 laps due to crash damage. Patrick said the five-minute clock, at least in part, kept her from coming back.
“There was nowhere to go,” Patrick said of her incident. “They just kept coming and hitting me. The left rear is broken. The bodywork damage isn’t that bad, but I don’t know how long that takes to fix.
“The five-minute clock is an interesting new element. I don’t know if it is good or bad, but we don’t want to go on track with stuff that isn’t safe. But when all these cars crash out, you want to be able to (come back and) get as many points as possible.”