DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway provided a thrilling 161-lap race that ended with a green-white-checkered overtime finish.
Let’s take a look at what we learned at the Florida superspeedway.
Chase Elliott has started off strong at the first two restrictor plate races this season.
He became the youngest pole-winner in history for the Daytona 500 in February but had a rocky first race, getting caught up in an incident early in the race and ending up with a 37th-place finish.
At Talladega in May, Elliott once again set quick-time over the field of drivers and earned his second pole position of his rookie NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The young driver fared better at the Alabama track, leading his teammates to the checkered flag with a fifth-place result.
Following this past weekend’s 400-mile Daytona race, Elliott said the No. 24 team is looking ahead to the Talladega race in October.
“We will just have to get our stuff ready to go to Talladega,” the rookie said. “We took what we had here in February and rethink some of the things we had going on. We made our car drive a lot better tonight. The cool temperatures were helping that."
THE ‘BIG ONE’
Superspeedway races are often known for that one incident that collects at least half the field of race cars. Saturday’s race in Daytona was no exception.
The Lap 90 incident collected more than 20 cars, with all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers receiving some type of damage to their Chevrolets.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was able to return to the track for the green flag restart following a couple speedy pit stops by his No. 88 Nationwide team, and Kasey Kahne rejoined the field with 30 laps remaining after his team made repairs to his Chevy in the garage.
Elliott’s No. 24 SunEnergy1 Chevy also received repairs in the garage and he returned to the track two laps after Kahne.
"Once you see everybody start checking up you really can't see much when you are in the pack like that,” Elliott said. “So you just kind of try to slow down and hope that there might be a way to get out.”
Jimmie Johnson was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver unable to continue racing and his Chevy was retired to the garage for the remainder of the night.
“We were all straight and fine but they slowed up more than I really could and my momentum carried me right through the back of the No. 1 and around we went,” Johnson explained. “We are all dealing with a matter of inches and once that started, it just collected everybody."
HANDLING AND MULTIPLE LANES
Johnson acknowledged the fact that the track at Daytona International Speedway is aging, which means that handling is becoming more of an issue.
“It was just hard racing and the cars were definitely slipping and sliding a lot,” the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS said. “I am excited about that a lot and I think it’s going to put on a good race. But one of those little slips turned into a big crash for everybody.”
With handling being a factor at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, Elliott said that multiple lanes were key to making moves.
“We were all trying hard and you have to go up in those top lanes and make tight squeezes to make ground,” the rookie said. “If everybody was content on riding where they are, we wouldn’t be racing.”
Earnhardt agreed, saying that his No. 88 Nationwide Chevy just wasn’t handling the way he needed it to.
“I just rode around,” he said. “I couldn’t get in there and get two and three-wide because the car needed a couple lanes to run well.”