It wasn’t the best Daytona race ever and not the worst.
On the upside, Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing ran 1-2-3 at the end marking an emotional win for JGR in honor of the late JD Gibbs.
On the downside, of the 18 cars to finish the race, there were only 14 cars that had a chance at the end due to a series of late race cautions that severely depleted the field. And really, not all 14 had a shot since the there were only a couple of laps left by the time the final caution cleared. No one really had an opportunity to gain momentum and challenge Hamlin to much effect. While a relatively popular win considering the Gibbs memorial, the race was taxing fan patience because of two red flags needed to clear the track.
We have no idea what kind of racing the new rules package will create but I think it is safe to say “au revoir” to the restrictor plate. Plate races have been enforced since 1987 and it is high time for them to go away. It is hard to believe that NASCAR couldn’t create better technology since 1987. I look forward to seeing just what kind of racing the tapered spacer will create. It couldn’t be any worse.
Watching cars draft single file lap after lap because no one has any throttle response is boring as heck. Just ask the Xfinity fans. The Cup race was a little better as they ran more side by side, but they did still get strung out as often happens in a plate race.
One thing I was pleased with was the strength of the bottom groove in the Cup race. All week long we had seen the high line as the preferred, and only, way to make speed around the track. Fortunately, the Cup drivers spent more time at the bottom than we had seen all week, presenting the only decent chance at seeing much passing or competition.
The downside of side-by-side racing is spectacular crashes. Sunday was no exception. Disappointingly we saw some unexpected drivers who had been leading and looked to be threats to finish well end up in the scrap heap. Foremost of those being Matt DiBeneddeto. Matt ran in the top 10 and top 5 most of the day until he was turned, causing the biggest crash of the day with just 10 laps to go.
But the attrition also allowed some smaller teams to get decent finishes. Michael McDowell finished 5th, Ty Dillon 6th, Ryan Preece 9th and Ross Chastain 10th. We also saw several veteran drivers escape with decent finishes after sustaining earlier damage. Jimmie Johnson finish 9th with a badly torn up car. Kyle Larson managed a 7th place finish after an earlier spin and damage while Brad Keselowski finished 12th after a flat tire caused him to spin out.
And as expected, the point standings are the usual mix of the lucky and good. There are drivers who lucked out and will not be in the top 15 in a couple of weeks and we’ll have to watch some veteran drivers climb out of the cellar over the next few races to get back to the top. We will also have a few drivers who will take a bit longer as they suffer through bad finishes. Martin Truex, Jr., Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick to name a few. Atlanta should be a tonic for most of these drivers, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple struggle to get back into the top 15 over the next few races.
With the new rules package, it will be fun to watch and see if Chevy has their Camaro figured out yet and if Ford will fall prey to the new model syndrome or be lucky enough to come out strong. If not, look out for Toyota.
(Image courtesy of NASCAR Media)