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Race Weekend Review – Daytona Speed Weeks – February 17, 2018

Race Weekend Review – Daytona Speed Weeks – February 17, 2018

NASCAR MENCS Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway
Hamlin prevails to win the race; it’s a 1-2-3 win for Joe Gibbs Racing

Daytona Beach, FL, Feb 17/19 (GRW): It took two red flags and one or two overtime restarts to get to a conclusion but in the end it was Denny Hamlin winning this year’s Daytona 500. His Joe Gibbs teammates Kyle Busch and Erik Jones finished second and third behind him.

The race saw 12 cautions with three big wrecks in the closing laps. Twice they red-flagged the race to clean up the wreckage. The first big one came on lap 192 when Matt DiBenedetto, who was running in fourth place tangled with Paul Menard and spun setting off mass ‘carnage’ behind them. Twenty-one cars were listed as having been involved – but some of them were able to continue. Two laps after the restart, another wreck came when Ricky Stenhouse in the mid-pack lost control and collected Kyle Larson and five others. The next and final restart came on lap 199 sending this race into overtime only to see yet another ‘Big One’.

On this restart, Hamlin started from the high side with Busch below him – and he was able to drop down ahead of Busch to take the lead. No sooner had this happened than the next big wreck was set off when Bowyer, who had been running in fifth place behind the front two two-by-two rows, shot ahead to pass Michael McDowell but he turned up in front of him too soon and he went spinning, setting of the biggest wreck of the day and yet another red flag.

When this mess was cleaned up and the race restarted, Hamlin and Busch lined up at the front as before, Hamlin choosing the top line. At the green, Hamlin was able to once again drop down in front of Busch – no doubt on team orders – and take the lead. From there the race ran without further incident to see Hamlin take his second-ever win in the Daytona 500, his first win having come in 2016.

MENCS DIS1 Trophy 021719Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in victory lane (Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images/NASCAR)

Joey Logano, who had won the second Duel earlier in the week with a strong charge from fourth place on the final lap of that race, made another Hail Mary attempt, starting from the second row. For a moment he made it past Busch up into second place but he could not maintain this pace and he was run down by Busch and Jones and he had to settle for fourth at the checker.

This win was an emotional event for Joe Gibbs. His son J.D. Gibbs had died recently and the winning car carried the No. 11, a number significant to J.D. Gibbs, and it bore a sticker in memory of him as well. Hamlin said. “This one’s for J.D. We’re desperately going to miss him.”

As usual, this race, with all its big pile-ups and other wrecks, puts the result down more to chance than to good management – and that fact combined with the unique restrictor-plate nature of this race means that few conclusions about how the rest of the season will go can be drawn from this result.

Click HERE for the results of the MENCS Daytona 500

The next MENCS race will be at the Atlanta Motor Speedway next Sunday, February 24.

NXS DIS1 Top4 021619Michael Annett leads during the NASCAR Xfinity Series NASCAR Racing Experience 300 (Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Xfinity Series NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway

Michael Annett takes his first ever Xfinity win

Daytona Beach, FL, Feb 16/19 (GRW): JR Motorsports driver Michael Annett had started in 229 Xfinity Series races before – but he had never won a race until now. But here at Daytona, he held off his teammate Justin Allgaier to score the big win at last. In a race which, in contrast to the other two points races this weekend, had few cautions – only four for 19 laps of the 120-lap race – Annett was in his element and he took the lead with 45 laps to go and he led the rest of the way to the checker.

“Eight years in the series—this is amazing,” said Annett, who struggled through a 2018 season that failed to produce a single top-five finish. “I couldn’t have done it without the crew. They’ve stuck with me through the hard times when everybody counts us out and wonders why I get to drive this car, and I think we showed it today—they worked their tails off on this. We got the No. 1 car into Victory Lane. Our slogan this year is ‘One team, one dream, one goal.’ This was one of them, so we’re starting off good.”

Annett’s 45 laps in the lead was the most of any driver. The other drivers to finish in the top five were Brandon Jones, Ryan Seig and Austin Cindric. Earnhardt, despite having led for 29 laps, fell back after the fourth caution and he was scored as 15th at the checker.

The next most laps after Annett were led by Jeffrey Earnhardt, the son of Kerry Earnhardt and a grandson of Dale Sr. making a breakout drive in this race. Earnhardt’s break came with a deal to drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs car. He will be running a limited schedule in this car hoping he can make his mark in this car similar to the way Ryan Preece was able to ratchet up his reputation driving this car in the last couple of years.

Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity race at Daytona

The next Xfinity race will be held at Atlanta Motor Speedway next on Saturday, February 23 before the truck race.

