What We Know After Daytona: 5 Observations

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Dale-Jr.-Car

“Bad Brad” Is NASCAR’s New “Plate Ace”

Brad Keselowski is giving Dale Earnhardt Jr. a serious run for his money for the unofficial title of NASCAR’s restrictor-plate king. Although BK doesn’t have as many plate wins as Junior (who began his full-time Cup career in 2000, compared to Keselowski in 2010), Keselowski has put together quite an impressive resume at the plate tracks in recent years. With his victory in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400, Keselowski now has a combined five wins between Daytona and Talladega, with the latter venue being the site of his first four plate triumphs. Four of Keselowski’s five plate wins have come since 2012 – a pretty good record and one that’s actually better than Earnhardt’s record at the plate tracks over the same stretch.

Joey Logano Is Making Enemies — Again

No matter how hard he tries to steer clear of controversy, Joey Logano seems to find himself right in the middle of it. The latest came on the final lap of Saturday night’s race at Daytona when Logano’s No. 22 Ford tagged Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Chevrolet, sending Busch for a spin as the field roared through the tri-oval on the final lap. Instead of finishing near the front where he had been running most of the night, Busch crossed the finish line in 23rd – the final car on the lead lap. Needless to say, Busch nor his crew chief, Tony Gibson, were too happy about the contact. With drivers notoriously having short memories, don’t be surprised of Busch exacts some payback on Logano at a race in the near future.

Dale Jr. Has Lost His 2015 Plate Mojo

Remember last year when Dale Earnhardt Jr. picked up two wins and finished no worse than third in any of the four restrictor-plate races? Well, last year might as well be ancient history based on how poorly NASCAR’s most popular driver has performed at Daytona and Talladega this season. After crashing in both the Daytona 500 and the spring Talladega race, Earnhardt finished a highly disappointing 21st on Saturday night at Daytona after suffering minor damage in a multi-car wreck. After the race, on Twitter, Earnhardt blamed his dismal performance on his car, calling his night “miserable” and noting that handling has “suddenly become a major factor” at Daytona. Any way you slice it, the plate races have been a drag for Junior in 2016.

NASCAR Got Lucky With The Weather

Well, what do you know: A July Sprint Cup race at Daytona actually ran from start to finish without being interrupted by wet weather. That’s borderline miraculous considering the extent to which rain has wreaked havoc on the summertime proceedings at the World Center of Racing in the recent years. Fortunately, this year all of the rain came BEFORE the start of the race, but the soggy stuff was predictably still a factor throughout the weekend. Of course, just because NASCAR got lucky on Saturday night doesn’t mean we should continue racing on Saturday night at Daytona every July 4 weekend. It’s high time this race be moved back to its old mid-morning time slot – when rain is far less likely in Central Florida in early July.

The Race To The Chase Is Heating Up

With nine races remaining before the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, 11 different drivers have been to Victory Lane and are therefore all but 100 percent locked into the 16-driver playoff. With it highly unlikely that more than two or three first-time 2016 winners will emerge in the next nine races, it’s a pretty safe bet that multiple drivers will punch their ticket to the Chase based on their position in the standings at the end of the regular season. Currently in position to do just that are the following five drivers: Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney. Sitting just four points in arrears of Blaney is Jamie McMurray, who holds a six-point edge on Trevor Bayne.

 

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