After a Speedweeks that can be described as nothing else but crazy, Sunday saw a somewhat tame Daytona 500…if you can call multiple laps of three-wide racing for the lead at 200 mph tame. The race ended under yellow for a multi-car accident after the field took the white flag. Joey Logano, who led 31 total laps, was the leader at the point of caution and won his first Daytona 500.
The top 5 featured a who’s-who of restrictor-plate racing including Kevin Harvick (2), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (3), Denny Hamlin (4) and Jimmie Johnson (5). Pole sitter Jeff Gordon led a race high 87 laps but was involved in the last lap accident.
This year’s Daytona 500 saw no Busch brother in the field for the first time since 2000. Kurt Busch has been suspended indefinitely by NASCAR and Kyle Busch was injured in an accident on Saturday during the XFINITY Series race. Replacements Regan Smith and Matt Crafton finished 16th and 18th respectively. Regan will be in the No. 41 again at Atlanta. David Ragan will move from the No. 34 of Front Row Motorsports to Joe Gibbs Racing and will drive the No. 18.
Teams stay on the East coast and head to Atlanta for week 2 this season. But before drivers take on the high-speed track, let’s see who made the top 15.
How The Rankings Are Calculated: Frontstretch does our power rankings similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football. Our expert stable of NASCAR writers, both on staff and from other major publications will vote for the Top 20 on a 20-19-18-17… 3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first-place driver, 19 for second, and so on. In the end, Mike Mehedin calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and… here you go!
Scores big with 500 win at one of his self-proclaimed worst tracks — watch out! Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway
First Place Votes: 9
Might just be Stewart-Haas Racing’s only hope in 2015. Just call him Obi-Wan Kevinobi. Amy Henderson, Frontstretch.com
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Daytona could be a good omen for year one of the post-Letarte era if Junior is coming away disappointed with third. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com
Chad Knaus has done a super secret analysis of the current Chase rules and has come up with a top secret plan to win title number 7. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
Recorded a top-5 finish and did not have a single incident with Danica, making it a very successful day at the office. Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com
First Place Votes: 1
He’s NASCAR’s top rated driver at Atlanta with an average finish of 9.6. He dominated at Daytona until getting tied up in the back at the end. Aimee Turner, Richmond International Raceway
Clint Bowyer wants to put last year behind him. He and the No. 15 team are off to a good start. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Finished ninth in the Daytona 500, still frosted that the other Casey keeps beating him on the plate tracks. Amy Henderson, Frontstretch.com
Greg Biffle continues to stand out at Roush Fenway Racing. The Biff could have a great year. He’s still one one who could get championships in all three top NASCAR series. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
Didn’t get a chance to see what he had for the 500, but hopefully his Sprint Unlimited win was an early sign of a turnaround. Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway
Martin Truex, Jr.
Martin Truex, Jr. is off to a jumpstart this season. A single car team needs fast starts as well as fast finishes. Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com
The teammate rivalry is officially on. Keselowski and Logano rallied off wins aplenty last year, and both were in position to go for Daytona glory this year until Keselowski’s motor blew leaving Logano to wave the Penske flag. How Keselowski responds throughout the year will determine Penske’s lead driver. Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch.com
Now they head to the kind of track where Carl should win early and often at this year. Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com
Austin Dillon is looking to find some success after a sub-par rookie year in 2014. He ran as high as third in the final 50 laps, but got lost in the pack late before turning Jeff Gordon to bring out the final caution. Dillon limped home in 14th, with hopes of a strong 2015. Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch.com
Surely not the start he was expecting after riding the off-season wave from a second place points finish in 2014. Needs to remember “that’s plate racing” and start to dig out of the hole Tony Stewart created for him. Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com
Others Receiving Votes: Kyle Larson (37), Casey Mears (36), Tony Stewart (36), Sam Hornish, Jr. (34), Aric Almirola (23), AJ Allmendinger (21), Trevor Bayne (20), David Gilliland (14), Jamie McMurray (14), Paul Menard (12), Regan Smith (10), Michael Annett (8), Matt Crafton (6), Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (5), Ryan Blaney (2), Danica Patrick (1)
Participants: Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com; Aaron Bearden, Frontstretch.com; Dwight Drum, RaceTake.com; Amy Henderson, Frontstretch.com; Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com; Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com; Dennis Michelsen; RaceTalkRadio.com; Aimee Turner, Richmond International Raceway; Mike Zizzo, Texas Motor Speedway