NASCAR Kicks off 2020 in Daytona

Josh Calloni, Reporter

NASCAR’s top three touring seasons recently had an eventful kickoff to their 2020 season at Daytona, bringing much change to the outlook to the sport for the year.

The first race of the weekend occured on February 14th, when the Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series took the track for the annual 100 lap night race. Riley Herbst won the pole, and led the field to the green flag. The race remained green until the end of stage one, until lap 17. That’s when Todd Gilliland gave Austin Wayne Self a shove that was clearly too much, spun him out, and in the process, Self’s #22 truck clipped the rear quarter panel of Ty Majeski, turning his truck over. Majeski was uninjured. The race remained green from lap 17 until lap 75, besides the stage breaks.

 Out of turn three on lap 75, Angela Ruch got a large draft from Sheldon Creed in front of her, pulling her car through a tight hole that did not work, spinning Ruch into the field of cars behind her. 12 trucks were involved, the worst of which was Tate Fogleman’s #02 truck, which was ignited in flames from the incident. That set up the final green flag run, until lap 99, when the infamous Daytona “Big One” struck, taking out many of the contenders, including Tyler Ankrum, Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton. That set up a final restart with Grant Enfinger leading a pack of mostly non experienced drivers to the series. Enfinger led the field to the last lap, and edged out Jordan Anderson for the win. Additionally, history was made during this race, as Natalie Decker, recorded the best finish by a female in NASCAR history. 

“Friday night’s truck race was entertaining. It’s good for the sport that a female is succeeding, there is not too much of that within NASCAR,” junior Jacob Brewer said. 

The following day, the XFinity series took to the track. Rookie Myatt Snider led the field to the green flag. The race ran green until lap 39, when Michael Annet lost control of his car, regained control, but not before Joe Graf Jr and Austin Hill tangled due to reaction behind him. That sent the race to green until the end of Stage 2, when Herbst, racing twice that weekend, was clipped by Josh Williams, sending him around and into the #25 of Chris Cockrum. Snider was also taken out in this one. The race remained green until lap 117 of the scheduled 120, when a bad push from Chase Briscoe sent Jeb Burtons #8 around in front of Austin Cindric, which ended up including 13 cars total. This set up for overtime, which was ended early when Annet and Brandon Brown tangled, triggering another wreck, while Noah Gragson, Timmy Hill and Harrison Burton battled into turn three for the win, though were stopped into their tracks due to the caution, giving Gragson the win.

Sunday’s Daytona 500 was postponed until Monday due to rain, but once the green flag waved, the race had a 60 lap green flag run, until William Byron was spun by Ricky Stenhouse, sending him in to the inside backstretch wall, ending his race. Once the race got going, the field took 30 clean laps, until Quin Houff was turned by Aric Almirola, which Almirola blamed on Houff for “going too slow,” which also collected BJ McLeod, ending his race as well. The Daytona 500 was green from there, until the race had less than 15 to go, and that’s when the “Big One” struck. Joey Logano gave Almirola a huge shove, which sent him into Brad Keslowski, turning him into the outside wall. Reaction from everyone behind triggered a larger wreck that eventually involved 19 cars. Big names and fan favorites such as Jimmie Johnson, Matt DiBenedetto, Martin Truex Jr, as well as Kurt and Kyle Busch were all taken out of contention after this wreck, leaving roughly 22 cars to battle with 10 laps to go. That number would go down, as a smaller wreck that involved Reed Sorenson and Hill grouped the field back up, setting up increased risk further incidents, and it did. On an overtime restart, Ross Chastain got a large run off of Ryan Newman, who was slowed from a lack of a drafting partner. This made Chastain make an abrasive move, only to be blocked by Ryan Preece, which cut down Chastain’s tire into turn one, turning him into the field, taking out nine more cars, including Chase Elliot, Logano and rookie Tyler Reddick. After a restart spin, the remaining 15 cars on the lead lap took the green flag for the final restart, led by Newman and Denny Hamlin, who worked well together throughout the race. By the white flag, Ryan Blaney had joined those two as the likely three to win the Daytona 500. Coming to the checkered flag, Blaney looked to pass Newman, who blocked the move, but did so too late, turning him around in front of the field, turning his car over. From there, he was hit in the roof by Corey LaJoie’s #32 car, sending Newman further into the air. Further ahead, the crash slowed Blaney’s momentum, allowing Hamlin to edge him out for the second closest Daytona 500 ever. Newman was unresponsive in his car, and was taken to a local hospital, where a few hours later, and was initially in critical but stable condition. Since then, Newman has been released from the hospital, and is making a full recovery. He sustained a concussion in the accident. 

“I’ve never seen a car flip like Ryan Newmans, it was crazy,” senior Adam Thomason said. 

The win was Hamlin’s third Daytona 500, and his second consecutive. As for Newman, he’ll be out an indefinite amount of time, and will be replaced by Ross Chastain for the time being.