If Blake Shelton is attempting to bring back the sunshine with NBC taking over the second half of the broadcasting schedule, it was a challenge at least to start with on Saturday night.
The one advantage compared to a year ago, the race began well past 11 p.m. and lasted into the very early hours of the morning, long before anyonen would consider waking up, even for a weekend. This time, the race ended at an hour more suited for those ready to head to the campground and get some rest.
All the fans at Daytona got what they expected on this night.
There was intense action, some blocking for position, and the “Big One” went down that took away many contenders that usually are seen at the front of the field.
But, this race was about staying up front early, often, and in the end. One driver was able to do just that, and brought home a monumental win for an organization. Brad Keselowski came on board with the Penske team back in 2011, taking over a famous ride that saw the likes of Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch at the helm. He won his championship the following season, and has since been considered one of the elite drivers in the field.
On Saturday night, in dominant fashion, he would secure his second win of 2016, but also bring about the 100th victory for Penske Racing in NASCAR Cup competition. Quite the accomplishment, as it is also Penske’s first win at Daytona since the 2008 Daytona 500 when Ryan Newman brought home that victory.
What his win didn’t bring home was a win in the League. In fact, it was a downright ugly week for all the writers. No one cracked the top-10, with all but one finishing outside the front half of the field.
Let’s look at our new standings after the Coke Zero 400:
Ashley McCubbin (537) Kevin Harvick finished 39th – 2
Sal Sigala Jr. (515) Jimmie Johnson finished 35th – 2
Ashley Hull (512) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 21st – 7
Rob Blount (503) Tony Stewart finished 26th – 4
Dustin Parks (498) Tony Stewart finished 26th – 1
Patti Rodisch (485) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 21st – 2
Klarissa Mitchell (442) Denny Hamlin finished 17th – 1
Misan Akuya (431) Jamie McMurray finished 34th – 3
Rob Tiongson (426) Tony Stewart finished 26th – 2
Mary Jo Buchanan (424) Kevin Harvick finished 39th – 2
Billy Fellin (420) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 21st – 1
Kara Martin (409) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 21st – 1
Ashley Hobbs (379) Kurt Busch finished 23rd – 1
Stephen Conley (375) Ryan Blaney finished 14th – 1
Next Race: In sticking with a theme over the first two races of the month, NASCAR continues a Saturday night run at the race track. This time, the plates are coming off, but instead the same aerodynamic package that was used at Michigan goes back on. A smaller splitter, a much shorter and narrow spoiler, and reduced size of shark fin all will mean a lot more handling complications.
Ironically, the track it is being used at, last season was the first track to test out the lower downforce package that helped create what is being used on the cars this season. NASCAR is always looking to make competition better, and for the second year in a row the Kentucky Speedway will test out if NASCAR’s new package could be worth running in the future.
If Michigan was any indication, things could get really interesting come Saturday night.
Writers, it’s a lot to take in, but lock in those picks by Thursday, July 7, at 10 p.m. ET for the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts.