DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — The 63rd edition of Daytona Speedweeks has come and gone. We got all six races run to completion and didn’t need any additional days to get any in. Here are my main takeaways from what we saw this past week.
The Busch Clash in recent years has turned into an embarrassing crash fest. The first 90% of the race runs single file while the final portion is crash after crash. Two years ago, 17 of the 20 cars in that race was collected in a crash. Last year, all 20 cars had crash damage. This year? So much better.
That’s because the race was moved to the road course and NASCAR gave the 21 drivers the lower downforce package and it passed with flying colors.
There were as many lead changes in 30 less laps this past Tuesday than there was in the 65 lap race last August. Most of the cars took the checkered flag in tact too.
From Chase Elliott wrecking buddy Ryan Blaney in the final corner on the final lap of the Clash to teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano wrecking together in Turn 3 of the final lap of the Daytona 500, the finishes to almost all the Speedweeks races saw a thrilling end.
Aric Almirola was passed by Joey Logano on the final lap of the first Duel on Thursday night, but Almirola make a brave move in Turn 4 to get it back as he bested Christopher Bell by .041 seconds.
The next race saw Austin Dillon, with drafting help from Kevin Harvick, to beat Bubba Wallace by .057-seconds.
Friday night’s Truck Series race saw Ben Rhodes use a move that was done to him at the end of the second Stage to pass Cory Rhodes on the final lap and beat Jordan Anderson by .036-seconds.
Saturday’s ARCA and NXS races had tame final laps.
This was the fifth time in the last six years that we saw a last lap pass for the win in the Daytona 500 and the third time in the last five years that the winner only led just one lap.
Big 3 Nearly Shutout
When we come to Speedweeks, we expect Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske to hog trophies in victory lane. Entering this year, the trio of teams had won 27 of the last 30 Cup Series Speedweeks races. Out of the four Cup races run this past week, they only won just once race – the Clash.
Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing won the Duels while Front Row Motorsports won the Daytona 500.
Penske Went From Feast To Famine In 1 Lap
On Saturday, Austin Cindric gave Team Penske their first Xfinity Series win on the DIS oval. They had been passed six times on the final lap for the win in the end, but Cindric ensured that wouldn’t happen. On Sunday, they were 2 turns of the steering wheel away from a 1-2 finish in the Daytona 500. Unfortunately, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano collided while going for the lead sparking a fiery melee. Cindric, who was making his first career Cup start, was collected too in a very expensive crash for Penske.
Big Crashes, Some Follow The Leader Racing
We saw several big crashes this past week during Speedweeks, but luckily, everyone walked away. The Daytona 500 saw two huge crashes. One on Lap 13 and the other on the final lap. Both occurred in Turn 3. The problem is, the rest of the race was really tame. So was the two races on Saturday for ARCA and the Xfinity Series. Saw was Friday night’s Truck Series race.
The Truck race just struggled to get any sort of momentum going with excitement. The ARCA race had LONG cautions early then just one caution late and Corey Heim lead the entire second half of the event. The Xfinity Series race struggled to get any sort of side-by-side action as passing was difficult.
Same for the Daytona 500. After the big early race crash, the drivers all felt like they just needed to get to the end. Why race hard and mix it up and risk not getting to the end for a chance at a win? The only time action ramped up was at the end of both stages and the final lap of the race.
The rest of the 200 lap event, was pretty well run in single file fashion at the top of the banking. It was less than desired.
You get that sometimes. The rain and early crash is the culprit for this.