Michael McDowell. We’re going to wager there were no wagers paid out for the Daytona 500. Anyone that would have selected McDowell to win the “500” would be the type of person to choose a McRib over a North Carolina baby back rack…

Lots of Cup career starts… No wins… A handful of top 10s… Nope. Not the top pick to win the points opener. He’s been around quite a while but hasn’t been able to make that jump to the top tier… Until now. A win at the Daytona 500.

Now… Front Row Motorsports is indeed on the front. For now. Time will tell if this win pushes McDowell and FRM to show more performance. The win of the #34 LOVES Ford brings to mind the 2011 win by Trevor Bayne. Bayne managed some good rides but couldn’t quite grab a victory payoff after his Daytona. (It should be noted health issues plagued Trevor’s career moving forward.)

Whatever… All things being equal McDowell was on his way to very respectable third place. Joey Logano was leading Brad Keselowski. Final lap touch, spin, wall, fire, done… McDowell rolled through and nosed over the caution lights in front.

In a race that started in the afternoon with a big crash early on and rain shortly after that held the field until shortly after 9:00pm. The race ended a bit after midnight.

Michael McDowell’s late night ride into fantasy land marked yet another odd out finish for the stories that are spawned at Daytona. It was a miracle finish for a race that paid homage to a 20 year loss of Dale Earnhardt. Lap 3 was a tribute to the Man in the Goodwrench #3. The final lap (and the mash up in lap 14) was a tribute to the racing safety largely inspired by that fabled wreck in 2001.

This Daytona had a few surprises. McDowell… Well…, Yeah… The #48 with Alex Bowman on pole was another. Although, in reality if you think about it, the Ally #48 with Alex Bowman was the same car for Alex Bowman as the #88 would have been with different stickers. Bubba Wallace and the new #23 team ran really well with time up front and finished 17th after being caught in the last lap mash up. Two big crashes that were rather spectacular. A mid race fast food run by drivers. Denny Hamlin did not win.

On top of that… They stay in Daytona to run the road course as the next points race. Speed Week is Speed Weeks and Daytona never ends… For another week, anyway…

That was entertaining. Perhaps even more so for those race fans that tune in to watch NASCAR but don’t dive in to all the nuts and bolts of the news and bits. These are the folks that may have gotten a surprise by watching the opening laps of the Busch Clash. Right hand turns, esses, bus stops and chicanes… It might have been a shock to the system for left turn fans looking for a glimpse of the Daytona 500.

Perhaps they thought someone forgot to take the cones and markers down from that pesky sports care race 2 weeks prior… Whatever the case, it was entertaining. NASCAR cars are heavier than the IMSA cars that ran the ROLEX and it showed with spins and straight line runs off course. Drivers like Kevin Harvick who we’re used to seeing in the top 5 were struggling to stay on the pavement. Some others, such as defending NASCAR Cup Champion Chase Elliott, were taming the turns with a start from the back to the front in the first half of the race.

Lead changes were plenty from straight up racing to pit strategies. Ryan Blaney was on the pole from a random draw. Denny Hamlin quickly took the front a few laps in. Tyler Reddick, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. traded front spots up to the scheduled competition caution at lap 16.

Kurt Busch won off pit road to restart up front but quickly lost it in the first turn. Mid race mishaps included Cole Custer losing power and catching fire around the overheated brakes. The caution put William Byron back on track with a bad tire change that quickly went flat and off the rim.

Kurt Busch won off pit road to restart up front but quickly lost it in the first turn. Mid race mishaps included Cole Custer losing power and catching fire around the overheated brakes. The caution put William Byron back on track with a bad tire change that quickly went flat and off the rim. Truex had missed a turn and had to restart in the back. He came back to the front just to lose it in the dirt and curbs of a chicane and spun the #19 into the garage.

The FedEx #11 of Denny Hamlin might have been the car to beat but he had to pit with half the field with 6 laps to go. Chase Elliott stayed out on older tires and Ryan Blaney took the lead with 2 to go. Elliott wasn’t having and raced hard on the final lap, getting under the #12 in the final chicane. The tires couldn’t hold and he spun Blaney as his own #9 bounced off the curbing. All this allowed Kyle Busch in the #18 M&Ms Toyota to roll past both of them and take the checkers.

Kyle was there when it mattered, ready to roll through the advantage if it presented. With it, he grabbed a second last lap Busch Clash pass for the win. (He did a last lap pass – win in 2012)

Kyle Busch – Busch Clash Winner 2021

The Duels are Thursday. The Daytona 500 is Sunday. ARCA, Camping World and Xfinity run Friday and Saturday. All with standard, left turn Daytona racing. They will remain at Daytona the following week with a full race back on the road course.

If the Busch Clash was any indication, the final February race at Daytona should be a wild one.

Let’s face it. Despite “The Weekend”, the Super Bowl is one day. Racing practically fills 4 weeks at Daytona from the Roar. the Rolex, the Clash, the Duels, the 500 and the Cup Road Course. Throw in the Dixie Vodka at Homestead and you have 5 weeks of racing in Florida.

