By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
There is a reason you must watch a race, not just look at the boxscore on Monday morning. That reason was shown Saturday night in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
A quick look at the box score would show you that Kevin Harvick started first and led the most laps en route to his second victory of the season, but that doesn’t tell you anything about how he got there.
Harvick, along with the other lucky few who finished this race had to dodge several huge accidents, including a late 19 car pileup that wiped out over half of the field.
This race marks the last for Daytona’s current track surface which was paved back in 1978. Harvick, who has led the point standings for the majority of the season will now add 10 more bonus points to his campaign when the chase begins.
Kasey Kahne came home second followed by Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Burton rounded out the top-five.
According to Kasey Kahne slipping in oil actually kept him from being swept up in a lap 117 crash.
“I hit oil or had to be something on the racetrack because the car just incidentally spun, and I hit the wall, and other cars were doing it, too.” Kahne said. “So I kind of missed the wreck because of that, because we were slowed up, as well, so it actually worked out for us or I would have actually been in that wreck with McMurray and Ragan and those guys.”
Jeff Gordon finished third, but he just feels relief to be running near the front at the end of a restrictor plate race again. In fact the last time that Jeff Gordon had finished in the top-ten in a restrictor plate race was back in 2007.
“Man, I’m just happy to survive one of these restrictor plate races. It’s been a while since we’ve done that.” Gordon said. “We had a pretty good night, car drove good, especially on the long runs, and we avoided the big ones and got ourselves in a good position to win the race.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted after the race that his car wasn’t as good as he would of liked this week, but he is glad he has luck on his side for a change. Earnhardt with a fourth-place finish now finds himself 11th in the point standings and in control of his destiny as far as the chase is concerned.
Earnhardt jumping into chase contention came at the expense of his teammate Mark Martin, who fell out this week. Martin had a rough night, and was involved in two accidents. The second one, which was in fact ‘the big one’ sent his night up in flames… literally. The kid finished in 28th position.
Kyle Busch looked like the car to beat early in the event, but he made contact with Juan Montoya down the back stretch with 94 laps remaining. The contact sent Busch hard into the outside wall ending his night. Busch left Daytona frustrated with a 40th place finish, and after his crash he hinted that he had some help in the crash.
“I took myself out on purpose.” Busch said very sarcastically.
However a look back at the tape revealed that Busch indeed drifted up into Montoya, causing the incident.
Clint Bowyer was running up front on the final restart, but he was shuffled back quickly when the green flag came out. Bowyer of course came into this race looking for a spot in the chase, and he was right in position to grab one of those spots. However on the final lap Bowyer was clipped and sent spinning through the backstretch grass and out of contention.
Bowyer would finish a disappointing 17th.
Steve Park made his return to the Sprint Cup Series Saturday driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing, and I must say I am impressed. Park dodged all of the insanity through the evening, and brought the car back in 13th place without a scratch on it. This goes a long way for this team as they are usually on the start and park agenda.
Kevin Conway was also able to survive to get an impressive finish. The driver of the Extenze Ford grabbed his best career finish with a 14th place effort. Not only was this the best finish ever for Conway, but it was also the best finish that his team (Front Row Motorsports) has ever recorded between their three cars.