Exciting Race, Unsettling Finish

I get more jacked for the start of NASCAR season every year. Like, I literally count down the days on the calendar once the checkered flag flies at Homestead. And this year’s Daytona 500 was thrilling. But… man, I dunno about that finish…

From my perspective, Austin Dillon dumped Aric Almirola for the win. Sure, it was the last lap. Yeah, it was the Daytona 500. I get all that. I get that when a win is on the line, especially in that race, you do what you gotta do. I get that the No. 3 car winning the Daytona 500 20 years after Dale Earnhardt won the race is a great story.

I also get that Almirola blocked. You know my stance on blocking.

But still… I mean, it’s not like my memories of the No. 3 car bumping people out of the way for wins are especially fond (I could not stand Dale Earnhardt when he was still alive), so the image of that car pulling that stunt yet again… let’s just say the optics were jarring.

I wanted Chase Elliott or Brad Keselowski or Ryan Blaney to win. They didn’t, and it stinks, but hey, they were all really fast and they put on a great show. Sometimes, in racing, shit happens.

And sometimes, shit is done to you.

Look, Dillon’s never been a fan favorite. He’s not the uber-marketable rising star Elliott, Blaney, even Bubba Wallace, are. A lot of that is simple heritage; as Richard Childress’ grandson, Dillon has the reputation of being a silver-spoon driver. Had everything handed to him, never earned it like other drivers, simply because of who he’s related to.

And come on… the guy dabbed after he won. Seriously?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to deal with the same mentality – even as in the latter part of his career, people wondered why he didn’t just put his nephew, Jeffrey Earnhardt, in one of his Xfinity Series cars.

So I think some of the reaction to today’s finish is simple anti-Dillon bias. Had Almirola done that to Dillon, I don’t think the blowback would be quite as loud.

From one replay, it looked as if Dillon gave Almirola a shot down the backstretch when Almirola blocked. Fine, happens all the time. But then Dillon appeared to give Almirola another shot as they went into Turn 3, which was when Almirola spun and wrecked.

That just looks bad.

I’m not a fan of wrecking for the win. I hated it every time Dale Sr. did it. I hated it when Denny Hamlin did it to Elliott at Martinsville last year (though it helped a little that Hamlin wound up not winning anyway). I don’t like it when drivers I root for do it.

But for me, it’s even worse at Daytona. Dumping a guy at Martinsville or Bristol or Richmond is one thing. But at a plate track? At those speeds? That move could have easily wiped out half the field under different circumstances.

I dunno… like I said, I loved the race, and I love that NASCAR’s back. I can’t wait for Atlanta next week, and every race on the schedule after that. I’m just not sure I loved what Dillon did on the last lap.