After seeing superspeedway cars get airborne this year, NASCAR changed the race package for Daytona which provided tight pack racing – which fans may like, but drivers not so much. While the cars were a tad slower, the closing rate was the same or more which causes a lot of issues when drivers start blocking.
The race saw the top line and bottom line competing all night long to be the place to run and command the race. Every so often, the drivers would stick together long enough to get 10 or so cars in line before someone would get racy and decide it was their turn to challenge and then the other line would catch up and side by side racing would ensue until the drivers managed to get in line again.
What that provided was a pretty clean, exciting race to watch for most of the night. Of course, that wouldn’t last as drivers got antsy and ran out of time, track or talent with the end result being a sizeable wreck.
As usually pans out, the final race to the checkers saw drivers who really needed a win battling in the Top 10 after many other good cars were either eliminated or shuffled back in the pack by a wreck.
At the end of the night, Ryan Blaney held onto the lead with a good push and stayed in front of a hard driving Chris Buescher and Bubba Wallace. As they approached the finish line, another large wreck occurred ending the night for a lot of drivers who aren’t normally in the Top 10 and opened the door for some others to grab a Top 10 finish.
In addition to Blaney getting his third win of the year, Bubba Wallace grabbed his second Top 5 of the year and Kyle Larson won the regular season battle for top dog.
The playoffs are now set with Darlington, Richmond and Bristol being the first three races in Round 1.
Martin Truex, Jr. is the defending race winner at. Truex dominated and swept all three Stages on his way to the win and led 248 laps. But Kevin Harvick has two wins in the last six races here too and may need a win to move on.
Alex Bowman is the defending race winner at Richmond where Denny Hamlin won Stages 1 and 2 and led over 200 laps. MTJ led over 100 laps and finished P5.
The last time we were at Bristol it was covered in dirt. That makes Kevin Harvick the defending pavement race winner where he led 226 laps. Kyle Busch was P2 and led 159 laps.
Predictions: Round 1 losers
Four drivers will not make the Round 1 cut after Bristol. And one of the four may be a veteran you wouldn’t consider. The four not moving on are:
- Michael McDowell
- Aric Almirola
- Tyler Reddick
- William Byron
Dark Horses to fall: Keselowski, Kurt Busch
A couple veterans are really struggling right now, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. But if you look at Harvick, he manages to find his way to the Top 10 more often than Busch or Keselowski. Keselowski hasn’t had great speed as of late and has been a non-factor. But these are three short tracks where set up and driver matter more. If Kes makes the cut, it might be at Kurt Busch’s expense.
William Byron has been fast this year but the first three tracks are not his best, but he is improving. If he makes it in, he might do it at the expense of teammate Alex Bowman.
Almirola has just had a flat year and I think that continues for him.
Obviously, bad luck could befall any driver and that could be a major factor. A speeding penalty, flat tire, engine malfunction, and even a failed tech inspection could send a great driver to the rear of the field and force a must win situation in one of the remaining races. Desperate drivers will do desperate things that could change their fortune – and anyone that happens to be around them.
Stay safe, turn left and keep the shiny side up.