Story By: Sol Tucker
Photos By: Sol Tucker
Daytona Beach, FL–
One of the handful of races I have watched as fan, could have been one of the wildest. Now for some, this was just another chaotic Daytona ending and for others it was what they came to see.
Tempers flaring, cars flying everywhere, overtime, what a way to start the season. Ask some of the top guns like Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, they would say something completely different. Busch’s radio transmissions after the second restart certainly showcased the frustrations caused by some of the younger guys in the series.
When all the smoke and wrecked cars cleared the track Ricky Stenhouse Jr. claimed his third career Cup Series win by beating out 39 other drivers who made up this year’s field, including former winners Joey Logano, Austin Cindric, Michael McDowell, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson.
Quite a few of these drivers were caught in that final wreck that had Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson heading for the garage.
With one lap to go at the line, Busch chose to restart on the outside, while Dillon was on the inside. Busch led on Lap 201 — after 49 lead changes — but Stenhouse was quick to overtake him.
However, things were halted once again when the caution came back out after Dillon went for a spin that resulted in a big crash off Turn 3 that decimated nearly half of the remaining field. The 13 drivers involved were Chastain, Cindric, Dillon, Keselowski, Hamlin, Herbst, Burton, Byron, Justin Haley, Zane Smith, Todd Gilliland, Noah Gragson and Johnson.
For all of the fans in attendance, this could have been a much better race at the end with one of the top drivers taking a 500 victory. From the looks of things with 7 laps remaining Keslowski was going to get a victory, but the yellow flag again caught him and also later forced Busch out a 500 victory that left him cursing on the radio during that final lap.
One driver that surely was surprised with his finish was Travis Pastrana, who took home a 11th place finish in a car that he had to qualify to even race in the 500.
“I am excited for this, said Pastrana. “Having my family here to experience this is even better.”
So where does the drama go from here? Out to California where Kevin Harvick will race one final time in his home state on this track and all of the drivers will see this track for the last time, as Auto Club is off the schedule for at least two seasons as they build a brand-new short track to replace this one. Can’t wait to see how week two kicks off after that wild ending to week one. Stay tuned!