NASCAR Power Rankings: How do you make sense of the chaos at Daytona?

Yahoo Sports

Just two drivers in the top 10 in the points standings finished in the top 10 at Daytona.

1. Joey Logano (LW: 1)

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Logano had one of the best cars throughout Sunday’s race. Or he at least had the best track position. Logano led 40 laps, second only to the 46 that Austin Dillon led. But, as you probably guessed, Logano was part of the big crash that took out most of the contenders just ahead of the lightning that ultimately ended the race. He finished 25th.

“It’s part of the game here at the superspeedways,” Logano said of the crashes. “You’re running up towards the front and it’s still not safe. It’s just part of superspeedway racing, but I think the positives are we had a fast car. We had maybe the fastest car if we could just get in line and once we got the lead I felt like we could really maintain and control the race. That’s a positive. That’s a good thing.”

2. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 2)

Truex was in the crash too. He was three spots ahead of Logano in 22nd. Sunday looked like a pretty good opportunity for Truex to end that streak of never winning at Daytona or Talladega but instead he continued the streak of getting crashed at Daytona and Talladega. He’s been in crashes in the last three races at those tracks in 2019.

3. Kyle Busch (LW: 3)

Busch was in the crash and finished 14th somehow because his car didn’t sustain nearly as much damage as others and he was able to drive away from the accident. Daytona has been a really boom-or-bust track for Busch. He has eight top fives and nine top 10s along with seven DNFs. If Busch isn’t finishing at the front of the field there’s a pretty good chance he’s near the back.

4. Chase Elliott (LW: 4)

Yep, Elliott was in the crash too. The winner of the spring Talladega race was up front at Daytona for most of the race. Until, you know.

“I was just kind of on the bottom pushing along there and I saw Austin get turned around,” Elliott said. “You just hope you can get left enough, and slowed down enough, to miss it ... It’s unfortunate and I hate that happened because I felt like we were doing a pretty good job as a group. Just needed to keep it going.”

5. Denny Hamlin (LW: 5)

Hamlin was at the front of the field when he got caught up in the crash. He was denied the opportunity to be the first driver to win the Daytona 500 and the July Daytona race in the same season since Jimmie Johnson in 2013.

6. Kurt Busch (LW: 10)

Hey, look! Someone who wasn’t involved in that crash. But it is someone who was involved in an earlier crash.

Busch would have been the winner had lightning struck one lap earlier. And there’s no telling who would have been the winner if NASCAR would have red-flagged the race following the lap 119 crash.

The caution following the crash took eight laps before the race eventually ended. A red flag would have probably had a three-lap caution flag, meaning the race would have attempted to be restarted on lap 123 instead of lap 128.

Would that have changed the pit strategies of all the cars still running on the lead lap? It’s not a guarantee, but it’s certainly possible. That could have made the end of the race a lot less messy too. Instead, NASCAR chose to keep the race under caution despite the long cleanup.

Let’s get back to the messiness for a moment too. Busch and others pitted because NASCAR told teams that there was one lap to go. And while Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton bring up truthful points in the video at the top of this page that NASCAR has called off one to go declarations under caution flags numerous times, it always does that and puts the race back to green.

This race clearly never got back green. And that’s why it’s not crazy to raise the idea that NASCAR should have reverted the running order after the lightning struck. After all, this was the same sanctioning body that adjusted the stage lengths in the week ahead of the race because the original 40-lap length of the first two stages put teams on the precipice of making it to the end of the stage without a pit stop.

Forcing teams to pit would make the stages far more of a straight-up battle. And that’s a fine decision. But less than a week after NASCAR wanted the structure of the race to not impact strategy, that’s exactly what happened.

Oh, one more note. This race is set to be the last regular-season race of the 2020 season. Let’s have a thought experiment.

Do you think if Sunday’s race was the final one of the regular season and the weather scenario played out exactly like it did that NASCAR would call it early with 33 laps to go or wait deep into the evening to attempt to finish it?

7. Alex Bowman (LW: 6)

Bowman finished 21st after he was second in the second stage because, yeah, yeah, yeah. He was in the crash. Not exactly the way he wanted to follow up his first win.

8. Kevin Harvick (LW: 8)

One of the craziest moments of the race — non-race-ending edition — was the tire that exploded on Harvick’s car as crew members on pit road just stood and watched like it was no big deal.

Harvick’s car had damage after he hit the wall following a bump he gave to Brad Keselowski that started a chain-reaction crash. Harvick was 29th.

9. Brad Keselowski (LW: 7)

Keselowski’s car just turned to the right after the shove Harvick gave to him. And it was a shove that was pretty square, too.

(via NBC)
(via NBC)

“I know we got to three-wide at the top of three and it looks like Kevin gave me a real straight push,” Keselowski said. “I don’t know. It just took off on me. The Fords were working really hard to run together and Kevin and Joey and Blaney and myself, I thought we were doing really good at it, but for whatever reason the car just instantly turned there.”

10. Aric Almirola (LW: NR)

Almirola finished seventh on Sunday and is now in 10th in the points standings.

“It was a crazy day. I think every time you come down here to Daytona you hope that you’ve got a shot to win and at certain points throughout the race I thought we would, and then at certain points throughout the race I thought we were in big trouble,” Almirola said. “To get out of here with a top 10 is a good day and I think points-wise we stayed steady.”

11. Erik Jones (LW: 11)

Jones was 23rd on Sunday.

12. William Byron (LW: NR)

Byron finished second and is now 58 points ahead of the playoff cutoff. It will be nothing but a collapse — or a crazy burst of first-time 2019 winners behind Byron in the points standings — if he doesn’t make the playoffs. And that’s a good thing to be saying about a second-year driver in just his fourth year at the national levels of NASCAR.

Lucky Dog: Of course it’s Justin Haley. Who else would it be? On Sunday after the race I wrote that Spire was making a good decision by taking a top-tier charter in Furniture Row’s and having a technical agreement with a back marker team like Premium Motorsports.

Spire’s Jeff Dickerson has pushed back on the idea that the company is making money from its NASCAR deal. And if that’s true — there’s no reason to believe that Dickerson would passionately refute claims that the team was running a profitable enterprise with the charter and saying that it’s leveraged a lot if it wasn’t — then I’ve got no problem admitting I was off-base on Sunday evening saying that Spire was being smart by running its team in the fashion that it is.

That pushback is also enlightening and perhaps frightening as well. If a team that has one of the best charters in NASCAR and operates fairly cheaply can’t make money via the current revenue structure, then the hurdles to not going broke in the Cup Series may be more like mountains.

The DNF: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 24th. But man, this block was not good.

(via NBC)
(via NBC)

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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