The Final Word – The Daytona 500 finish reminded us of when giants ruled the asphalt

Unstable. Set to go off with the least provocation. No, I’m not talking about CNN or late night talk show hosts, most celebrities, or more than a few politicians. What I am referring to is the Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. weebled, wobbled, and stacked ‘em up. He drove off, for the moment at least, but it was goodbye Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, and Jimmie Johnson before they got 60 laps in. Segment two found Chase Elliott the meat in a Ryan Blaney – Brad Keselowski sandwich and the aerodynamics took care of the rest. Adios Elliott, Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Danica Patrick. Then, down to the final couple of scheduled laps on the day, Kurt Busch was near the front but traded paint with Blaney and found himself facing the wrong way. Sayonara Kurt, Alex Bowman, and Matt DiBenedetto, who had looked so good before things went so bad.

Good was remembering 20 years ago when the No. 3 crossed the finish line first, and car owner Richard Childress looking so happy for his driver, Dale Earnhardt. Sunday we saw Childress looking happy once more as the No. 3 of grandson Austin Dillon took the Great American Race. For a brief moment, we remembered a time when things were not so unstable, when the news was really the news, and you could believe what you had heard and seen. Believe me, what we saw at the end of the Daytona 500 felt so real and good, if only because it reminded us of a time past.

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Of course, Dillon won it because Aric Almirola threw a block in front of Dillon’s freight train, and wound up as one would expect in such a situation. While Dillon went on to win, Bubba Wallace, driving for Richard Petty, was the guy pushing him to victory, edging out Denny Hamlin at the line. Joey Logano was fourth, which was not as surprising as finding Chris Buescher taking fifth. Blaney, who was seventh in the end, was third in the opening stage and took the second to lead the points standings. He sits six ahead of Dillon and Paul Menard, who was sixth.

It was an entertaining race, assisted by the volatility of the cars that made things a tad unpredictable for us, and for the drivers. The race kept us engaged while the television crew did not drive us off. In fact, the FOX coverage was pretty darn good. I do like the left side of the screen ticker better than the scroll they used to run atop it. Informative and entertaining. What a concept.

Some were not as enthralled with the action. It was not worth a crap if you were named Kyle. Kyle Larson got some damage in that opening wreck and finished 19th. Kyle Busch had tires going down and fenders smacking the fence and wound up 25th. Stenhouse was blowing more steam than Old Faithful late in the second stage, and the Busch wreck really left him steaming in 29th when the day was over.

Heading to Atlanta, Suarez, Jones, and Johnson sit with a single point each for their Daytona efforts. Johnson has won two of the last three raced down in Georgia, with Keselowski the defending race champ. With just five points, ole Brad also could use some stability himself come next week. Last Sunday, as oft times happens at Daytona, we were provided with a good show.

The Daytona 500 finished with some of NASCAR’s most iconic numbers, the No. 3, the No.43, the No. 11 and the No. 22, coming home one-two-three-four. Just for the briefest of moments, the hands on the wheel could have been those of  Earnhardt. Petty. Cale Yarborough (or was it Ned Jarrett or Darrell Waltrip?). Fireball Roberts. Those were the days when giants ruled the asphalt. May such memories of the past merge with the reality that was last Sunday. May they just be the harbinger of more good things for Sundays come.

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