The countdown clock is at zero and it's time for The Great American Race
Austin Dillon and Martin Truex Jr. qualified first and second, meaning they start on the front row, however, Martin Truex Jr's car was wrecked in the second Budweiser Duel on Thursday night, meaning he goes to a backup car, and therefore, to the back of the pack. And Truex Jr is only one of nine cars moving backwards before the race even begins.
That last lap crash in the Bud Duel took out five more good cars. Michael Waltrip, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan and Jamie McMurray all wrecked, and all had to go to back-up cars. As a result, all will have to go to the rear of the pack.
Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte also joint hem, as a result of engine failures.
The parade laps will reflet the qualifying positions, but before the green flag is flown, nine will drop back.
We've had a taste of racing at Daytona this year, first with the Sprint Unlimited race last Sunday, featuring 18 cars. That race quickly became a race of 8 after a crash.
The first Bud Duel was relatively tame, with most of the cars using the race as a practice session to see how the cars would drive, but in race conditions.
The second Bud Duel featured a few more risk-takers, and the results showed that. No calm parade to the finish, but rather last lap moves that resulted in the wreck.
Today will mark the first time in 13 years that we will see a number 3 in the race. And of course, as if it had been scripted, that 3 will lead the field to the green. As I sit here, in the exact same place as I sat 13 years ago, waiting for the race to begin, I'm reflecting on this history making event.
NASCAR, Richard Childress, and even Dale Earnhardt Jr. have told me that I must embrace this new 3 and it's driver, Austin Dillon.
As much as I have respected Richard Childress over the years, and as much as I am a Dale Jr. fan, I am also a Kevin Harvick fan. I became a fan initially because of the death of Dale Sr., but Kevin himself kept me a fan, and I follow him to his new venture at Stewart-Haas Racing. And when I think of the 3 and Austin Dillon, I can't help but think of Kevin's tirade near the end of the 2013 season. I can't help but notice the twitter feed. I can't help but notice the lack of support for RCR from Kevin or Delana. Yes, there is support for Ryan Newman. But it just isn't there for the 3. Kevin said he felt the Dillon boys were getting preferential treatment over the other teams in the RCR garage, and he is correct. Richard Childress even said he is correct. He has been open about the fact that his team is there for his grandsons.
And I just can't step away from that.
Austin Dillon can drive. There is no doubt about that. But I'm not a fan. I'm not happy to see the 3 back in Sprint Cup competition. I feel Dillon has to earn a lot more racing stripes before I will be any kind of supporter.
Dale Jr's win in the number 3 Wrangler car at Daytona in 2010 should have been the "one last hurrah". My opinion, but I'm entitled to it.
By all accounts the cars of Joe Gibbs are the ones to watch today. Matt Kenseth isn't happy about losing the Sprint Cup Championship last year, and he is out to prove his first season with JGR wasn't a fluke. Denny Hamlin is healthy, having avoided surgery in the off-season, and Kyle Busch is...well, he is still Rowdy.
Any one of them definitely has a car to win.
The Hendrick Motorsports cars and the SHR cars with their engines will be doing everything they can to ensure JGR doesn't get to Victory Lane. Then you have Roush drivers, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards. Carl has often been involved in last lap crashes, while Greg just always seems to be there at the finish. Ganassi has Jamie McMurray, another driver who always seems to "be there" at the end.
What am I trying to say here? Well, the long and short of it is, it's anyone's race.
Will we see the "Big One?" That's a question I ask at every single restrictor plate race. The answer is. undoubtedly, yes. Some times the wreck is bigger than others, but it almost always happens. Who will trigger it? It could be anyone. The Nationwide race yesterday was relatively tame until the end of the race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. triggered the wreck after the checkered flag, and said it was totally his fault, but he just didn't have any place to go. Unfortunately, that is a common complaint at Daytona when the pack is running three wide. Fortunately for the cars that were wrecked, Dale Jr is the co-owner of JR Motorsports and totally understands the cost to the teams who were wrecked. Class Act that he is, he publicly offered to provide new bodies for the cars that were wrecked. It might not replace the cars, but the offer will go a long ways towards supporting the underfunded teams.
Pre-race is about to get underway, and I'm ready to watch racing. The season starts now, and the winner of today's race will also be the points leader, for at least one week.
Who is your pick?