Jim McKay always talked about the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Well, we got both ends of that spectrum at the 60th annual Daytona 500.
In the finish, Austin Dillon got into leader Aric Almirola and turned him into the wall with less than a half lap to go. While both agreed it was a product of restrictor plate racing, it’s hard to grasp the juxtaposition of seeing someone celebrate a win you thought you had and you’re wrecked in Turn 3.
But this race was much more than the finish. This Daytona 500 was a battle of attrition as drivers did their best to avoid the multiple big crashes to try and get to the finish. With just 10 cars finishing on the lead lap, that should tell you how tough it was to get to the end of the race.
Fox’s Radioactive segment, where they compile the best sound bytes from the drivers, crew chiefs and spotters during a race, provides a great look in the psyche of the people while they work and perform. We all see them get to be a bit more real because the language isn’t usually as polished than if they knew they were on TV.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 21, 2018
After Denny Hamlin lost a lap due to overshooting his pit stall and Kyle Busch blowing a tire, the first “Big One” happened at the end of Stage One. First big one at the end of Stage 1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got loose and somehow saved his car but it caused others behind to check up and Erik Jones along with others became the unintended victim. This crash was especially painful for Jimmie Johnson, who was caught up in three crashes and destroyed three cars within a week.
Rick Carelli (Erik Jones’ spotter) – “Hang on! Hang on! Hang on!”
Tab Boyd (William Byron’s spotter) – “Check up! Check up! Check up!”
Erik Jones – “We’re fucking done. Oh my God!”
Jimmie Johnson – “It was such a great racecar, boys. I’m sorry. Thank you for all your hard work.”
The second “Big One” happened just after halfway. Chase Elliott got loose, slammed into Brad Keselowski and went into the wall. The crash also collected Danica Patrick, who was driving in her final NASCAR race.
Eddie D’Hondt (Chase Elliott’s spotter) – “We’re wrecking.”
Jeremy Brickhouse (Danica Patrick’s spotter) – “The whole damn thing is tore up.”
In between Stages 2 and 3, we got a bit of foreshadowing as to what was going to happen at the end of the race. Dillon talked about how Darrell Wallace Jr. was getting overly aggressive and considered moving him out of the way but thought against it. That might have won him a Daytona 500 as it was Wallace who pushed him to victory at the end.
In addition, Almirola talked about how Ryan Blaney moving from the #21 to the #12 of Penske Racing made him a better restrictor plate driver. That might have jinxed Blaney considering he was largely at fault for the final crash with a couple laps to go.
Austin Dillon – “#43 just blocked me. I could have moved him, but it didn’t seem worth it.”
Aric Almirola (talking about Ryan Blaney) – “Getting in a Penske car has turned him into a damn speedway racer.”
The defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly happy with the future Daytona 500 champion during the race.
Martin Truex Jr. – “Fucking lap cars get the fuck out of the way!”
Truex Jr. – “Tell the fucking #3 he’s an [I’m assuming he said] asshole!”
The final “Big One” happened with two laps to go in regulation. Going for the win, Blaney got in a wrong spot to try and push Kurt Busch and the two spun, taking out almost the rest of the field behind them. That largely left the small number of cars remaining to fight it out for the win.
Chris Lambert (Denny Hamlin’s spotter) – “They’re wrecking behind us. Inside, inside. Caution, you should be the leader.”
Kevin Hamlin (Alex Bowman’s spotter) – “Hold the brake, we’re in it, guys.”
Coleman Pressley (AJ Allmendinger’s spotter) – “Low, low, low!”
TJ Majors (Joey Logano’s spotter) – “Coming straight, just go straight.”
Kurt Busch – “Sorry guys!”
AJ Allmendinger – “Shit man, I’m sorry.”
Cole Pearn (Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief) – “I knew that was going to happen!”
Truex Jr. – “I know you did, Cole.”
This left an Overtime duel that looked like an unpredictable couple laps. Literally, any one of the cars on the lead lap could have won. Denny Hamlin may have made the right decision to start at the bottom but he wasn’t able to protect the lead.
And the jubilation in Dillon’s voice and the devastation in Almirola’s voice is immediately apparent. While you want to celebrate Dillon’s win, you have to feel terrible for Almirola for being so close, especially after breaking his back last year.
Denny Hamlin – “I think I should take bottom. What do you think?”
Lambert – “Yeah, I think the #37 would be more apt to stay in line than Austin would.”
Mike Wheeler (Denny Hamlin’s crew chief) – “I tend to agree with you.”
Joel Edmonds (Aric Almirola’s spotter) – “White flag right here.”
Andy Houston (Austin Dillon’s spotter) – “Stay with this #10 for now.”
Edmonds – “He’s not clear yet. Block bottom. Block bottom.”
Houston – “#43 with you. Keep coming.”
Edmonds – “Hang on to it, bud. Hang on to it. Hang on, hang on. One more coming at you. Yeah, they hooked us.”
John Klausmeier (Aric Almirola’s crew chief) – “Good job man, you had us in position. Can’t control an idiot.”
Edmonds – “Let me know that you’re okay, please.”
Almirola – “I’m okay. Devastated.”
Houston – “Clear low, keep coming. No caution. No caution, keep coming. All the way back to the line here. Daytona 500 winner, come on!”
Dillon (in one of the most high pitched voices I’ve ever heard) – “Did we win!? Did we just freaking win!?”
Richard Childress (Austin Dillon’s owner and grandfather) – “Hell of a job, buddy! Hell of a job! That’s what I mean! You won it!”
Justin Alexander (Austin Dillon’s crew chief) – “You are the man! Thank you! You are the man!”
Dillon – “This is all Him (referring to God)! I didn’t do nothing today. It’s all Him.”