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February 17, 2024

‘Chaos’ reigns in Craftsman Truck Series opener at Daytona

Taylor Gray gets airborne as Corey LaJoie, Matt Crafton and others crash at Daytona International Speedway.
Mike Ehrmann
Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Aggression was on full display throughout the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season opener on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.

A multi-truck wreck at Lap 6 proved as a foreshadow of what was to come in the Fresh From Florida 250, which featured a record 12 caution periods, including a last-lap crash that collected most of the field as Taylor Gray went airborne and flipped over his competitors.

All drivers involved in incidents in the 101-lap contest emerged unharmed after being evaluated and released from the infield care center. But the junkyard of race trucks sitting in the garage area told a story of eager drivers making aggressive moves in ill-handling vehicles.

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Ty Dillon, driver of the No. 25 Rackley W.A.R. Chevrolet, was involved in the first melee of the night, which involved 13 trucks. A 13-year veteran of NASCAR’s national series, Dillon said all he saw in his short six laps of competition was “chaos.”

“Nobody really drafts anymore in practice. We don’t really put rookies in a good spot to learn. They just kind of get thrown into the fire,” Dillon said. “And that’s kind of what it looked like. I’ve never seen anything look like that from behind the wheel four laps into a race. With my experience, I knew something was gonna happen. That’s why I got myself back to the bottom to hopefully have a spot to bail. And sure enough, it happened.”

The calamity on the final lap to end the race was triggered when Rajah Caruth’s No. 71 truck pushed up off the exit of Turn 2 running third on the inside line. That slide led him to the left rear of Jack Wood’s No. 91 Chevy and spun him into Gray, triggering the 12-truck crash.

Torn up front end with exposed chasis of a race truck
Zack Sturniolo |

“I like Rajah a lot; I just don’t know what he was doing,” Gray said. “There’s no hole to get in. The 91 is obviously still at his right front. And I don’t know if he’s trying to stall the lane and just misjudged it or what. But he just got the 91 in the left rear and obviously you guys saw it from there.”

Corey LaJoie, a regular in the NASCAR Cup Series, was involved in the last incident of the day. He attributed much of what was displayed Friday night to poor handling on a slick Daytona surface.

“The trucks handled like absolute garbage, so that’s what makes the trucks fun to drive,” LaJoie said. “Guys’ handling goes away (so) you can make big runs. They punch such a big hole in the air.”

Daniel Dye had nowhere to go when Gray’s truck sat sideways in front of him midway down the Daytona Superstretch back straightaway, piling into Gray nearly driver-side and sending the No. 17 Toyota airborne. He reiterated the handling woes, but also stressed circumstances dictate aggression late in the event.

“Yeah it was a definitely a little slick out there,” Dye said. “But a move like that happened on the backstretch — I mean you’re a mile away from a win. So yeah, I mean … it’s gonna happen. It’s Daytona. But trucks are harder to drive on the straightaway because they’re not sucked down and and you’re not loaded up as much. So yeah, then you can see it coming from a mile away.”