By: Pete Pistone – @PPistone | MRN.com on February 27, 2017 | 3:30 P.M. EST
Kurt Busch takes the checkered flag in the Daytona 500. (Photo: Getty Images)
The season-opening Daytona 500 generated a number of highs and lows for drivers and teams.
The man who finally got into Victory Lane at “The World Center of Racing” in a points paying race tops the list of winners this week after Busch’s dramatic Daytona 500 win. Busch picked up the win in intense style with a last-lap pass of Kyle Larson to finally put “The Great American Race” in the win column.
The second year driver really flexed his muscles this week in Daytona with a stirring run in the Can-Am Duel, that ended with damage and the need for a back-up car in the Daytona 500. But Blaney quickly got to the front of the field and in the wild finish scored his best career Cup performance with a second-place finish.
The JTG Daugherty Racing team made the move to expand to a two-car tandem in 2017. Things didn’t go well for new addition Chris Buescher, but Allmendinger was able to carry the banner for the squad with a third-place finish and a great start to the season.
Richard Petty Motorsports scaled back to just the No. 43 car of Almirola this year and race one paid dividends. The former July Daytona race winner kept his nose out trouble and at the checkered flag Almirola had himself a top-five finish to start the season.
It will be a challenge this year for GoFas Racing to try and keep up with the powerhouse teams in the Cup Series. But for one week, DiBenedetto was able to keep up with those bigger organizations and actually out perform many of them with a top-10 Daytona 500 finish.
His Daytona bad luck continued when Busch spun in front of the field and wiped out not just himself but several other contenders as well. Busch pointed the finger at Goodyear for a tire that “couldn’t keep air,” a comment the tire manufacturer quickly rebuffed. The end result was Busch’s Daytona miseries rolled on.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
His much anticipated return to the Cup Series started well enough with an outside front row starting spot and leading 53 laps in Thursday’s Can-Am Duel. But Earnhardt got caught up behind Busch’s misfortune and ended his first race back in the series with a DNF.
A spin in the Clash and more problems in his Duel got the week off to a bad start for Johnson. He recovered with a decent car on Sunday but like so many others, Johnson has nothing to show for the effort but a mangled race car and a DNF.
At one point, Elliott looked like he was on his way to a Daytona 500 win in only his second career start. But in the final two laps that went out the window and through a turn of events that saw him come up short on fuel and Elliott wound up with a 14th-place finish.
The Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series had two races that were marred by numerous crashes. The hope was by Sunday the Cup Series would change that tone. Not so much as it turned out. The Daytona 500 saw 35 of the day’s 40 starters impacted by some kind of accident with several favorites knocked out of competition.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.