Key Moment – Jimmie Johnson was about to lose the lead to Marcos Ambrose with 4 laps to go but Ambrose moved to the inside too quickly which damaged his car and ended Kasey Kahne’s night. Had Ambrose not hit Kahne, he might have actually been able to get in front of Johnson for the last four laps.
In a Nutshell – The race started looking like it was going to be the 500 revisited. Then Jimmie Johnson made the bottom line work and a good portion of the race was actually contested double wide or more. In the end, it didn’t matter how wide they were on the track, no one was as fast as Johnson and he made a farce of the event.
Dramatic Moment – The only real drama during the race was when Johnson moved up to block the top line late in the event and couldn’t get back down to keep the bottom line from getting up next to him. In the end it was a temporary setback and the No. 48 simply dove away from everyone.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
The fans said they didn’t like tandem racing. They wanted to get back to the packs, at restrictor plate tracks because that is somehow considered exciting. Well, Saturday night’s race was far from exciting, but they did manage to destroy a couple million dollars worth of race cars.
There is no greater difference in the command to start engines than Hall of Fame driver Bobby Allison on Friday evening and the three boobs on Saturday night.
During this Daytona race, it took 10 laps to get into a single-file line running around the top. That is so much better than that tandem racing and 80 lead changes in a single event, right? After a caution, the bottom line started working but that was only because Jimmie Johnson was in the front spot. Without Johnson in the bottom lane, it was dead.
Jimmie Johnson is the car to beat in the Cup series, period. Matt Kenseth may have the same number of wins, but nobody is as consistently up front and threatening to win as the No. 48.
The Cup Series once again is different from the Nationwide Series in terms of consistency… and rules. At Talladega, the Nationwide drivers were coming to the checkered flag when a wreck started in the tri-oval and NASCAR threw the caution. The Cup Series, for the second race in a row at Daytona, has had a wreck in turn two on the final lap and they’ve let the field race back to the checkered flag. They got away with it in the 500, but this week, they tore up another dozen cars that would have gone home in one piece if they had thrown the caution.
The flaps in front of the windshields are designed to help get air out from under the car so that they don’t lift off when they spin sideways. Several of the cars that spun during the race had their flaps come loose from the cars, and a few of them appeared to leave the cars even though they’re supposed to be tethered. That’s not good because they are not that heavy and can easily fly up into the stands.
Before anything got started this weekend, there were 16 Cup cars and 15 Nationwide cars who lost roof flap spacers to NASCAR because they were out of specification. Whether the spacers were an advantage or not, the bottom line is you can’t mess with safety items and, if you do, NASCAR will come down on you without fail. The irony is that NASCAR forces all of the teams to purchase their flaps from one vendor, which is a Roush company. All three of Roush’s cup cars failed their inspection because of the spacers. Betting Uncle Jack isn’t overly thrilled with that development, right?
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Joey Logano breaks into the top 10 in points at Kentucky, then blows a right front tire at Daytona to end his night and fall all the way down the mountain to where he began.
Martin Truex, Jr. was looking good at Sonoma and Kentucky, thrusting him inside the top 10 in points. Unfortunately for him, the fickle finger of fate sent him for a spin and a tough hit into the inside wall at Daytona, knocking out all his early summer momentum.
Denny Hamlin wrecked twice in the event. The first time, with Truex and Juan Pablo Montoya wasn’t enough to end his night. The second one, he spun by himself in front of the pack and then got drilled by AJ Allmendinger. Hamlin climbed out under his own power thankfully but it really might be time for Denny to consider that season ending surgery.
Along with Hamlin in the second wreck, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Allmendinger, Dave Blaney, Travis Kvapil and David Reutimann all had their stuff torn up.
Kasey Kahne was looking good for the win with 4.5 laps to go until Marcos Ambrose tried to make a move from behind Jimmie Johnson to the bottom of the track. The shuffling flat out drilled Kahne and sent him hard into the inside wall on the back straight.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Kevin Harvick was hanging at the back of the pack to stay out of trouble and nearly lost the draft at one point. We’ve seen that strategy bite drivers in the rear before but it played out well for Harvick on Saturday night as he came home in third place.
Michael Waltrip may be annoying in the booth and not much on most race tracks but dude can still wheel a plate car with the best of them. Waltrip was nowhere to be seen for most of the event but when the checkered flag was in the air the No. 55, with Waltrip at the wheel, was in fifth position.
