DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — The weather forecast looked bleak earlier in the week but as luck would have it, we got every Daytona Speedweeks race run to completion on their scheduled days. The only races even affected by mother nature was the second Duel on Thursday night as well as Sunday’s 63rd annual Daytona 500.
For all six races, we were treated to phenomenal finishes. Four of them we saw a pass for the win in the final corner on the final lap.
Lets look back at each race that was.
Busch Clash – Ryan Blaney had this race won on Tuesday night. He passed Chase Elliott late in the race, but Elliott caught him again on the final lap and made a rare mistake by getting into the final chicane too hot and cost them both at a chance at a victory in the 35 lap all-star event. This race was run on the road course for the first time in the events history and it put on a hell of a show.
Kyle Busch lagged back in anticipation that something could happen and by doing so, it allowed him to win the Clash when it was all said and done. He beat Elliott by .765-seconds to the stripe.
Duel 1 – Aric Almirola led 52 of 60 laps and narrowly bested Christopher Bell by .041 seconds. The big story of this race was that final run to the checkered by Ryan Preece to go outside of the top 10 to finish fifth. He had big drafting help by Austin Cindric who needed Preece to beat Ty Dillon in the end or it would be Dillon, not Cindric, to make the Daytona 500 as an open car.
Duel 2 – Austin Dillon narrowly beat Bubba Wallace as Dillon made a maneuver in Turn 4 on the final lap to beat Wallace by just .057-seconds. Wallace, beat himself up after a second place result in saying that he could have done a better job of holding Dillon off.
The big story in this race was that William Byron dominated the show but was caught up in a big crash in the closing laps. That took his second place qualifying car away as they’d have to go to a backup car as a result. David Ragan took the open spot as the highest open finisher allowing Kaz Grala to take the 40th and final spot into the Daytona 500.
Truck Race – Ben Rhodes lost the second stage of the night. He felt like if he was in a similar position at the end of the race, he’d use the move that was used on him to wind up in victory lane. Rhodes, did just that. He passed Cory Roper on the final lap and beat a hard charging Jordan Anderson by just .036-seconds.
ARCA Race – Corey Heim took over the lead during the competition caution. Leader Tanner Gray hit pit road as the race leader, which gave way to the top spot towards Heim as a result. The Venturini driver led all 38 laps in the final stage of the 2021 ARCA Menards Series season opener at Daytona en route to his second career victory.
NXS Race – Austin Cindric took over the lead in a late race restart and never looked back in the most anticlimactic finish of Speedweeks. Cindric, gave Team Penske their first career oval win at Daytona in the Xfinity Series as they were passed on the final lap in six times for the win. Not this time as Cindric won by .104 seconds.
Daytona 500 – Most of the 63rd annual Daytona 500 was anticlimactic. After the “big one” on Lap 13 that collected 16 cars, we saw a lengthy rain delay that totaled 5-hours, 40-minutes and 29-seconds. So, once we got back going shortly after 9 p.m. ET, the drivers decided to take care of their cars.
Why risk a crash when you needed to be there in the end? So, we saw just four cautions post rain delay with two of which being for stage breaks.
That all went out the window though in the end. Michael McDowell was a beneficiary of a huge crash in Turn 3 to earn his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
All hell broke loose when Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski made contact with one another while going for the win. Logano, had the lead and Keselowski wanted it. Keselowski, looked to take the top spot but the two tangled and collected several leaders behind in a fiery crash at the top of the banking.
McDowell, skated through and was ahead when the yellow light was displayed to earn his first win in 358 starts.
- Truex (0-for-17), Busch (0-for-16), and Keselowski (0-for-12) are still 0-for in the Daytona 500.
- Hamlin now has 7 top 5s in his last 8 ‘500 starts
- Harvick has had 2 great cars the last 2 years with finishes of 5th and 4th respectively
- With Ganassi, Kurt Busch has 4 of his five Daytona finishes of 22nd or worse.
- Chase Elliott got his first Daytona 500 top five but second straight runner up here. He was second last August.
Kyle Larson got his third straight Daytona 500 top 10. He’s still 0-for-26 now on superspeedway races for top fives.
- Hamlin’s 98 laps led gives him 474 for his Daytona 500 career. That moves him past Jeff Gordon and Bobby Allison for fifth all fine.
- McDowell becomes the eighth first time Cup winner to accomplish that feat in the Daytona 500 joining Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994), Michael Waltrip (2001), Trevor Bayne (2001) and now McDowell (2021)
- McDowell only led 1 lap and becomes the third Daytona 500 winner in the last five years with leading only the last lap.
- HMS/JGR/Penske only had 1 combined Speedweeks win this year. They had won 27 of the last 30 entering 2021s edition.