One of the themes for Speedweeks this year has been that of overreactions. A quick scan of social media leading up to the Daytona 500 and the result might have been you deciding not to tune in given the fact that everyone seemed to already know the race wasn’t going to have any action in it. Granted, the qualifying races and the NASCAR Xfinity Series race didn’t do much to quiet these worries given the single-file-lack-of-action nature of both of these events. Luckily for us, Sunday was a different story in Daytona. Not only was there action from beginning to end, but there was quality racing and passing throughout. When it was all said and done there even seemed to be optimism that the new package in Atlanta next week could produce a similar quality of on-track action.
JGR is going to be unstoppable
Yes, for the first time in 20+ years the ending of the Daytona 500 saw one team sweep the top-three spots. This hasn’t happened since Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates did it back in the late 90’s. Let’s take nothing away from Joe Gibbs Racing because finishing 1-2-3 in the Daytona 500 is an impressive accomplishment. Let’s also not act like JGR is going to dominant this season and that Daytona is simply a precursor of things to come.
Coming into Daytona it was Ford that was the talk of the NASCAR town and for good reason. Despite HMS qualifying well, it was Ford that had the consistent speed and it was Ford that delivered in the qualifying duels. After the green flag dropped JGR and HMS seemed to have a plan to keep Ford at bay and in the end it was JGR with the strong finish. However, let’s not forget the fact that only 14 cars finished on the lead lap Sunday, most of which were damaged or not competitive for the majority of the race. It’s also worth noting that when push came to shove, JGR and Toyota were able to work together while the others (who were not teammates) struggled to get on the same page. Again, JGR was impressive this weekend and could have a lot of success this season, but one race simply isn’t enough to call them or Toyota the team to beat this season.
What’s wrong with (insert driver name here)
While several drivers had strong showings in Daytona, there were a handful that never were able to get their acts together and put together a strong run. Coming into the weekend some might have tabbed Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson as potential winners. Unfortunately, neither of them were every truly a factor on Sunday, despite Larson surviving enough wrecks to finish inside of the top-10. Other drivers that never really seemed to be in the mix before being caught up in wrecks on Sunday were Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace.
The good news here is that it was just one race and that race just so happened to be the Daytona 500. Weird things tend to happen at Daytona, much like weird things tend to happen at Talladega. Often times these races are more about surviving than anything else. Much like it’s too early to call JGR the team to beat, it’s also too early to be concerned about any one specific driver. That being said, I would find it interesting if Truex Jr. and Larson both don’t have better runs this weekend in Atlanta. Drivers as good as them don’t often have consecutive lackluster performances unless an element of bad luck is involved.