In A Nutshell: It was a restrictor plate race in the Busch Series, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was running….simple NASCAR math should tell you how this one turned out. As usual, Earnhardt had the ability to run anywhere on the track that he pleased, as he led 88 of 103 laps and was able to hold off all attacks from the pack behind him during a green/white/checkered dash to the finish to add another Daytona victory to his collection. Junior's 21st career Busch Series victory ties him in the win column in the series with his father, Dale Earnhardt, and Harry Gant. Brian Vickers came home second, followed by Kevin Harvick, J.J. Yeley, and Carl Edwards rounding out the Top 5.
Who Should Have Won: Dale, Jr. He put a spanking on the field, and it didn't really look like anyone could touch him. It may not be an automatic win on the Cup side these days for Dale, Jr. at Daytona, but on the Busch side of things, it appears to be status quo. This race had a strange look from the early going as Earnhardt drove off to a ten second lead, but even when the pack closed up late in the race as the cautions started to fly, it still didn't matter, as the 8 car still found itself lodged at the front.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend:
1) So were the tires horrible or great?
That depends on whom you asked. Kevin Harvick emerged from his car complaining about Goodyear's choice of rubber. He didn't hold back on his criticism, blaming the tires for ruining the race. Carl Edwards took the opposite opinion, smiling broadly as he praised the great tire that was provided. From what I understand, there were more people on Harvick's side of the fence, if that helps clear anything up.
2) Do softer bumpers really make that big of a difference in preventing the big one?
Softer bumpers eliminate slam drafting, making it necessary to use more finesse when giving a push to the car in front of you, but they do nothing to improve the judgment of drivers deciding when to give someone the tap. Carl Edwards barely touched Michael Waltrip, but he still managed to spin him out because he tapped him going into a turn.
3) Is NASCAR making progress on breaking up the big packs at restrictor plate tracks?
The first part of the race looked almost like they were racing anywhere but Daytona, as the field strung out around the track with Earnhardt, Jr. actually running off by himself to a hefty lead. This is exactly what NASCAR has been attempting to accomplish with various rules packages over the years. It didn't last, though, as the big three-wide pack returned in the second half when the field got bunched up on a caution, and stayed that way the rest of the event.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:
The Cup drivers locked down the Top 5 this week, as the highest finishing Busch regular was Mike Wallace in seventh in James Finch's No. 1 Miccosoukee Resorts Dodge. The only other Busch only driver to make the Top 10 was the Raybestos Rookie of the Race, John Andretti, who finished 10th.
There was no “Big One” on Friday night, but there were two multicar incidents that left a number of cars damaged. The first happened when Reed Sorenson made contact with Kevin Lepage. Sorenson's car spun across the track, collecting Paul Tracy. In the ensuing scramble, Johnny Sauter, Danny O'Quinn, Jr., and Clint Bowyer also suffered damage. The second accident occurred when Carl Edwards spun Michael Waltrip using the bump draft entering a turn. Waltrip lost control and collected Paul Menard, Stephen Leicht, Jay Sauter, and Denny Hamlin.
Kevin Harvick showed championship form in overcoming adversity this week. Harvick's crew chief, Shane Wilson, was ejected from the Speedway for making unapproved aerodynamic modifications to the back of the car. In addition, Harvick's qualifying time was disallowed, and he was forced to start the race at the rear of the field. That didn't stop the championship leader, who still raced his way to third and extended his points lead to 388 points over Carl Edwards, who moved up one spot to second. That cushion could shrink, however, as NASCAR likely will levy more penalties for that infraction on Harvick's car. Meanwhile, Clint Bowyer also moved up one spot to third despite his crash, now trailing the leader by 423 points. Denny Hamlin limped home in 30th due to damage suffered in the wreck with Michael Waltrip, causing him to drop two spots in the standings from second to fourth. J.J. Yeley's Top 5 result at Daytona kept him fifth in the standings.
Greg Biffle returned to the Busch Series this week and moved back up two spots to sixth, while Paul Menard, eliminated from the race in the Waltrip wreck, dropped one place to seventh. Kyle Busch also slid back one position to eighth. Kenny Wallace and Johnny Sauter held steady, remaining in ninth and tenth.
Buschwhackers in this race: 16
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 256 of 772
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 8
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 129 of 180
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 16 of 18
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 of Busch Series points standings: 7
"I was slowing down…and it's just a mess. When you get three-wide and they start wrecking, you just slow down and hope nobody gets you from the back. The guys behind me had nowhere to go and got in the back of me. I got caught over there in the gate." Danny O'Quinn
"I really thought that we had a shot at Junior and did jump on the outside of him that one time. I thought â€˜If the 57 goes with me, it’s over with. If he doesn't, then it's over with.' And it was over with. He didn't go with me, and Junior was able to make it stick." John Andretti
"The tires are very, very difficult. They've got Talladega tires at Daytona. That's why they call them Talladega tires." John Andretti, who along with David Green, participated in a Goodyear tire test at Daytona in preparation for this race. Andretti explained that only right side tires of this compound were tested, giving different results than what was found during the race, when matching left sides were also used.
Next Up: The Busch Series returns to Saturday, running in the early afternoon at Chicagoland Speedway in the USG Durock 300. Television coverage starts at 3:00 PM ET on TNT.
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