Did you happen to watch NASCAR’s Superbowl this past weekend? Going into the Daytona 500, everybody in NASCAR nation was concerned that we were in for a snooze-fest.
After a whole weeks worth of racing, we saw nothing but single-file racing, no passing. To the everyday NASCAR fanatic, it was boring.
NASCAR fans want to see good racing, not wrecks, but good, hard racing. The type of racing we’ve gotten used to seeing at Daytona for years now.
From the beginning of the race, we saw good side-by-side, clean, respectful racing. Nobody was leaning on each other, nobody was pushing the issue. Between the initial green flag and lap 190, five non-stage related cautions occured, they are as follows:
Lap 49: Kurt Busch got spun in turn number two by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Jamie McMurray and Bubba Wallace also piled into the accident.
Lap 106: Casey Mears and Parker Kligerman wrecked going into turn number one.
Lap 159: While attempting to make green flag pit stops, BJ McLeod spun coming onto the pit road and collected Jimmie Johnson, Stenhouse, and Tyler Reddick.
Lap 174: NASCAR officials called a caution for debris on the backstretch.
Lap 180: Going into turn number three, Kyle Larson blew out a left rear tire causing him to spin and hit the outside retaining wall.
After the single-car accident involving Larson was cleaned up, the green flag came back out and they were racing again.
And then, it happened.
The moment every race fan fears.
The moment known as…the big one.
Paul Menard was pushing Matt Dibenedetto into turn number three when he miscalculated and spun Dibenedetto out across the track and into the 40-car field behind them.
This caused a 22-car pile up filled with sparks, fire and smoke. It was total chaos and it resulted in a 25-minute red flag for clean up.
Thankfully, every driver involved walked away under their own power, unhurt. But this accident set up a chain reaction.
Four laps later on lap 194, a seven-car pile-up occured on turn number three again and the same thing happened yet again on lap 198, this time involving eight cars. A 10-15 minute red flag was once again displayed for clean up.
The 40-car field was basically cut down to seven or eight cars still running and only two cars untouched. It was time for overtime since the eight-car wreck on lap 198 caused the race to go over it’s scheduled distance of 200 laps.
The field took the green flag, hoping to make it back to the white flag, signaling that one lap was left in the race. The front row bounced off each other, the whole seven-car field pushing back and forth, leaving every fan at the track or watching at home wondering “are we going to make it?”
Denny Hamlin, in the number eleven Toyota Camry took the white flag with no guarantee of making it back to the checkered flag first or even making it back at all.
The field raced into turn number three for the final time, with Kyle Busch trying to make something work while Joey Logano tried to get around Busch in order to take a stab at Hamlin.
There was no such luck though. Hamlin came soreing off turn number four with a six car-length lead to take the checkered flag and win the 61st annual Daytona 500!
It was an amazing finish for a race everybody thought was going to be a snooze fest. With that, NASCAR will pack up shop and head north to race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday Feb. 24, the second race of the thirty-six race season!