If it could happen in one afternoon, it could on Sunday. The drama, the spectacle, the aggravation, hurt, anxiety, and joy…it all comes in one race.
That is what the season-opening race brings for all teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. This is the big one that every driver wants to win, and has dreamed of ever since climbing behind the wheel of a car. It’s the one race that one must first qualify the car, then race the car just to get their starting spot for the race. Months of preparation, massaging, engineering and hopes all came into this one race.
Daytona brings it all out because a win here, whether one has a championship already or not, can make a career. And those that have already won this event, they want to win it again. It means that much to everyone.
This is the “Great American Race” for a reason, and every driver knows how big it can be for a career.
When the green flag dropped, because of the new format of three stages, it puts up the anxiety to maximum right away, because after the first two stages, being near the front paid dividends. Plus, being the one right at the front paid even more dividends for later in the season.
But for a few, being up front then only gave them dividends at that moment. Shortly after, those hopes for victory, dashed in accidents.
When the laps began winding down, it was a question of who, when and where. Who would make the first move? When will that move come? Where on the track will it take place.
In the end, it all came in one corner. One pass, with a sputtering engine, and it was for all the glory. In a car that was scraped up on all sides, a patched up fender, half the number unable to be read on the right side, it was a first for a driver that already had a championship, but now had the biggest trophy in the sport.
Somehow, Kurt Busch made his way through the field after having some damage in one of the few multi-car accidents that marred the competition, but was out front when it mattered the most.
Busch, the “Outlaw” as he’s titled, led one lap…the one that mattered the most. It was his first restrictor plate victory, the first victory for Stewart-Haas Racing at the biggest race of the year, and the first win for the same organization with Ford. Quite an accomplishment for Busch and his entire team.
Unfortunately for the participants in this year’s League, his win did not pay off for them. In fact, all abut one writer had a pitiful week to start the season. But, as the saying goes, there’s nowhere to go from here but up.
Here’s your season-opening standings after what turned out to be one wild and intense 59th running of the Daytona 500:
NOTE: Tie-breakers in points will be as follows, A-amount of wins; B-playoff points; C-finishing position of driver chosen. With this being the first race of the season, ties are first listed by finishing position, and then in alphabetical order based on the participant’s last name.
Rob Blount (43) Joey Logano finished 6th –  0
Penny Whitecotton (42) Kevin Harvick finished 22nd –  1
Billy Fellin (33) Chase Elliott finished 14th –  0
Dustin Parks (33) Chase Elliott finished 14th –  0
Rob Tiongson (33) Chase Elliott finished 14th –  0
Ashley Hull (33) Denny Hamlin finished 17th –  0
Ashley McCubbin (33) Denny Hamlin finished 17th –  0
Sal Sigala Jr. (31) Brad Keselowski finished 27th –  0
Misan Akuya (22) Jamie McMurray finished 28th –  0
Klarissa Mitchell (22) Jamie McMurray finished 28th –  0
Dalton Hastings (13) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 37th –  0
Patti Rodisch (13) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 37th –  0
Ashley Hobbs (7) Matt Kenseth finished 40th –  0
Summer Bedgood (0) NO PICK SENT –  0
Next Race: Now that all the drama of the first race of the season, all the build up that consists of the biggest race of the year, has come to a conclusion, the season can truly get under way in the eyes of many teams. The plates come off the engines, and all the power and ability of the teams can really be tested.
The first place to test out all that ability, along with the new aerodynamic package for 2017, is at a track where the surface is old, tires wear out fast, and each lap it’s as if a car is on the edge of disaster.
It’s a track that saw a change in 1997 both in length and configuration, but it’s a place that drivers love to come to. The haulers make a quick trip north to Georgia, the home of the NFC champion Falcons, and the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Writers, it’s a normal week for your submissions. Have your picks locked in by Thursday, March 2, at 10 p.m. ET for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.