Racing is back. We’ve been stuck in Florida for two months but racing is back. The IMSA ROLEX back in January through a double shot at Daytona and a swing to Miami… That’s just a lot of Florida!

It has been interesting! First time winners at Daytona and an early season checker for William Byron at Homestead certainly threw the odds players under the bus but pushed some names out from the shadows.

Byron placed his second Cup win in the column at Homestead with new crew chief Rudy Fugle. One week before at the Daytona Road Course, Christopher Bell notched his first Cup win. Michael McDowell is on a bit of a streak with top 10 finishes following his Daytona 500 win.

Now… Finally… We’ll see a different view that doesn’t include Florida beaches. NASCAR is moving into the traveling schedule with the next stop at Las Vegas and the Pennzoil 400 (presented by Jiffy Lube).

We’re about to see racing start their moves around the country. Vegas, Phoenix then back east for Atlanta and the much anticipated dirt race at the famed stadium of Bristol. More short track action follows at martinsville, with Richmond to follow. From there it’s Talladega!

The season will be in full swing with the only questions remaining will be who’s in front and who is able to attend. Fans and the localities are hungry to get out and about and the covid vaccine rollout is putting more laps on the board. How all of this will combine for race attendance into the Spring is yet to be seen… But the hopes are high.

For now… The question remains if there will be another surprise winner at Phoenix or will one of the veterans, eager to put the young guns in the mirror, make their mark on the track?

While the big series are scratching at the headlines, the small “weekender” tracks across the country are blowing off the dust of Winter and prepping to go. Many already have had their first laps…

Keep the eyes and ears open for those vaccines. Get registered to get it if you’re not already. 2021 is shaping up for a return to “normal”… Or, at least, something close to it.

Daytona is throwing a lot of “firsts” at us for 2021. The Daytona Cup Road Course wraps a month of racing in Daytona, going back to the “Roar” and Rolex for IMSA in January to the Clash, the Duels, the 500 and this, the road course. This year the schedule is Daytona times two for NASCAR points races to start as just one “first”. (Back to back Daytona 500 and Daytona Road Course one week later)

Of course, Daytona hosts the “first” points races for IMSA and for NASCAR.

IMSA-Rolex 24 and Wayne Taylor Racing. Yes, it was a third win for WTR but… 2021 marks the “first” year running an Acura powered DPi (Switched from Cadillac).

Kyle Busch won his second Busch Clash – but his “first” scheduled race with new crew chief Ben Beshore. (Beshore subbed for a few races in 2017)

Alex Bowman grabs the pole in the Daytona 500 – His “first” points start in the #48 replacing retired Jimmie Johnson (*Bowman had the pole in the #88 in 2018).

Michael McDowell makes his mark with his “first” Cup win at the Daytona 500.

Ben Rhodes gets his “first” Daytona win, and his “first” year of 2 wins, and his “first” 2 wins in a row – All at Daytona for the Camping World Trucks to start the 2021 points season.

Ty Gibbs wins his “first” Xfinity start – Xfinity Daytona Road Course.

Christopher Bell won the Daytona Cup Road Course – His “first” Cup series win.

Now… After a month of racing… We leave Daytona. However, the next race is still in Florida – At Homestead Miami. (A “first” for Homestead to immediately follow Daytona…)

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…