Every NASCAR season starts at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL annually for Speedweeks, which is a series of events leading up to the biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500.
The first major event is “The Clash,” which is a non-points paying race that is only 75 laps and is run on Sunday the week prior. Erik Jones won that event after being caught up in multiple accidents. The next race is run on Thursday night. The Duel at Daytona determines the starting lineup for the Daytona 500 and who misses the Daytona 500.
Daniel Suarez, NASCAR’s only foreign driver and one of the most popular drivers, had to race his way in since his qualifying speed was not enough to get him into the big show. He was in a position to make it in the big shoe, until being caught up in an accident involving another driver, Ryan Blaney. Blaney took full responsibility for the accident, which cost Suarez a chance to race in the Daytona 500. Ultimately, Joey Logano won the first 60-lap race, while William Byron won the second.
The third race of Speedweeks was the NASCAR Truck Series 250-mile race. This race saw driver Ty Majeski end up on his roof after only 15 laps. He was okay, walking away under his own power. This event saw Natalie Decker, one of two female drivers in the race, finished fifth, which set a record for the highest finishing woman in the NASCAR Truck Series.
Ultimately, Grant Enfinger beat Jordan Anderson in a photo-finish. The closest margin of victory in the Truck Series ever, .01 seconds, was a highlight that will go down in history as one of NASCAR’s greatest finishes. One of the biggest storylines was Anderson being the underdog who had little money to race a few years ago, and ultimately almost won the biggest race of his career. It is a true underdog story, since he runs his own team and has little funding and sponsorship dollars, compared to the team Enfinger drives for.
Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race saw many wrecks, a lot of action and a first-time winner. Last year’s winner, Michael Annett, was caught up in an early accident. He later went back in contention for the win until being caught up in another accident, ultimately resulting in an 11th place finish. His teammate Jeb Burton led the most laps, 26, before he as well crashed out of the race. Their other teammate, Noah Gragson, would end up grabbing his first career victory as Annett went airborne on the final lap and forced NASCAR to throw out a caution. With Gragson leading, this meant he was the winner of the race.
Sunday saw the start of the Daytona 500. Prior to the green flag, President Donald Trump arrived at the track to speak to the fans, give the drivers the command to start their engines, and take laps around the track in the President’s vehicle. The race was pushed back an hour, starting at 3:30 p.m. instead of the scheduled 2:30 p.m. start originally planned.
The race was run for 20 laps before the rain came and delayed it to Monday evening. The Daytona 500 was set to go back racing at 4 p.m. which ultimately resulted in the completion of the race. Denny Hamlin won in a photo finish. He beat Ryan Blaney to the line by only a matter of inches.
However, the race was overshadowed by a horrific accident involving 19-year NASCAR veteran Ryan Newman being spun at the start/finish line at the finish in an intense battle for the win. Newman went airborne, landing on his roof, and hit at about 200MPH by Corey LaJoie, who finished 8th in the race.
Newman was sent to the hospital, underwent surgery and was released from the hospital on Wednesday, Feb. 19. Overall, Speedweeks was eventful and was nothing short of intense.