In 2008, if you told me that some kid named Joey Logano, who had just captured his first Xfinity Series win, would go on to win the Daytona 500, the world’s most prestigious stock car race, seven years later, I would have told you that you were out of your mind.
But he did just that this past Sunday, capturing the checkered flag in the first race of the season in his No. 22 Ford, to grab his first career Daytona 500 win and sweeping the weekend at Daytona for his manufacturer, Ford (Tyler Reddick won the Camping World Truck race and Ryan Reed won the Xfinity race).
“The Daytona 500. Oh my god. Are you kidding me?! […] Unbelievable,” he told a TV reporter in victory lane after celebrating with his team members for a little bit.
The race was not all peaches and cream, though. It was good, hard, three-wide superspeedway racing for about the last 25 or so laps.
But the caution came out for a crash on the frontstretch that involved Justin Allgaier, causing the red flag to come out, which meant that it would be a green/white/checkered finish to end the Great American Race.
Logano led the field to the restart and ended up holding off defending champion Kevin Harvick and defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished second and third respectively. But the race ended under caution, so we did not get to see the exciting finish that was brewing in the last two laps.
“The Big One” took place on the backstretch during the white flag lap, involving notables such as Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick among others. The leaders at this point were entering turn three, getting ready to make their final moves to try to win the biggest race of their lives.
But what happened? NASCAR threw the caution, thus freezing the field and making Logano, 24, the second-youngest winner in 500 history.
Kevin Harvick got a great restart and was pushing his former teammate at RCR, Clint Bowyer, up to Logano’s rear bumper, when he made a bolt to the outside and was on the No. 22’s bumper heading into the final corner. He was also getting a push from arguably the fastest car during the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr., so things were setting up pretty well for him — after all, they don’t call him “The Closer” for nothing. But because the yellow flag came out, the fans did not get to see the finish they deserved: a great one.
Would Harvick have passed Logano if the race stayed green? Obviously, we will never know. But speaking as a fan who was in the stands, on the edge of their seat (I was standing up just like the other 100,000+ fans there), I would have liked to see a possible photo finish.
After all, the day before during the Xfinity Series race, the same thing happened. Only this time, the crash occurred in turn one and the race stayed green and NASCAR didn’t throw the caution. This led to a fantastic finish with 21-year-old Ryan Reed, a diabetic who was told by doctors he would never race again, passing Brad Keselowski in turn four to win the Alert Today Florida 300.
Again, I’m not saying Harvick would have passed Logano. But since the two have a past history, dating back to as early as a mere ONE week before, I would have liked to see it play out.
Tony Stewart finished 42nd after crashing on lap 41 after minimal contact with another car. His team made repairs, but it was not enough to go back out and race.
Jimmie Johnson was nabbed for a pit road penalty early in the race, setting him back quite a ways, but ended up rebounding and finished a quiet and solid fifth. His Hendrick teammate, Earnhardt Jr., finished third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Casey Mears sixth.
The race winner’s Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, blew an engine, along with Landon Cassill and Ryan Blaney, and they finished 41st, 43rd and 39th, respectively.
Regan Smith and Matt Crafton, filling in for the Busch Brothers (Kurt and Kyle) finished quietly in 16th and 18th in the No. 41 and No. 18 cars on Sunday.
Coming from an avid NASCAR fan who was at this race and has been coming to this race since 2011, I can safely say that this year’s Daytona 500 was some of the best racing on a superspeedway that I have seen in a long time. No rain delays, no potholes, perfect weather and a good crowd. That is what it’s all about right there.
The next race on the schedule is at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where the Truck and Xfinity Series will be back in action again for the second consecutive tripleheader. Last year, the second race of the season was not here, it was out west in Phoenix (won by Kevin Harvick). But due to the travel that teams go through, the series is staying on the East Coast before heading west.
The winner of last year’s race at Atlanta was Kasey Kahne, as he won to vault himself into the Chase. This race will be the first of many 1.5 milers in 2015. And after this upcoming weekend, we will have a really good idea of what teams have speed on tracks other than Daytona, where drafting is a premium.
One race down, 35 more to go. 2015 is underway!
Davey Segal is the host of Victory Lane for Impact Sports