Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: More of the Same & a Late Winning Shot

Not long after William Byron was declared the winner of the 66th running of the Daytona 500, I got a text message from a close friend.

“That’s a wet fart of an ending.”

Indeed.

Not because Byron won.

Congratulations to him and the No. 24 team.

See also
Thinkin' Out Loud: It's Only Up for William Byron

No, it was the how. Or, at least, how it always seems to happen in the “Great American Race” these days.

For 190 laps, the drivers kept their relative cool.

After a lap 7 crash that involved seven cars, we had an intriguing and often-weird race with fuel mileage strategy and no crashes.

There were 41 lead changes among 20 drivers, nine of whom led double-digit laps.

As the laps ticked down, I nervously wondered if NASCAR’s elite could repeat what they did last year when they went the last 44 laps at the Speedway Motorsports’ personal Frankenstein’s monster of a track, Atlanta Motor Speedway, without crashing.

But that was Atlanta.

This is the Daytona 500. And hope can be a dangerous thing.

Enter lap 193 and a 23-car pileup on the backstretch.

Because of course.

Star Wars Rogue One Krennic

After a 15-minute cleanup, the boys went back at it for all the glory.

Only for the Daytona 500 to finish under caution for the fourth time in five years.

Ross Chastain and 2022 Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric went for a wet spin in the infield grass, triggering the caution after the field had taken the white flag.

I’m really tired of superspeedway racing and their conclusions.

I long for races like the 2004 Daytona 500, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. beat Tony Stewart in a two-car duel by .273 seconds and third place was roughly 10 car lengths back.

But no, the field has to be a parking lot or a demolition derby at the moment of truth.

But hey, at least Monday (Feb. 19) was the second 500 to actually end at 500 miles since 2017.

Remember, last year ended after 530 miles.

Progress is progress.

Also, at least it’s not like we’re going to a second superspeedway race next week.

*holds hand to ear*

What? Since when!?!

Now let’s talk about the finish.

I posted a tweet Sunday night that took off.

It’s the on-board camera shot from Alex Bowman‘s No. 48 car in the moments before the yellow caution light flashed on and stopped the field.

I recorded and posted it after hearing FOX announcer Mike Joy remind viewers that the winner isn’t determined by the last scoring loop, but by the “moment of caution.”

OK.

Because from that angle and also one other shot from high up in the grandstands, it kind of looked like Bowman was ahead of Byron when the lights came on.

I’m not going to get into conspiracy theories about this.

NASCAR eventually released a photo it said was the one used to determine Byron was the winner.

This shot feels like something that should have been shown to audiences watching at home during the FOX broadcast.

It wasn’t.

It was posted on social media at 9:02 p.m. ET, a full hour after the race ended (and maybe because of tweets like mine).

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, later gave the obligatory explanation about the finish.

“At the end of a race, we use all available resources,” Sawyer said. “So we’ll use [the time the] caution comes out. We’ll use video, timestamps. At the time of caution, it was the 24 [car] over the 48 [car].

“Obviously, we would love to have left it green and let it finish naturally. But once the [No.] 2 car had spun and started back up the race track and was going to be into traffic and oncoming traffic there, there was no choice but to throw the caution at that time.”

NASCAR should determine the winner as soon as they can.

But the video/photo evidence they use should make it onto the airwaves ASAP.

With the help of the NASCAR Classics website, I went back and watched the end of the 2023 Daytona 530, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won over Joey Logano because of a wreck in Turn 1.

Unless I missed it, or it was shown on part of the broadcast that’s not included in the Classics library, no video was ever played for viewers that actually conveyed where Stenhouse was in relation to Logano when the caution light came on.

That needs to be automatic in situations where the winner isn’t visually obvious, especially in the Daytona 500, a race famous for taking three days in 1959 before Lee Petty — via photographic evidence — was declared the winner of the inaugural running.

2024 is Daniel McFadin’s 11th year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021.

About the author

Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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Charlie

Just remember one thing: Even Michael Waltrip won the Daytona 500. And Tony Stewart didn’t. The dictates to keep the cars out of the stands creates the racing. Exciting: yes when someone isn’t backwards, taking out half the field. They make the best of a very difficult situation. All will be fine until someone famous gets hurt.

Shayne

And when it happens again, NASCAR will blame anyone but themselves. NASCAR is reactive on matters of safety, not proactive.

Shayne

Hey, McFadin. Nice job on this one.

Bill B

Yes. I agree. Best article from him in a while.

Finishes at the Daytona 500 are the worst. You have all the same issues at the other pack races with the added built in excuse, “It’s the Daytona 500,,,, I had to go for it”, which carries a lot of weight in the sport.

boogityboogityboogity

why the cars so ugly

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