Daytona Has Come and Gone - Part 1
Note: My articles are based solely on my thoughts and observations. Normally I do not offer statistics, although at times I may reference what different broadcasters, among others, have said or alluded to.
Since the last race at Homestead on November 19, 2017 NASCAR fans have been waiting for racing to resume at Daytona. When February 2018 finally arrived, we were anxious and had our schedule all set so we would not miss anything. First came the Rolex 24, then the Clash, after that the Can-Am Duels, the Camping World Truck Race, the Xfinity race and finally the Daytona 500. While we watched, we anticipated, smiled, frowned, and sat on the edge of our seats at times because of the action we were finally seeing. For some of us, the restrictor plate tracks seem to make us nervous so we watch with caution and sometimes we even hold our breath or pace the floor. But, NASCAR racing was back so we were once again in our element of being a fan.
Although the Rolex 24 was not a NASCAR race, it had several NASCAR drivers in it. Road racing is one of my favorite forms of auto racing and this one did not disappoint. When the checkers finally fell after the cars had been on the track for 24 hours, there was a Cadillac in Victory Lane. The winning car had traveled 808 laps for a total of 2876 miles around the road course at the track. The number 5 car was co-driven by Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi. I enjoyed the broadcast crew as they were focused on broadcasting the race, rather than bringing their own desires and agendas into it.
Even though there were only 17 cars in the Clash, it was an interesting race. There were new ride height rules as well as pit and pit crew rules. For the 7th consecutive year, Jimmie Johnson did not complete the Clash as he crashed out on the last lap when he was hit from behind by another driver. We saw what we thought were cars which were out of control a lot. Overall, it was a fairly good race even though it kept a lot of us on pins and needles because of the way the cars were moving around more than they normally do on that track.
Next came the Can-Am Duels consisting of 20 cars in each of the two races. The front row positions for the 500 are determined by the winner of each duel. Duel 1 was rather a good, fun race to watch. Something of interest in this race was the fact that there was only one (1) Toyota, driven by Daniel Suarez, in it. It also seemed the cars were still just as out of control as they were in the Clash. Duel 2 seemed to be a bit more hectic with drivers trying a bit harder to figure out how the rule changes affected their cars. Side drafting created several accidents as one particular driver seemed to be using it to remove some of his competition. Once again, Jimmie Johnson crashed out, due to a cut tire, without completing his race. When both duels were over, the surprise was that 2 younger drivers had won both. About that, I like to say: "The youngsters put it to the oldsters!"
The truck race was the next night. The first caution came on lap 3 due to engine problems for the #50 truck. Although the first 20 or so cars stayed bunched up in the first stage, the side drafting seemed to be moving the trucks around quite a bit. The stage 1 winner was the #4 truck driven by David Gilliland. In stage 2, the trucks ran single-file more and Johnny Sauter, driving the 21 truck, won that stage. With 45 laps to go, there was a caution when the #98 got loose, therefore causing a chain reaction. Jennifer Jo Cobb hit the inside wall and we were relieved to know she was okay after hitting so very hard. Another caution came with 36 laps to go when the 75 had a tire blow out. With 18 to go, several trucks were involved in a crash and some of those were out of the race after that. They red flagged the race for this one. With 9 laps to go, Johnny Sauter in #21 took the lead and went on to take the checkers and celebrate in Victory Lane.
The Xfinity race was a very mixed up race. There were 6 Cup drivers in this race and they dominated the majority of the race. A Cup driver won both stage 1 and stage 2. A lot of us do not like the higher series drivers invading the lower series. For most of the race, they raced side by side, but with 21 laps to go, there was a major crash. Although multi cars were involved, it was not what they normally call the "big one". Just prior to the crash, two drivers were called to pit road for the penalty of locking on to push. Another driver was black flagged for forcing another driver below the yellow line which is not allowed at Daytona or Talladega. NASCAR reserves the right to make these calls under their discretionary rules. Shortly after that, 2 more cautions came out for incidents. They restarted the race with 6 to go and wound up having another caution, which put the race into overtime rules. Once again, another caution took them into a second overtime. This one took out several Cup drivers and damaged 13 cars. After a third overtime attempt to finish the race, another caution came out. On the restart, the green came out, but a car had problems on backstretch so they had to throw the caution flag again which put them into fifth overtime. Many fans were feeling that NASCAR was trying very hard to manipulate the finish when this caution came out just before the leader crossed the start/finish line. Finally, the race finished and a regular Xfinity driver, Tyler Reddick, a young man from Corning, CA won. It was a well-deserved win.
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