Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2018 Daytona 500

Who’s in the headline

The clash on Sunday last week had the world abuzz with how uneventful the racing would be at Daytona for the 500. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the drivers. 24 lead changes, seven caution flags for on-track incidents, 14 leaders and the three winningest car numbers in the sport on the podium was far from uneventful. When it was all said and done, Austin Dillon made a last lap pass of Aric Almirola which involved the No. 10 wrecking, and the No. 3 pulled away to score the win on the 20th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt‘s win and the 17th anniversary of his death.

BOWLES: 20 Years After Dale Earnhardt Sr., Austin Dillon Wins 2018 Daytona 500

What happened

Ryan Blaney dominated the race, leading 118 laps and winning the second stage, but saw his chances dashed as he bounced off of the wall during the final caution of the race. Kurt Busch won the first stage and was poised to have a run at the victory only to lose it as he was involved in the wreck that took Blaney out of contention as well. Kyle Busch blew a tire early that ultimately led to his long day. The first Big One of the day took out William Byron, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson to end stage one.

BOWLES: Multi-Car Wreck Ends Stage 1, Wipes Out Top Daytona 500 Contenders

The second Big One ended the day for Chase Elliott, Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr.

BOWLES: Danica Patrick’s NASCAR Career Ends After Daytona 500 Wreck

The final “Big One” ended great runs for underdogs Matt DiBenedetto, and Brendan Gaughan, along with Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.

WOLKIN: Joey Logano Goes Through Roller Coaster Daytona 500

Why you should care

Chevrolet managed to wrest a plate victory away from Ford, thanks in part to so many of the strong Fords being damaged in wrecks throughout the race. The youth movement in NASCAR continues to be served as Blaney, Darrell Wallace Jr., and Elliott all had strong showings during Speedweeks. The introduction of the low-downforce package to superspeedways seemed to be a success as the cars were a handful to drive but made for some exciting racing throughout much of the Daytona events.

What your friends are talking about

Wallace Jr. is a good race car driver. The fact that he is black shouldn’t be part of the narrative of his career or the introduction every time he’s in the media center. The Drive for Diversity is about acceptance of everyone in the sport but NASCAR seems determined to point out the differences of some individuals every single time they succeed. When the day comes that we stop qualifying Wallace’s accomplishments by the color of his skin, we’ll begin to start making strides.

WOLKIN: Darrell Wallace Jr. And Family Emotional After Runner-Up Finish in Daytona 500

Ron Devine is determined to have the No. 23 on the race track for all 36 races in 2018. His race team filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and the future of the team and its charter, are in doubt thanks to the action. NASCAR has not pulled a charter from a team yet but the filing very well could be grounds for them to make the unprecedented move for the first time.

ALBINO: Ron Devine not Giving Up on NASCAR Future

An executive for Monster Energy was non-committal on sponsorship for the Cup Series continuing on beyond 2018. While multiple people associated with the company made casual reference to their commitment to the sport when speaking with Frontstretch during the weekend at Daytona, there has been no formal agreement put in place and any statements about the participation of the title sponsor in the future would be premature.

Roger Penske let slip during media availability this week that Ford will have a new car/body for 2019. There was extensive whining from Ford drivers last season about the handicap their Fusion provided when competing with the Toyotas and Chevrolets. While no formal announcement has occurred, it is a safe bet the Captain is not going to make statements like that without some sort of insider knowledge.

Hamlin joked during an interview this week that 70 percent of NASCAR drivers were on Adderall. Needless to say the brass at NASCAR was far from thrilled at this revelation. Hamlin was called to the hauler and eventually made a statement that his comments were in jest. Whether there is truth to the statement or not, it did not paint the sport in a very good light and the Jeremy Mayfield references will be flying for weeks to come.

ALBINO: Denny Hamlin Rebounds to Finish 3rd in Daytona 500

Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired and Truex won the title but it was Danica Patrick who garnered the most offseason coverage from media outlets. There’s no question that her absence from the sport is going to be more significant than most will admit.

Tyler Reddick beat Elliott Sadler in the XFINITY race on Saturday, even though the timing and scoring system showed the margin of victory was 0.000 seconds. The photo finish picture made it look apparent that Reddick did beat Sadler to the line, but it wasn’t until Sunday morning that NASCAR released the fourth decimal to give a more accurate margin of victory. Reddick edged Sadler by 0.0004 seconds, the closest in the sport’s history.

Who is mad

Kurt Busch was poised to be a back-to-back 500 champion with two laps to go. Unfortunately, he ran into the back of Hamlin when the leader pulled up to block his run and ended up in a steaming heap in the infield. Busch is in a one year contract, and the rumors are rampant that he’ll be replaced next year by Cole Custer in the No. 41. It would have been a very fantastic way to start the year if it is indeed his last season.

