NASCAR’s season opening race has come, and now gone. Dale Earnhardt Jr. captured the checkered flag for the second time joining the ranks of drivers such as Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson as drivers with multiple wins in the Great American Race.
This season, NASCAR has made winning drivers top priority. You win a race, and you have all but ‘officially’ qualified for NASCAR’s postseason Chase.
Let’s take a look at Tireball Sports Winners and Losers for the Daytona 500.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Jr. breaks a 55 race winless streak dating to 2012 by winning the Daytona 500 for the second time in his career. He becomes the first driver to all by officially qualify for the Chase. Jr. Nation is in absolute ecstasy. NASCAR is happy.
Denny Denny Denny…is he back? Hamlin spent much of last season with an injured back. He is showing that he is back and ready to contend after winning at Homestead during the 2013 season finale and then taking the win at both the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel. Hamlin went on to finish second in the Daytona 500.
The 2012 Sprint Cup Champ is looking for a comeback after a mediocre 2013 season. His finish of third at Daytona gives him a nudge on our winners list this week.
Jeff Gordon toughted prior to the season starting that he really wants to win a “SPRINT CUP” Trophy. He would even consider retirement if he were to win the Championship this season. Gordon started off the season strong, nabbing a fourth place finish at Daytona.
Tony suffered a issue with his fuel cell during the 500 and finished 35th. Good thing it was just a plate race and we are sure he will rebound at Phoenix. We assume we won’t be seeing his name on this list very often.
Clint Bowyer suffered an engine issue and finished in 42nd. Poor Clint! We felt your disappointment when you exited the car. 25 races to make it up and get that win.
Some might expect to see Danica’s name listed here but it kind of saddens us. She was having a really decent run until she was caught up in a wreck. Considering Daytona was one of the few races Patrick did well in last season we have a bunch of disappointment here.
Martin Truex Jr.
In his first race with Furniture Row Racing, Martin Truex Jr. didn’t even get to go back after after the rain delay — blowing his engine in the first 30 laps of the Daytona 500. Truex Jr. had earned the outside pole for the race and finished last on Sunday. We are left to wonder if this was simply a cause of the backup car or the limits of an organization.