In a wreck-filled 2022 Daytona 500 race, Penske rookie driver Austin Cindric brought the famed 2 car back to Victory Lane…. on Roger Penske’s birthday, yet!
In a race that featured several lead changes in packs dominated by manufacturer, Cindric started 5th and stayed in the front most of the race. Manufacturer teams pretty much stayed together and the race was dominated by Ford and Toyota teams after Chevy held the top spots in qualifying. In the end, 10th place Chase Elliott was the top Chevy finisher.
The race started out with a lot of bump drafting. The new car performed well but drivers could feel that the pusher had to be glued to their tail or just off in order to maintain speed. Kind of a close but not too close scenario. Kaz Grala and Justin Hailey both lost wheels early in the race and you can be sure that will be looked into.
Shortly after that, Harrison Burton lost control and spun after being pushed by Brad Keselowski in his first race as owner-driver in Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. Keselowksi was very aggressive in his pushing all race long and drivers held their tongues a bit in criticizing him although some did say it was far too early to be that aggressive. Burton wound up on his roof and the wreck also ended the day for a very fast William Byron, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin.
A wreck on lap 190 when Kevin Harvick checked up to avoid Chris Buescher collected Kyle Larson, Erik Jones and others. The race was red flagged to clean up the mess and move cars that were stuck on track.
Another wreck on lap 195 ensues when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. got spun off the nose of none other than Brad Keselowski.
This wreck is the one that put Cindric on the front row for good. With the race winding down into a 2 lap shootout every driver was going for broke. Ryan Blaney had been the good soldier all day long pushing his Penske teammate when not in the lead himself.
With Bubba Wallace, Brad Keselowksi, David Ragan. Kyle Bush, Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell in tow, Blaney made his bid for the lead. Blaney had momentum and speed but as he pulled out, drivers behind started blocking each other and he was all alone. Cindric threw a block that squeezed Blaney into the wall. That gave Bubba Wallace the opportunity he was looking for and it was a drag race to the checkers.
Good on ya mate
- Austin Cindric (P1!) for his huge win.
- Bubba Wallace (P2) for his almost win. Again.
- Chase Briscoe (P3) for staying clean and a great finish.
- Ryan Blaney (P4) had it if Cindric had not blocked.
- Aric Almirola (p5) ran a good race but not good enough in his final 500 start.
- Kyle Busch (P6) played it well all race after his front end was damaged.
- Michael McDowell (P7) racing for his second 500 trophy.
- David Ragan (P8) had a good finish for his sponsor.
- Ty Dillon (P11) had a decent finish for his new team.
- Harrison Burton (P39) had a really fast car but ran afoul of Keselowski.
Better luck next time
- Brad Keselowski (P9) is now a four letter word in the garage.
- Martin Truex, Jr. (P13) won both stages but was unable to turn that into a top 10.
- William Byron (P38) had a fast car.
- Ross Chastain (P40) may have some thought about Keselowski.
- Denny Hamlin (P37) didn’t think too much of the early aggressiveness.
- Greg Biffle (P36) made the show but was the last car running, many laps down.
- Kyle Larson (P1) started out well enough but got caught up in the Harvick wreck.
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (P28) once again was fast but can’t avoid the wrecks.
- Kurt Busch (P19) finished 1 lap down in the Tyler Reddick spin.
- Joey Logano (P21) got up front fast but got caught up in the Tyler Reddick spin.
Auto Club Speedway at Fontana. Is this the last year we see the 2-miler in its current configuration? Only one of two 2-mile tracks, the word is that Fontana is going to become a half mile track in the not too distant future. In the meantime, the Cup series is returning to California after a break due to Covid. Let’s hope this is the last time we have to deal with that.
That makes Alex Bowman the defending (2020) race winner. Chevy has speed this year so we’ll see how that translates into race day. Kyle Larson will make his Fontana debut with Hendrick.
Featured image: Credit: DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 20: Austin Cindric, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in the Ruoff Mortgage victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)