Although dubbed as the “Danica 500″, Jimmie Johnson definitely left his mark after earning his second Daytona 500 victory on Sunday.
In light of Saturday’s horrific Nationwide race, where a last lap accident left several fans injured after Kyle Larson’s car slammed into the catch-fence, Sunday sort of became the “calm after the storm” in a sense. Several wondered if Saturday’s events would leave a negative taste in fans and media on Sunday, but after a long night of repairs and updates, everyone was more than ready to go racing in the 55th running of the Daytona 500.
Although most of the attention was focused on NASCAR’s “it-girl”, Danica Patrick, Johnson was able to make a statement all on his own and bring home a victory for Hendrick and team Chevrolet in the season-opener. After a late race caution, Johnson quickly picked apart the field and brought the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to the checkered flag. Even more impressive, teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was right behind in a close second.
After creating and having much of the week’s focus on her, Patrick quickly proved her worth to anyone with doubts. Setting yet another milestone in her Sprint Cup rookie season, Patrick led twice for a total of five laps during the 500-mile race to set another record for women in the sport. To solidify her day even more, she stayed within the top 10 for nearly all 200-laps and walked away with an eighth place finish. Commenting on her finish, Patrick stated that she was disappointed with the finish after she was in third when taking the white flag for the final lap. In the shuffle to pass Johnson, she was pushed back in the lead pack.
However, with her performance Sunday, several drivers and analysts alike agreed that she can and deserves to race with the best in the sport.
Overall, Sunday’s race was relatively calm and uneventful, although an early wreck took out several of the field’s top contenders. An early race crash took out the likes of race favorite Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne. 2012 Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski was also involved in that crash, but was able to make repairs and remain on the lead lap. Ironically, it was Keselowski who Johnson would pass for the lead.
For several Toyota teams, hopes of bringing home a season-opening win went up in smoke, as cars for both Michael Waltrip Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing went home early with blown engines.
Next week, NASCAR travels to Phoenix, where Daytona’s winners and losers hope to get a fresh start.
About the Author
Written by Ashley Gulick
Sports Journalism is my passion! I keep up with the latest news on pro/college football, NASCAR and baseball....and just about everthing else. I grew up in Talladega, Ala., but moved to Georgia when I was 15. From a young age, I always knew that I wanted to be involved with sports somehow. Once I got into college and completed my degree in Communications, I knew that I had a passion for sports journalism. I have covered sports for the Kennesaw Sentinel (KSU's student paper), Marietta Daily Journal and Douglas County Sentinel.