Daytona Rear View Mirror

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson scored the first points-paying win for the Gen-6 Chevrolet SS. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - News, notes and observations from the 55th running of the Daytona 500.

Questions about what to expect in Sunday’s 55th running of the Daytona 500 were asked all week. Quite frankly there wasn’t anyone who felt they had a definitive answer.

After the first race of the year for the new Gen-6 Sprint Cup Series car, I think there’s still a lot of mystery in the air.

The racing on Sunday wasn’t much different than what has happened here at Daytona in other years. There was a great deal of single-file parades that punctuated much of the afternoon; something that more than a few fans were not enamored with seeing.

When the money was on the line, that’s when things heated up, as is usually the case at Daytona and its sister track in Talladega.

But to have a gauge of what the much-hyped next era Sprint Cup machine will bring to the sport competition-wise, we’ll probably have to wait until about May before getting a true sense. The bread and butter down force tracks that dominate the Cup schedule will tell the tale of the tape. Not the season-opener, even though it’s the biggest race of the year.

The attention level coming into the race was high - for both good and bad reasons. Danica Patrick’s pole and the subsequent media blitz that accompanied her accomplishment no doubt brought much more attention to the 500.

Unfortunately Saturday’s violent Nationwide Series crash also no doubt brought more eyeballs and ears focused on “The World Center of Racing.”

I’m note sure all of what they watched and heard on Sunday will bring them back for more. The finish was great but the appetizer leading up to the main course was a bit bland.

But that’s racing.

  • Kevin Harvick’s bid to become the first driver to win the Sprint Unlimited, Budweiser Duel and the Daytona 500 came to a crashing halt when he was swept up in the day’s first multi-car accident. Harvick remained upbeat about the season, which is speculated to be his last with Richard Childress Racing before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, and remains committed to running for a championship in his farewell campaign with the team where he started his Cup career.
  • A couple drivers making their Daytona 500 debuts for new teams had disappointing afternoons. Matt Kenseth was a solid contender for the win before his Joe Gibbs Racing engine expired; a similar fate experienced by teammate Kyle Busch only a few laps later. New Penske Racing addition Joey Logano ran in the front pack most of the day but got shuffled back in the closing laps before finishing 19th.
  • As usual restrictor plate racing produces a few surprise finishes and Sunday’s top 10 had its share. Regan Smith piloted the Phoenix Racing Chevrolet to a seventh place finish in what will be a part time Sprint Cup Series ride for the JR Motorsports Nationwide Series driver. Michael McDowell did a masterful job in the last laps draft to bring the Phil Parsons-owner No. 98 Ford home ninth. And JJ Yeley turned in another impressive plate performance for Tommy Baldwin Racing with a tenth place effort.
  • The update on the fans injured in Saturday’s Nationwide Series accident was encouraging. Halifax Health released a statement confirming treatment was given to twelve patients with five released. Those who remained have been stabilized and continue to be treated for their injuries. Additionally there were six patients taken to Halifax Health – Medical Center of Port Orange with all treated and released.

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