5 Lessons Learned
By Jared Turner
JoLo Is Superstar
Remember just a few years ago when Joey Logano was regularly criticized for his perceived inability to live up to his potential and get the most out of his equipment? Well, those days after surely over. Now in his third year with Team Penske, and coming off of his best season ever, Logano is one of NASCAR’s true superstars – and he made the case like never before with an impressive drive to victory in the Daytona 500. The win was Logano’s first at Daytona and first on a restrictor-plate track. To top it all off, he’s already effectively guaranteed a spot in this year’s Chase.
When Jeff Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, no one could have written the script any better. Here was a driver who spent much of his childhood in nearby Pittsboro capturing the first ever NASCAR race at the fabled facility not far from where he grew up. About the only thing that could have topped it would have been a win in his 23rd and final Daytona 500 – and for a while Gordon seemed well on his way. But, instead of going to Victory Lane, Gordon ended up with a 33rd-place finish and a wrecked race car. That’s not a fairytale. That’s a nightmare.
Junior, Ives Are Dynamite
For anyone still skeptical of the Dale Earnhardt Jr./Greg Ives pairing, Earnhardt’s Speedweeks performance should be enough to shut them up. After flunking post-qualifying inspection and being forced to start at the rear of the 25-car grid for his Budweiser Duel, the driver of the No. 88 Chevy put on a show. Moving forward in a hurry, Earnhardt won his Duel to lock up the third starting spot for the Daytona 500 – a race he led and was in contention to win before ultimately finishing third. All in all, it was a stellar debut for the new driver-crew chief combo.
Danica Won’t Back Down
After believing that for the second day in a row she had wrecked due to the overly aggressive driving of Denny Hamlin, Danica Patrick had finally had enough. Upset about losing control of her No. 10 car and spinning late in her Budweiser Duel, Patrick put the blame on Hamlin – who had been closely following her but may or may not have actually run into her, depending on one’s view of the replay. In any case, Patrick didn’t back down from the opportunity to express her displeasure, gesturing and yelling angrily at Hamlin, who then gave her an earful in return.
OK, so last-minute substitute drivers Regan Smith (Kurt Busch) and Matt Crafton (Kyle Busch) didn’t exactly set the woods on fire in Sunday’s Daytona 500. They did, however, keep their respective cars intact and earn finishes respectable enough to likely be sought for future fill-in roles. Without a doubt, both Smith and Crafton were thrust into very difficult situations, having had minimal time – and in the case of Crafton no time – to test out their cars prior to Sunday’s Daytona 500. Both managed to keep their noses clean and help their teams salvage decent results on an otherwise trying weekend, however.