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Daytona Checkered and Black Flags

The opening weekend of Speedweeks produced a number of winners and losers.

Checkered Flags

Alex Bowman
Dale Jr. who? Bowman is stepping into some huge shoes replacing the retired Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 ride this year, but he wasted no time adding to his own legacy. Bowman promptly grabbed the pole for “The Great American Race” and gave team owner Rick Hendrick another Daytona accomplishment.

Youth Movement
The influx of young talent into NASCAR’s top tier is a major theme going into the 2018 season. The youths showed some great prowess in 500 qualifying with five of the sport’s bright young stars putting themselves inside the top-10 in qualifying; Bowman, Byron, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Chase Elliott.

Brad Keselowski
It’s hard to believe Keselowski had never taken a checkered flag during Speedweeks until Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash. Mission accomplished as Keselowski put an important “W” up on the board and led his teammate Joey Logano to the checkered flag to give Team Penske a 1-2 finish.

The entire off-season has included a great deal of discussion about how far behind Ford was from Toyota and Chevrolet with its new Camaro ZL1 body style. Those concerns have to be put on hold for now as at least in Sunday’s Clash Fords were the class of the field sweeping the first four positions.

Pit Crew Execution
Nobody knew for sure what the limitation on pit crew members from six to five would bring once the policy finally went into play. The jury is still out but at least in Sunday’s limited Clash execution nothing went too haywire. There were a number of different choreographies employed but so far, so good.


Black Flags

Jimmie Johnson
It’s unreal to think about the string of bad luck Johnson has endured in the Clash considering his future Hall of Fame accomplishments. But here we are again in 2018 and Johnson string of DNF’s he’s reached seven after his last lap accident knocked him out on Sunday.

Jamie McMurray
A victim of circumstance when inadvertent contact from Kurt Busch sent McMurray into the outside wall, through the infield grass and out of the race with a last place finish. The silver lining is McMurray is still considered a restrictor plate racing threat.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Another victim but for the Roush Fenway Racing driver was penalized for the controversial yellow line “out of bounds” rule. Stenhouse Jr. clearly went below the yellow line and advanced a position, a clear infraction of the rule. However, many believe, not surprisingly including the Roush camp, he was forced below the line by Kyle Busch and should not have been penalized. NASCAR officials felt otherwise.

ARCA Race Finish
It’s admirable to try and give fans a green flag finish. But there needs to be a point of diminishing returns especially in superspeedway races and the ARCA series went far beyond that line on Saturday. The finish was marred by one multi-car wreck after another, an expensive proposition to say the least not to mention a push of safety boundaries. NASCAR’s policy should be the standard across all series and sometimes even with the best intention a green flag finish isn’t in the cards.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.