Here is a brief article on my opinions about the 2017 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
1. Stenhouse wins again.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr scored his second win of the year and his second win at a plate race. Stenhouse showed that he is up there with Keslowski, Elliot, Harvick and Earnhardt with his ability to deliver at restrictor plate tracks. The key to winning at these tracks is decision making. He is able to strike the right balance of aggression and positioning to avoid the big wrecks. Despite the improvements and great results at these tracks he has also benefited from the strongest cars being eliminated. But to win it you have to be running at the end. If he is truly to become a championship challenger he needs to make a big step at non restrictor plate tracks.
2. Crash festival
This years race was a crash festival with a record amount of cautions. Luckily we did not see any cars flipping but this race demonstrated the risks of plate tracks. Since the resurfacing of Daytona & Talladega and new generation of cars handling has limited outcome on the results. Although this means close racing the difficulty in moving through the field means unless you run up front throughout the race it is extremely difficult to move forward. As the tracks continue to age I hope we see the return of early 2000s plate racing where drivers could move forward, big packs existed but as shown in the 2004 Daytona handling is key.
3. 4th July weekend
The prerace ceremony’s and post race fireworks definitely showcased NASCAR at its best. From paying respects to veterans and a fantastic rendition of the anthem and great racing, Daytona demonstrated why the July Daytona race is a fantastic event. The difference in racing and atmosphere to the 500 really makes this race unique and a great advertisement for the sport.
4. New generation
This year has been about the new generation of drivers taking over. This continued at Daytona. With Chase Elliott, Larson, Suarez and the Dillon’s taking the aggression to a new level. They are taking the level of side drafting to extreme with the old guard having to match their intensity.
5. End of an era
This race was probably Dale Jrs last race at Daytona in the cup series and it was an incredibly emotional affair. The history of his family and Daytona defines NASCAR and resonates with fans. Jr nation was desperate to see him capture another victory and add to the legacy but like his family’s relationship with the track he experienced amazing highs winning pole and his team winning the xfinity race to bring wrecked twice through the race.
What the TVs coverage showed was his impact on the sport. From delivering a victory in unbelievably emotional circumstances in 2001, Daytona 500 victories in 2004 & 2014, Dale jr will go down in NASCAR history as a driver who had unparalleled pressure and support but always managed to be himself and a great role model and spokesman for the sport.