Key Moment – The only set of green flag pit stops occurred from lap 83 through 87 Sunday. Aric Almirola was running near the end of the top 10 when he peeled off to pit lane. He was the second car off in the group of cars he came down with, and slotted into second when the entire cycle of stops continued. That quick stop put the No. 43 in position to win the race.
In a Nutshell – Combine a plate race with rain and you get what we had on Sunday. The race ran 10 laps before the first caution for rain. As the field came to the line for the competition caution flag after the race restarted, 16 cars wadded up in a ‘Big One’. The race ran until lap 99, albeit slowed for two debris cautions, until the ‘Bigger One’ occurred on the back straight where 26 cars were involved and Kyle Busch ended up on his lid after a leisurely roll over at the end of the incident. The race went green from lap 104 through lap 110 when the caution flew a final time for rain. Two laps of caution and the red flag was displayed; the race was called shortly thereafter thanks to the soaking rain moving into the area of the race track.
Dramatic Moment – NASCAR announced a competition caution would take place on lap 20. As the field was coming off of turn four to end lap 21, without having seen the yellow flag, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. got loose. He saved the car but Jeff Gordon made a move that ultimately contacted Tony Stewart and triggered the first big wreck. That accident took out many of the biggest contenders for the win and changed the complexion of the entire race.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler – The No. 43 is in Victory Lane for the first time in 15 years and for the first time ever at Daytona without Richard Petty behind the wheel. Rain shortened races may be like kissing your sister but the winner still goes into the record books as a winner. Aric Almirola is now qualified for the Chase, assuming he attempts to run the rest of the races this season. While the odds are he won’t contend for the championship, there is always a possibility with the new format. Whatever the case may be, it was quite nostalgic reminiscing about the great history of that car at Daytona.
The Firecracker 400 has been a fixture on the Cup schedule since July 4th, 1959. It was run on the 4th until 1988 when it was moved to the closest Saturday to Independence Day. In 1998, lights were added and the race was moved to night time. The great thing about the Firecracker was that the track was hot and slippery and the cars were hard to drive. Thanks to the rain on Saturday night, the track was hot and slippery and the cars were hard to drive. There is no doubt that they’re not moving the race back to the daytime any time soon, but thanks to God’s intervention, we do get to occasionally see racing the way it ought to be at Daytona in the middle of the Summer.
Landon Cassill ran to the midway point of the race on one set of tires. He also qualified on those tires so he ran somewhere around 90 laps on a set of tires. We saw, at the beginning of the season, that tires wearing out and giving up grip made for much greater racing. Running over 80 laps in a 160 lap race on one set of tires is not conducive to good racing and showcasing driver talent. Hopefully Goodyear can come to the realization that tires don’t need to last half of a race and we’ll see more tire wear in 2015.
The majority of fans wanted to see tandem racing go away and packs return. Whatever the reasoning was for the fans’ response, the end result is huge crashes. Two wrecks during the race involved 42 cars. Some cars were involved in both incidents so a grand total of seven cars made it through both wrecks. If total carnage is the desired result of pack racing then Sunday was a huge success. Ending a race with seven undamaged race cars on a track that is over a mile in length hardly seems desirable, except for fans of Almirola.
It is hard to believe but 30 years ago Richard Petty won his 200th and final race of his Hall of Fame career. Petty always thrived at Daytona, and, in front of Ronald Reagan, who was the sitting president of the United States at the time, he won by leading the last 32 laps. For old school fans the race was contested on Wednesday, July 4th. There are those who would debate that NASCAR threw the caution on the last lap to prevent Cale Yarborough from beating the King, but hindsight doesn’t award trophies.
NASCAR is over 60 years old. For more than 50 of those years the voice of the sport has been Barney Hall. There are a few voices in sports that immediately identify to the listener which sport they are hearing broadcast. Hall is the lead announcer for MRN radio and the Coke Zero 400 is the final race that he broadcast as the lead announcer. He will still be involved with MRN but is abdicating the lead announcer role. Telling a legend thank you seems so inadequate but from all fans of NASCAR, Thank You Barney Hall for bringing the races into our radio for over half of a century.
The race preempted the Lord of the Rings marathon on TNT on Sunday. While the Renaissance Faire demographic might not be a big target for NASCAR, their numbers among that group certainly took a hit on Sunday.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Fans wanted pack racing because they could see the Big One. Pretty sure that these drivers aren’t big fans of the pack racing after Sunday’s race: Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Marcos Ambrose, Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, A J Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson, Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Carl Edwards.
