This industry has a way of creating talking points for an entire week that if it involved anyone else, with the exception of a few individuals, we would likely have moved on by the time the next event arrived. That is not the case with us coming out of Daytona.
When you look at all that happened on Sunday, just to be able to get the race to the point they did, was a valiant effort by everyone. But then, when you look at how it ended, and who won, we all began to talk about the finish. Was it the right call to end things at that point, and was the No. 77 team with Justin Haley, a team that is on a much different budget than these major organizations, the rightful winner.
This is what’s humbling about this business, and Haley himself said it best, “…as long as they’re talking.”
A year ago in Xfinity, he was the first car to the line at the finish, but was not declared the winner, due to his tires going below the yellow line coming to the flag. He felt that NASCAR took that away from him, and he was the one that won the race. Now, we’re talking about how he won on Sunday because of a gamble to stay out, time the weather right, and wait until official word that the race was over.
If this had been anyone else longing to get that win, even Kurt Busch who felt the win was taken away from him because of the timing of the lightning strike, we wouldn’t be talking about this now. It’d be a story that was over, and done, by Tuesday morning.
Why is this a big deal…it’s not the first time a driver stayed out to win a race when playing the rain game. Five years ago, Aric Almirola did that when he took Richard Petty Motorsports to victory at Daytona, after only 91 of the slated 160 laps in the race.
Go back to 2008 when the Coca-Cola 600 got moved to Memorial Day itself and it was stopped for rain, leading to a gamble by David Reutimann and crew to stay out while rain moved in. He ultimately won that day as well.
All because of an unexpected winner, we are still talking about it. The fact we are still talking about it just means Haley’s name is out there even more, and in the end that’s what every driver wants. If it was Kyle Busch that was out front when the race was called, this would be a non-subject. If this were Jimmie Johnson out front, it’d still be discussed since he hasn’t won a race since 2017. But, all because of timing and the young man who was leading, we are talking about it.
That race is over, now we’re onto Kentucky, and now we’re at the second half of the season. Let’s focus back on what is important, and that’s the racing on track. We’ve seen Kentucky really light up the night in past years, although at one point that cost a couple people their vehicles in the parking lot.
Let’s rock the Bluegrass State tonight.