Blaney had the strongest car for much of the race. As the final laps were unfolding he found himself in the middle lane and falling back. He did a great job avoiding a precipitous fall all the way to the rear of the field, but that momentary misfortune ultimately led to his demise in the race. The young driver has garnered a huge fan following and will absolutely be a force in the sport for years to come.

ALBINO: Ryan Blaney Disappointed in Daytona 500 Finish

Who is happy

DiBenedetto may have ended up on the hook in 27th, but he made a strong run that found him in third late in the event. When you have Go Fas Racing in a spot where it may garner a podium finish in the biggest race of the season, you have to feel pretty happy.

Similarly to DiBenedetto, Gaughan was in the mix for the win with the race nearly complete before he got caught up in the melee at the end. Gaughan was his usual effervescent self at the infield care center when he met with the media and praised his little team and RCR/ECR for making a great car that had him in position to win the Daytona 500. He said they only have four races to run this year, but they will be a force to reckon with in all of them at this pace. He also praised the new aero package due to the difficulty in driving the race car.

When the checkered flag flew

Austin Dillon was the victor in the 60th running of the Daytona 500. It’s his first career victory at Daytona International Speedway and his second overall.

Dillon is now tied for 102nd on the all-time wins list with 25 other drivers.

The win comes on the 20th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s only 500 win and the 17th anniversary of the Intimidator’s untimely death.

Darrell Wallace Jr.’s second-place run is his best career finish. Wallace is now one of 241 drivers to score a second-place finish in a Cup race.

Denny Hamlin rounded out the podium with his third-place finish. He now has five top-three results at Daytona.

This is Hamlin’s 91st career top three which ties him for 27th with Junior Johnson.

The Rookie of the Race award goes to Wallace as the highest finishing rookie.

After one race, Austin Dillon will qualify for the Playoffs provided no more than 16 drivers win a race before the end of the regular season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The remaining drivers who would qualify for the playoffs based on current points and their playoff points are:

1) Ryan Blaney – 1

2) Joey Logano – 0

4) Darrell Wallace Jr. – 0

5) Paul Menard – 0

6) Michael McDowell – 0

7) Denny Hamlin – 0

8) Ryan Newman – 0

9) Aric Almirola – 0

10) Chris Buescher – 0

11) Trevor Bayne – 0

12) Martin Truex Jr. – 0

13) Alex Bowman – 0

14) Clint Bowyer – 0

15) AJ Allmendinger – 0

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)

A quite competitive race with a last lap pass for the win, over 20 lead changes and iconic cars in first and second left everyone talking after the race. The amount of buzz around the 500 is as high as it has been in years, just a week after everyone was completely down on the sport. We’ll give this one five ice cold Daytona Blonds from Daytona Beach Brewing Company.

Where do you point your DVR for next week

Next up for the series is Atlanta with the Folds of Honor 500. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on FOX. You can also see the race on the FOX Sports Go app. The race can be heard on your local PRN affiliate, goprn.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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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“Forces” is an understatement. If another driver did that, wow! Look out! The media played it cool in the booth. Of course they did, biased fools. Another driver, look the hell out the claws would have been out! When it is a certain driver, “that’s racing”. LOL.


I thought Dillon’s move was classless, but most disagree. Just like the previous driver of that number 3, it’s do whatever it takes to win, even if it takes dumping the guy into the wall. Kb is right, a move like that is OK if you’re in an iconic car, or drive for a chosen team (Gibbs, Hendrick). If that same move had of been done by say Logano, or Stenhouse, there would have been death threats.

Nice to see Jimmie has carried on the Gordon tradition of whining about other drivers daring to race all the time, especially at the end of stages. Isn’t this what the almighty Brian wanted, and why this stage racing garbage was started?


You are more correct than you know! The weekend whether people picked up on it or not was all about EARNHART! Yes we expect the dribble blah, blah blah every year. But this year was ramped up. BOWMAN “winning” the pole. Cough. Dale Jr’s face all over the place..Grand Marshall. The big play up never ending of this being the 20 year anniversary of Dale’s win! I gotta book I can write about the whole BS with DILLON on the last race of the kiddie series screwing SAM HORNISH with an excessive amount of caution laps. It fit as Richard C. was planning on bringing the 3 back into CUP the next season. WHO WON THE CUP POLE…lol Austin Dilloons career imo is one manufactured piece of work. NO PROOF. Just my opinion.


The Dillon Brothers were “Given” their rides thanks to a rich Grandfather. I remember Harvick calling them “Spoiled Rich Kids” after a truck incident in Martinsville a few years ago. Grand Daddy bought the #13 ride for Ty which booted Mears out of that seat. But Austin Dillon ‘s statement is just what you would expect from a person with a attitude of entitlement.

