It’s Daytona week. Saturday’s race is the first time the Cup Series visits a track for the second time in 2019. Yes, the season is almost half over.
1. Joey Logano (LW: 3)
Logano takes the top spot this week after he finished third. He’s also the points leader by 18 points heading into Saturday night’s race at Daytona. And Logano should be one of the favorites there. He was fourth at Talladega.
“We ran down [Larson] and I thought if we could get by him we were catching [Bowman], together, both of us were,” Logano said. “I just couldn’t get to his inside or outside and get a run. I would get right to him but not enough of a run to make a move. I just got tight at the end and he drove away at the end.”
2. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 2)
Truex finished ninth on Sunday and said his car reacted differently to changes depending on his track position.
“It was just real sensitive,” Truex said. “We had runs where we were the fastest car on the track, and we had runs where we were the 15th-fastest car on the track. It was just super-sensitive to any little change or loss of track position.”
3. Kyle Busch (LW: 1)
Busch’s day didn’t go well. He got in the wall early in the race. Then he had a cut tire near the end of stage one. And then he had smoke in the cockpit late in the race from those tire issues. He finished 22nd. The good thing for Busch and his team is that there’s just one race a year at Chicago so Sunday means nothing for the playoffs.
4. Chase Elliott (LW: 4)
Wow, Elliott brought up the rear for Hendrick Motorsports by finishing a lowly ... 11th.
Chevy had five drivers get top 10 finishes and that number goes to six in 11 when you count Elliott. This was probably the best race of the year for the manufacturer, unless you want to go with the six Chevys in the top eight at Talladega earlier this year.
5. Denny Hamlin (LW: 5)
Hamlin got penalized on pit road for this uncontrolled tire. Look at how dangerous it is just sitting there:
RT if you watch NASCAR for egregious uncontrolled tire penalties like this pic.twitter.com/fq517nZfE3
— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) June 30, 2019
NASCAR should get rid of uncontrolled tire penalties. Or, at the very least, make the standards for what an uncontrolled tire is much looser than the “arm’s length away” that the rule is now.
Anyway, Hamlin finished 15th.
6. Alex Bowman (LW: 10)
Bowman makes a four-spot leap and moves ahead of two guys who finished in the top six thanks to the win. He’s been the second-fastest Hendrick Motorsports driver all 2019 and now finally has a victory to show for it.
Bowman’s win comes in his 134th Cup start. That’s the longest a first-time winner has had to wait to get to victory lane since Ricky Stenhouse had over 150 starts before he got his first victory at Talladega in 2017. Stenhouse won two races that season, so maybe that’s an omen for Bowman.
7. Brad Keselowski (LW: 6)
Keselowski was fifth on Sunday. He said his team couldn’t find the right combination of handling and speed.
“That was a struggle all day,” Keselowski said. “We couldn’t get a handle on it. We got our best at the end which is certainly what matters. A decent day. We will take it and learn from it and move on.”
8. Ryan Blaney (LW: 7)
Blaney was sixth, making it three-straight top-10 finishes for the first time since, you guessed it, he did it in races Nos. 4-6. We’ll see if he can get four-straight for the first time all season on Saturday night.
The sixth-place finish is especially impressive considering that Blaney was one of the guys who had to pit with tire issues at the end of the first stage.
“We went a lap down and had to play catch-up all day,” Blaney said. “I think we gained seven seconds on the leader there during the last run, so today, the fastest car didn’t win the race.”
9. Kevin Harvick (LW: 8)
Harvick led a race-high 132 laps. But, alas, he did not win. He had a tire problem at the end of the first stage too. He also hit the wall in the third stage and got a really quick caution called for it.
Wow. What an extremely quick caution.
Kevin Harvick had only lost three positions (!) after scrubbing the wall before NASCAR threw the caution. pic.twitter.com/SwkW0pxOey
— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) July 1, 2019
That caution helped Harvick salvage a 14th-place finish. And the wait for a win goes on another week.
10. Kurt Busch (LW: 10)
Busch finished a spot ahead of Harvick in 13th but scored nine fewer points because he finished just 10th and eighth in the first two stages.
11. Erik Jones (LW: 12)
Jones has gotten five of his eight top-10 finishes this season in the last seven races. He finished seventh on Sunday and was the only person in the top 10 who started outside the top 20.
12. Kyle Larson (LW: NR)
Larson has gone from 16th to 13th in the points standings over the last three races and has gone from being on the bubble of the playoffs to in fairly safe standing 35 points ahead of Jones in 17th.
Lucky Dog: Austin Dillon started first and finished 10th. He’s still outside the top 20 in points though.
The DNF: Clint Bowyer finished 37th after his car got significant damage following a spin for a cut tire at the end of stage one.
Dropped out: Aric Almirola
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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