Big One fans were treated to a double header of massive wrecks on Sunday. The second major wreck involved 26 cars. While some only had minor damage, the list is impressive: Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Michael Annett, Marcos Ambrose, Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Cole Whitt, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Terry Labonte, Bobby Labonte, David Ragan, Reed Sorenson, David Gilliland, Landon Cassill, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Truex, Michael McDowell and Josh Wise.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Danica Patrick was classified as being involved in both wrecks but received almost no damage in either one. She also missed her pit box on a pit stop that dropped her out of the draft. She caught a caution before going down a lap and drove through the second huge wreck to come home with a tenth-place finish.
Brian Vickers was running near the 20th position when Kasey Kahne turned sideways on the back straight triggering the 26 car wreck. Cars were spinning and crashing all around him but the track opened directly in front of him and he drove through without touching a car. He ended the race in second position thanks to that fine fortune.
In the same incident where Vickers was given divine assistance, Austin Dillon led the way for him. Dillon made slight contact with Paul Menard and Ryan Newman but received little to no damage and carried that good fortune to a top-5 run.
Aric Almirola scored his first victory in the Cup series with his win at Daytona. It took him 125 starts to score his first victory.
In Richard Petty’s first 125 races he scored six victories. Almirola only has to win 199 more races in 1,059 starts to match the King.
With his victory Almirola becomes the 24th driver to take a win in all three of NASCAR’s national touring series. Almirola reached that milestone with only four wins in the three series. David Reutimann is the only driver to do it with fewer. He had one win in each of the three series when he accomplished the feat.
The win is Almirola’s first top-10 finish in seven career starts at Daytona.
Brian Vickers finished second and notched his first top-2 finish of the season and his first ever at Daytona International Speedway.
Kurt Busch led the most laps in the race (36). Busch finished third for his fourth podium finish of the season. He has not finished between third and 12th in any of the 18 races this year. He has finished in the top 3 six times in his career at Daytona, and he has 11 top-5 finishes in 28 career starts at Daytona without scoring a win.
Austin Dillon was the highest finishing rookie (5). It is the first top-5 finish of his career.
Jeff Gordon leads Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by 27 points in the meaningless point standings. Jimmie Johnson is in third.
The last time the No. 43 visited Victory Lane was Martinsville in April of 1999. It marked the 199th career win for the No. 43.
Casey Mears finished in fourth place Sunday. It is his first top-5 finish since 2008. He has scored two top-10 finishes this season, both at Daytona.
What’s the Points
Points don’t matter as much as wins. The 11 race winners are listed below along with the five drivers who would make the Chase on points at this juncture of the season.
Daytona and Pocono – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Phoenix and Darlington – Kevin Harvick
Las Vegas and Kentucky – Brad Keselowski
Bristol and Sonoma – Carl Edwards
California – Kyle Busch
Martinsville – Kurt Busch
Texas and Richmond – Joey Logano
Talladega – Denny Hamlin
Kansas – Jeff Gordon
Charlotte, Dover and Michigan – Jimmie Johnson
Daytona (2) – Aric Almirola
Drivers making the Chase on points who do not have wins:
5) Matt Kenseth
8) Ryan Newman
10) Paul Menard
12) Clint Bowyer
13) Austin Dillon
Jeff Gordon is locked into the Chase due to the fact that he is 395 points ahead of David Gilliland, who is in 31st position. The maximum points that can be gained over the next 8 races, assuming Gordon starts every race as required to be eligible for the Chase, is 376.
Overall Rating(On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) –
A rain shortened race is never going to get six beers. A plate race with two wrecks involving 42 cars is going to be handicapped even further. That said, for the second time this season at Daytona, rain seemed to inspire the drivers to get after it for the vast majority of the race. There was a five lap segment right before halfway where the field went single file. Other than that there was two and three-wide racing on every lap of the race. The opening laps of the race saw three-wide racing seven rows deep for much of the time leading up to the competition caution. Add in the historic significance of the No. 43 going to Victory Lane at Daytona on the 30th anniversary of Richard Petty’s 200th win. This one receives a solid four ice cold Budweisers.
The circus pulls into New England next weekend. New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosts the Camping World RV Sales 301 at 1:00 PM Sunday, July 13th. It is the last race of the TNT Summer Series. It can also be heard on your local PRN affiliate.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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