20 years of trying, 20 years of frustration and the #3 car is back in Victory Lane at Daytona.
Scratch that first part, but the #3 was back in Victory Lane at the Daytona 500. 20 years after Dale Earnhardt claimed victory in NASCAR’s most famous race, Austin Dillon did the same Sunday evening. Richard Childress’ grandson plowed his way through Aric Almirola to claim the Harley J. Earl trophy and put the famous #3 on the front pages everywhere.
A Daytona 500 marred by accidents among the leaders all afternoon was settled thanks to another accident involving a leader. An unsuspecting winner in Austin Dillon seized the opportunity and made the most of it as Fox gave viewers a glimpse in between commercials.
An amazing run down the backstretch saw him catch leader Aric Almirola. The new driver of the #10 blocked leaving Dillon no place to go but into him. Like a snowplow blasting down a neighborhood street clipping mailboxes, Almirola got blasted out of the way like the said mailbox as Dillon was screaming “Move BITCH get out the way.”
Like Spike running over the glasses nerd in Little Giants, Almirola ended up in the wall, smashed. His hopes were dashed 1 mile from the checkered flag. Dillon with his full head of steam held off Bubba Wallace and Denny Hamlin who banged doors before Wallace claimed second for Richard Petty Motorsports. The best finish for RPM since Almirola’s win in 2014 and Brian Scott’s 2nd at Talladega in 2016.
Here is Dillon’s pass, Almirola’s block, and ultimate wreck. Almirola did say after the race “He’s not driving too aggressively, he’s trying to win the Daytona 500, just like I was.” Almirola was content with what happened, bummed but he understood it was for the win. He essentially said he’d have done the same thing.
#3 Followed By The #43
While Austin Dillon took Dale Earnhardt’s famous #3 to victory lane, another of NASCAR’s famous numbers was making a story as well.
Bubba Wallace gave The King’s #43 it’s best ride since 2014 with a second place finish in his first Daytona 500. Wallace and Denny Hamlin leaned on one another as they came across the line. A day after Tyler Reddick and Elliott Sadler crossed the line 0.0004 seconds apart. Hamlin and Wallace tried their best to recreate NASCAR’s closest finish.
Wallace has been the center of media attention leading up to the Daytona 500. No one really knew how he would handle 500 miles and the pressure of the media. A pre-race tweet from Lewis Hamilton and call from Hank Aaron had Wallace “fangirling.” A second place run, however, had him floating out of Daytona and had Richard Petty briskly walking down pit road looking for his new star driver.
Blaney Dominates, Finishes 7th
NASCAR’s next superstar and everyone’s favorite 80’s throwback Ryan Blaney dominated on Sunday. Dave’s kid was passing at will, commanding the pack and led a race-high 118 laps. Unfortunately with 2 laps to go his chances all but came to an end.
Ryan Blaney the air bender pic.twitter.com/CyPdun69zl
— Apex Off (@ApexOff) February 18, 2018
Blaney took the air off the left corner of Kurt Busch’s car and like we’ve seen all week, sending the #41 sideways and taking out a litany of cars. Like watching grade school kids attempt to run 100-yard hurdles, the leaders ended up crashed and confused.
Blaney didn’t suffer extensive damage and would come home 7th. One thing for certain is Ryan Blaney established himself as a power on the plate tracks. Talladega could be great for him.
Daytona has become a place to expect the unexpected. The favorite very rarely wins the 500 anymore. Brad Keselowski was the odds-on favorite to win the race and he never led. The #2 came home 32nd and never really contended.
Austin Dillon wasn’t on anyone’s list of favorites. He showed speed in The Clash and his car looked composed most of the weekend. No one would have put money on him though. You don’t put money on the skinny, undersized horse in the Derby. Then a race like the one Mind That Bird won happens and makes everyone look like a fool. Austin Dillon was that horse today and the rest of us are left looking at his victory lane photos.
Expect the unexpected.
Follow us on Twitter @ApexOff