NGOTS DIS1 Hill Enfinger 021519Austin Hill, driver of the #16 CHIBA Toyopet Toyota, races Grant Enfinger, driver of the #98 Champion Power Equipment Ford, during the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series NextEra Energy 250 (Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Daytona International Speedway
Hill takes the Hattori truck to its third win in a row after a crash-filled race

Daytona Beach, FL, Feb 15/19 (GRW): Who would have predicted the result of this race? The 2018 champion Brett Moffitt lost his ride in the Hattori Racing No. 16 truck to Austin Hill, who apparently could bring more money to the deal. And then – surprise – Hill leads the most laps in the race including the final 13 and he takes the win. This one-truck team which has struggled to find sufficient funding seems to be on a par with the other big, well-financed teams this year.

The race was marked by two big wrecks – one at the 55-lap mark of the 100-lap race and the other at the 100-lap mark as the race went into overtime. There was to be yet another yellow at the 107-lap mark before the checker finally flew after 111-laps. There were only nine trucks left running on the lead lap at the end. With so many wrecks the result behind Hill was pretty much a lottery. Grant Enfinger was scored in second ahead of Ross Chastain, Spencer Boyd and Matt Crafton.

“That whole last lap, my heart was pounding,” Hill said. “I thought they were going to get to the outside and we were going to have a drag race. But I was able to protect it. I can’t believe my first win came at Daytona. It’s surreal.”

Unlike the rather processional racing in the Duels the night before, this race saw the field forming up into two lines and it had a lot of shuffling of the order. When the first Stage ended at lap 20, the order was Sheldon Creed, Hill, Christian Eckes (the polesitter), Moffitt and Enfinger. At the end of Stage #2, the order was Johnny Sauter, Stewart Friesen, Ben Rhodes, David Gilliland and Boyd. A lot happened in that final Stage to produce such a different order of finish.

Click HERE for the results of the NGOTS race at Daytona

The next NGOTS race will be held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway next week on Saturday, February 23.

MENCS Clash 360172Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, crosses the finish line to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander RV Duel At DAYTONA #1 (Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR MENCS Gander RV Duels at Daytona International Speedway
Harvick and Logano are the two winners

Daytona Beach, FL, Feb 14/19 (GRW):
The Duels are a pair of 150-mile races with half of the entrants for the Daytona 500 starting in each of the two races. The original purpose of these ‘twin 150s’ was to cut the field down to the maximum number allowed to start the Daytona 500. This year was typical of the recent era in which, given the relatively small entry, virtually every car entered is able to make the cut . With only 42 cars entered for the 500, only two of these would fail to qualify for the big race. However, the Duels would determine the starting order in the 500 behind the front row for which William Byron and Alex Bowman, both Hendrick drivers had qualified in the time trials runs on the previous Sunday.

First Duel: Kevin Harvick in the Richard Childress Ford took the lead after 17 laps of the 60-lap race. After that, he held command of the race lead and he was never seriously challenged. The cars ran around in a single-file line up high on the banking with few changes in their order. Ricky Stenhouse finished second just 0.165 seconds back while Paul Menard was third.

Byron, who had started from the pole by virtue of his fastest qualifying run the previous Sunday, was already locked into the front row for the Daytona 500 so he had nothing to win here. Contrary to expectations, he did lead the first 15 laps and he continued to run near the front for the first half of the race before dropping back to the tail of the lead lap pack to finish a safe 16th.

The race saw one caution when Jimmie Johnson, in a move reminiscent of the one in the Clash the previous Sunday, swerved up to the left into Kyle Busch’s car spinning Busch out. Unlike the previous incident the Sunday before, Johnson acknowledged his blame and apologized for causing the accident. It was interesting that after this, in the commentary from the TV studio, former NASCAR driver Ricky Craven made mention of the fact that, in his final year of racing, he had begun to have more difficulty seeing things well enough to make precise judgements about how close he was to another car.

Second Duel: Joey Logano broke the follow-the-leader pattern of the previous Clash race by making a strong move on the final lap to jump from fourth into the lead by a solid margin and take the win. Clint Bowyer was second, Aric Almirola (who should have won last year’s 500) was fourth.

The second Duel started out looking like the first with the cars forming up a single-file line high on the banking up near the wall. Again the pole-sitter, in this case Bowman, led the first bunch of laps before falling back out of harm’s way preserving his front -row starting position in the Daytona 500. Clint Bowyer took the lead but he handed it over to Brendan Gaughan when he pitted for fuel – regaining the lead when Gaughan make his pit stop seven laps later.

After that, Bowyer was in command and it looked like we were set for another parade to the finish. No one seemed to be able to dive down and gain much advantage over the long line of cars running up high. Somehow Logano figured it out and on the final lap he made his move – on his own he was able to dive down below the top line and blow past the three cars ahead of him, taking the lead and holding on for the rest of the lap for the win.

Click HERE for the results of Duel #1
Click HERE for the results of Duel #2

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