The 60th running of the Daytona 500 lived up to its expectations. It included numerous large crashes that all could have been labeled ‘The Big One.’ Each took out several of the sports’ biggest names and favorites to win. “The Survival 500” is easily the best nickname for this year’s race.
In the dying laps of stage one, the first big wreck occurred. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. threw a big block on Ryan Blaney to hold onto second place. In doing this, Blaney incidentally turned Stenhouse’s car sideways towards the wall. Stenhouse swerved hard right straight towards the wall but made an incredible save. But instead of staying on the high-line and letting cars pass him low, he quickly cut down in front of Erik Jones to keep him back.
In doing this he caused Jones to spin in front of the pack and collect several other cars, including Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, William Byron, and Ty Dillon. After being checked from the infield care center, Johnson said he wasn’t happy with how hard other drivers were blocking that early in the race. Kurt Busch went on to win stage one and get one playoff point.
Late in stage two the big one struck again. Brad Keselowski gave Chase Elliott a big push and the two jumped out of line with the intent to pass Ryan Blaney for the lead. Blaney changed lanes in front of Elliott and it caused Elliott’s car to get loose and take a right turn all the way up the banking and hard into outside wall.
Keselowski’s car would also go around and the two spinning cars would collect several others. Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, David Gilliland, and Danica Patrick were all knocked out of the race in the wreck.
After leaving the infield care center, Danica Patrick told Fox Sports that ‘It just wasn’t meant to be.’ Ryan Blaney went on to win stage two and get the one playoff point.
Nearing the end of the race, William Byron blew a tire and spun out, bringing out the caution. This would reset the field for a late restart that was sure to get ugly.
With less than two laps to go Kurt Busch spun off the nose of Blaney’s car causing yet another huge crash that took out more big names. Blaney slipped through the crash while only sustaining minor damage to the nose and right side of his car. He dominated most of the day and led a race-high 118 laps, but his car wasn’t same after the damage.
In total, this wreck involved Blaney, Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Stenhouse Jr., Brendan Gaughan, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., AJ Allmendinger, Jeffrey Earnhardt, and the pole-sitter, Alex Bowman. This wreck sent the 60th running of the Great American Race to NASCAR Overtime.
On the final lap Aric Almirola led the field. He sliced to the top of the track to block a hard-charging Austin Dillon in the 3 car. After the block by Almirola, Dillon got into the bumper of the 10 and turn him straight into the outside wall.
The caution didn’t come out and NASCAR let them race back to the checkered flag. Dillon crossed the line first with the rookie, Darrell Wallace Jr., and Denny Hamlin door-to-door for second. Wallace Jr. edged Hamlin at the line by a mere few inches for the runner-up finish. Joey Logano and Chris Buescher rounded out the top-5 in this hectic race.
After the race Dillon commented on how he wrecked Almirola to take the lead. He claimed that in the same situation Almirola should do the same to him. Almirola, after being released from the care center, voiced his displeasure and how he was heartbroken over the finish.
Dillon did an Earnhardt-like burnout through the grass and eventually climbed out of his car and ‘dabbed’ towards the crowd. The 3 car hadn’t won at Daytona in 20 years. The late Dale Earnhardt Sr. was the last to park the 3 in victory lane back in 1998.
The win for Dillon locks him into the playoffs in the season-opening race. He seems to have a knack for winning the big races. He got his first career win last season when he stretched it on fuel to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
Next week NASCAR travels to Atlanta Motor Speedway, where you can expect far fewer wrecks and many more cars running on the final lap.
Featured image courtesy of Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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