Kurt Busch came very close to going home early Saturday night when Paul Menard’s engine blew. As Menard tried to get to the bottom of the track with his car in flames, Busch went to his inside and was nearly collected. Instead he went on to give the Furniture Row Racing team another top 10 with his sixth place finish.
Casey Mears dodged a couple of bullets during Saturday night’s race but took one right in the door as he was coming to take the checkered flag. Fortunately for him he was almost at the start/finish line when it happened so he was giving credit for a ninth-place finish.
- Jimmie Johnson’s win was the 64th of his Sprint Cup career. Johnson is now 12 wins behind Dale Earnhardt for seventh all-time and 20 wins away from being in the top 5 all time in wins.
- This win is Johnson’s third win ever at Daytona and fourth victory of 2013.
- Johnson and Kenseth are tied for the most wins in the series with four apiece. Johnson and Kyle Busch are tied for the most top 5s, while no one has as many top 10 finishes as Johnson.
- Tony Stewart’s runner-up finish is his ninth all-time at Daytona and is his fourth top 5 in 2013.
- Kevin Harvick’s podium finish was his fifth top 5 of the season and sixth ever at Daytona.
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. won the Rookie of the Race with his 11th-place finish.
- Travis Kvapil won the American Ethanol Green Flag Restart award for this week.
- Kyle Busch’s pole position was his first ever on a restrictor plate track.
Top 10 finishers by Manufacturer
Chevrolet – 7
Toyota – 2
Ford – 1
- 34 cars were listed as running at the end of the race. Of course, that included the smoking heaps that littered the track thanks to the crash across the finish line.
- Jimmie Johnson is the first driver to win the 500 and 400 in the same season since Bobby Allison in 1982.
- Paul Menard’s blown engine was the first engine failure in the July Daytona race since 2009.
- In another telling sign of the health of the sport, there were only 43 cars that attempted to qualify for the race this weekend. Not that long ago, there were 50 cars showing up for this race. Of course, back then they sold tickets on the backstretch for the July race as well.
- Somehow, Jimmie Johnson was listed as being included in the incident that brought out the final caution of the night on the backstretch (when Ambrose took out Kahne). The only participation Johnson had in that incident was watching it in the rear-view mirror.
What’s the Points?
Obviously, Jimmie Johnson is still the point leader since he won the race and he was leading coming into the event. He is now more than a full race ahead of his closest pursuer. With Carl Edwards 29th place finish he fell from second to third behind Clint Bowyer. Bowyer is 49 points behind Johnson while Edwards is now 71 behind. Kevin Harvick is two points behind Edwards in the fourth while Dale Earnhardt Jr. clawed his way to an eighth place finish and gained one place to fifth some 110 points out of the top spot.
Matt Kenseth may be tied with the most wins in the series, but he also has three DNFs this year. While he was running at the end of the race on Saturday, he came home in 33rd which cost him a spot in the top 5. Kenseth now leads the second half of the top 10 in sixth position. Kyle Busch wrecked across the finish line in 12th position which allowed him to hang onto seventh in the standings. Greg Biffle ended the race with the front of his car still attached and managed to gain one spot in the standings to eighth. Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart were the big movers on Saturday with Busch moving up five spots to ninth and Stewart gaining six to round out the top 10.
The wild card competitors at this point in the season are Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne. They are not only eleventh and twelfth in points but they also are the highest two drivers in the point standings outside the top 10 with a victory each. Assuming they can hang onto those positions for eight more weeks they’ll love it.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic) – Restrictor plate racing is an acquired taste. Some people savor the intricate chess match that takes place at Daytona and Talladega. Others would rather choke down cole slaw that was sitting out in the Daytona sun for a week. The race started out with a single file parade like the Daytona 500 and ended with a double file parade that was not much better and ended with about half of the field demolished. With fewer lead changes than Dover, Michigan, Charlotte and Las Vegas, the 400 didn’t even have a jet dryer explosion this year. Try as we might to find a silver lining on this one there just isn’t one. As a result, we’ll give one hot Silver Bullet.
Next Up – The series heads to the Northeast for a heated battle at the Magic Mile in Loudon, New Hampshire. Bowing to the ADD generation of casual fans that NASCAR is looking for, we’ll see 301 laps around the track because apparently 500 laps is just too many. The race coverage starts at 1:00 PM Eastern on TNT and PRN.
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