Carl D.

You can’t really blame an owner for spending HIS money to put his grandkids in a racecar. And who are we to tell him who gets to be his driver? I don’t know if either of the Dillons has an exaggerated sense of entitlement, but then again I really don’t much care, and I most certainly don’t put a lick of faith in anything Kevin Harvick says.

I thought the racers yesterday were too wreckless but I thought the racing was fairly exciting and I liked the race package for Daytona. The Xfinity race was even better.


something needs to be done about the carnage. too many cars got torn up. they race like idiots when the stages are ending, so by time you get to the third and final stage, half the field was gone or torn up and not competitive.

i can’t help but remember when mike skinner was running in cup, he said he’d wreck his own mother to win the 500.

you block, you know what might happen, especially on final lap. stewart was famous for blocking and then getting wrecked.

bubba did a great job. his race should not be a factor or mentioned, it was getting really old come sunday. he’s a young guy like blaney and elliott, period. it was good to see the “old school” numbers running up front.

onto Atlanta, season begins, and hopefully mother nature will cooperate. right now 70% chance of rain sunday and next monday. we’ve had that nuisance rain for weeks now, that drizzle crap and grey skies. yesterday was a beautiful day here in Georgia.


The race date is intended to “kill” Atlanta in the same manner as Rockingham.


Mike – oh i know…….our weather in feb is always a crap shoot, but usually wet.

Tom B

I remember when Atlanta had the race in March and it was cold and no one showed up in the seats. This year February, insane!
The schedule should be a week off after Daytona then head out West for the month of March, stopping at Texas on the way back home. Another week off, then the weather should be fine in the East for Atlanta, Darlington, Richmond and Martinsville.
May is the month for Charlotte racing and catching up at the shop. June, July and August for the Midwest. Back out West in September and finish up on the East coast. Maybe only 30 point races.

Joe D.

That only the 36 charter teams are entered for the second race of the season speaks encyclopedias, not volumes, on so many levels. With the 23’s future in doubt one wonders what happens when they make their West Coast swing.

Bill B

Seemed pretty obvious to me that Dillon wrecked Almirola for the win. I guess that OK if that’s the way NASCAR wants it, but it sets up a pretty dangerous precedent for the future. I’d say the race was fixed but there were too many unscripted wrecks to believe that (no one can control who get’s caught up in those monster wrecks).

All in all, the race was more entertaining than I expected it to be but there were way too many wrecks. It’s pretty sad when there are only about 10 cars left at the end of the race, and most of those were drivers that weren’t usual winners.

ron robison

looking for another sport to follow nascar is b.s. any more miss gant and davey and a.k.


miss a.k. #7
agree ron


It probably was no surprise that NONE of the booth announcers commented on the manner in which Dillon won the race. It wasn’t until sometime later that Chris Meyers finally alluded to the fact that Almirola was wrecked by Grandpa’s Boy.


I hope this is not called racing. Really, there was no difference between the “experienced drivers” and the rookies that ran a few days ago. Really stupid, not racing.



Chad Milburn

“When the day comes that we stop qualifying Wallace’s accomplishments by the color of his skin, we’ll begin to start making strides”.

Very true.


Bubba has had a speedweeks. The 7 time champion tore up 3 race cars.

Bubba should not be judged by his skin color, he’s a racer that has worked hard and is very appreciative of the opportunity he’s been given. Seeing him and his mom speaks volumes of his desire and passion to succeed.


Why the hell is everyone ignoring Kahne and the 95 team. Who did they piss off? Total blackout of Kahne on Fox and you can’t even manage to include his name in a list of drivers involved in a wreck. Lackadaisical reporting is not a virtue. A driver with 18 wins is wrecked while running inside the top 10 isn’t even worth a mention. Pathetic.


I like the way the announcers called it a pass for the win. Wasn’t that a punt for the win? No class. Not even an effort to race. Just wreck him out.

Funky D

“it was Danica Patrick who garnered the most offseason coverage from media outlets. There’s no question that her absence from the sport is going to be more significant than most will admit.”

Her absence will not be significant at all. She was hyper-hyped by the media even when it became apparent that she lacked the talent behind the wheel to be in the Cup series. It’s too bad when she could keep a ride beyond her ability while someone more talented like Chrissy Wallace was left to languish in obscurity. Maybe sometime a worthy woman driver will get a shot at a quality ride.


LOL. She kept her ride the same way most in the field keep their rides, somebody writes a big check. I don’t think there is a long line of owners that will put a new driver in their car based on talent alone.

Funky D

Sadly, that is becoming more true in this sport, which is one of the reasons it is floundering.

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