One weekend in Tampa for the Super Bowl up against all that racing… And we still have barely heard a word from major news. No news anchors discussing their take on Corvettes winning over world wide competition or Acura and Wayne Taylor bringing home a 3rd trophy in a row… No attention on Chase Elliott or Jimmie Johnson competing at the Rolex… No predictions on what commercials will air during the Daytona 500… No talk for weeks about the competitors, the changes in the season or, for that matter, anything to do with racing.

They gave racing some lip service when NASCAR placed a ban on the confederate flag and the reports of the noose incident last year. You would think, even with that, there would at least be some interest on Bubba Wallace and his new team, 23XI Racing, with owners Denny Hamlin and NBA Hall of Famer, Michael Jordan. No mention of 7 time Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson not running NASCAR and focusing on Indy…

Nauseating minutia for weeks on the Super Bowl… Speed Weeks gets nothing…

OK… Fine… We’ll take award wiining country music artist, Luke Combs, and the Daytona 500, and all that goes with it, as something so special it’s above the realm of the average “talking head”. We’ve had the Roar and the Rolex and we’re ready for the green flag to fly on the Busch Clash at DAYTONA (Tuesday, 2-9). The week continues with the Bluegreen Vacations Duels at DAYTONA (Thursday, 2-11). Friday and Saturday, the 12th and 13th, we’ll have the ARCA Menards Series, The Camping World Truck Series and the XFinity Series.

Sunday the 14th… Valentine’s Day… We’ll take the Daytona 500 and roll on with our 10 month season of motor sport. We’ll take the laps… The average talking heads can stay on script while we go racing and stay fascinated by shiny things going fast.

Now… There are some changes to tuck in your head. We all know Jimmie Johnson retired from full time NASCAR Cup racing. We’re not going to completely rule out that he’ll take the seat from time to time. Alex Bowman will take over the #48. The #88 is out for 2021 but Hendrick brought back the #5 with Kyle Larson at the wheel and back in the NASCAR field following the virtual racing vocal lack of judgement in 2020.

As mentioned, Bubba Wallace is in the #23 for 23XI Racing with team owners Hamlin and Jordan. Petty Motorsports has placed Erik Jones in the iconic #43 as Christopher Bell takes over the #20 at JGR. The Stewart-Haas #14 will have Chase Briscoe in the seat as Clint Bowyer takes a spot in the studio broadcast. The #42, taken over last year by Matt Kenseth, will feature Ross Chastain for 2021.

If you had signature hats for these drivers or numbers, you’ll need new ones… Or be really good at embroidery…

It’s race week at Daytona. Time to put men in tights and football away and go for the checkered flag!

The coincidence, or the weird, or the ironic…

Not sure which…

Daytona and the opening of NASCAR offered a generous and exciting start to the season but it also raised the spirit of the modern sport itself.

It’s all a bit spooky…

Consider the recap. Richard Childress brings the #3 back to Cup with driver and grandson Austin Dillon. Dillon has done the number proud with the trucks and a championship in the Nationwide series.

Dillon qualifies with the #3 on the pole for the Daytona 500. The first return of the #3 to Cup since the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt (the man that made the number an icon) and it is leading the pack for the start of the new NASCAR season. (more…)

It’s kind of spooky. Cool, yes… But spooky.

The #3 is back in the top series of NASCAR. It’s been on the Camping World Series trucks and the next level Nationwide Series. It won a Nationwide Championship last year in 2013. Now, that driver that won with it has brought it into the Sprint Cup. His grandfather is the owner. The kid grew up surrounded by it.

Austin Dillon and Richard Childress Racing. RCR owns the number and had kept it off the tracks for several years after Dale Earnhardt drove it to 7 championships and, finally, to his death at the Daytona 500 in 2001. (more…)

Was it a plan to begin with or simply a result of experience on racing?

Yes… Jeff Gordon overtook Danica Patrick on lap one of the Daytona 500 to lead it for the opening laps. Patrick seemed all too happy to ride along in the 2 spot between Gordon and Kyle Busch.

That was the start of the Great American Race as they turned those opening laps over an obvious light spot on the front stretch. That spot was the remnant of an airborne blender from the Nationwide Series race the day before. That incident was on everyone’s mind all morning long not because of the track damage so much as race fans were involved and injured. Drivers spin and crash as almost a matter of course but fans involved casts a shadow over it all…

In-race reports kept updates on those fans which still listed a few in the hospital but recovering well. (more…)

Where did they have it tucked away over the weekend?

The speed, that is…

Wednesday practice at Daytona was showing several cars running above 197 mph. A couple topped 198…

It is interesting as the qualifying topped in the midway over 196. Danica Patrick snagged the pole with a lap of 196.434. Wednesday, Michael Waltrip pushed his Toyota 2mph faster.

Does this point to pack running with a draft, weather, gravity, lunar phase, the price of oranges…? Does this point to immediate trouble for Patrick to hold that position or is this an indicator for this new Gen-6 car in a pack race over single run qualifying?

We probably won’t have to wait long. The Budweiser Duals will likely give a better indication than the Sprint Unlimited from the weekend.

The season, the pressure, the questions and the price of oranges are all on the table for the Daytona 500.