I have A LOT to say about the Daytona 500. Let’s just dive right in.
Dillon Dumps Almirola
As a Dale Earnhardt fan, it was really cool seeing the No. 3 back in victory lane at the Daytona 500. It’s very serendipitous that Austin Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress, would pilot the 3 to victory on the 20th anniversary of Earnhardt’s historic win in 1998. It’s a great moment for NASCAR.
However, I’m having a hard time feeling good about his win given the finish. Consider me one of those who believe Dillon dumped Aric Almirola. What I saw on the replay was Dillon shoving Almirola until it turned him. And I think the finish was cheapened as a result. Just because you can shove a guy out of the way doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
I give major props to Almirola for how he handled the post-race interview. An Almirola win definitely would not have created the same kind of buzz, but I do think it would’ve been a great story. If I’m Almirola, I have that last lap locked away in the memory bank.
Out of Control Blocking
The drivers were their own worst enemy today. The blocking we saw at the end of stages one and two was borderline ludicrous. I get it, stage points are important. Martin Truex Jr. proved that last year. But this is Daytona! To heck with points. Worry about points at Atlanta. Drive a smart race and give yourself a chance at the end. Three favorites (Keselowski, Elliott and Harvick) were all taken out in one wreck because of blocking. Ricky Stenhouse’s blocking led to a crash that took out several contenders on the final lap of stage one, including Jimmie Johnson, who simply could not catch a break during Speedweeks.
I know momentum and closing rate play a role, but I think both of the crashes I referenced above were completely unavoidable. And those guys were all knocked out of contention just past halfway.
What a performance by Ryan Blaney, who led 118 of 200 laps. And if not for William Byron’s spin with ten laps to go, I think he wins easily. That caution changed everything. You can also argue he was the cause for the Big One with two laps to go. Regardless, an impressive showing and I think he wins multiple races this year.
I have a friend who is making a concerted effort to watch NASCAR this season. And this is a guy who previously busted my chops (all in good fun) for being a NASCAR diehard. His biggest complaint today was the commercials during live racing. As a lifelong fan, I’m used to the commercials. It’s just one of those things you deal with.
Today was different. I could not believe the amount of commercials in the final 30 laps of the race. I was very annoyed when they went to break with 20 laps to go. Then they did it again. Unless there is a caution, there is no excuse to cut to a commercial in the final 20 or so laps of the biggest race of the season. FOX has to figure this out.
I also thought the broadcast did a poor job of addressing the last lap crash. My friend was very unimpressed with FOX’s presentation and I would not be surprised if he bowed out after today. He cannot be the only one. Today was a bad day for FOX.
By the way, has anyone else noticed that FOX is now stealing all of NBC’s ideas (i.e. the visor cam and post-race interview at the start-finish line)?
Odds and Ends
-I was really bummed to see Matt DiBenedetto get caught up in the Big One with two to go. He was right there fighting for the win the final 80 laps and that team could have really used a strong finish. He’s a guy who could do some good things if given the right equipment.
-Obviously, a great showing for Bubba Wallace. He didn’t do anything flashy, yet there he was in the top ten all day contending for the win.
-The new pit stop rules did not play much of a factor today. That changes next week at Atlanta.
What did you think about the race? Feel free to leave a comment below.
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