Now, it might not have been the cleanest race, but then again Daytona is never clean. Kyle Larson came away with the regular-season championship. Over the season he established himself as the best of the best.
With five wins and 14 top-5 finishes, only Denny Hamlin came within 100 points of Larson. While he finished 21st in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, he’ll gladly take the season win.
Now, Larson didn’t have a bad race, but the circumstances made for a difficult go of things. That included a number of yellow flags on the final stage as well as a red flag at one point. There were great races from drivers on the verge of making the playoffs including Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Many of their races were messed up by the wrecks as well. Even the 105th lap had a yellow caution.
The playoffs field is set now with 16 drivers heading into a battle. Ryan Blaney took his second straight win this season. He closed out the season with those two wins along with seven top-5 finishes. There are many familiar names in the playoffs and young drivers that battled their way into the next stage.
Unfortunately, Chris Buescher who took second in the race will miss the playoffs by 15 points. He needed the win to move forward.
Those 16 drivers going to the playoffs are Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick, Alex Bowman, Auston Dillon, Kurt Busch, Christopher Bell, and Matt DiBenedetto. Each drove hard this season for a chance at the postseason.
Ryan Blaney Wins the Battle Kyle Larson Wins the War
Looking back on the race, Kyle Larson is lucky to have finished the race. He had to start in last due to failing an inspection. This race was unpredictable and no one really knew what was going to happen. It seemed fine and dandy through the first 30 laps. That proved to be short-lived in the second half of the race. With so many drivers on the verge of making the top-16 on the season, many took chances they shouldn’t have taken.
For Bubba Wallace, Ross Chastain, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., things were going great. The three were in the top-4 for multiple laps. Each had to come away with a win in order to qualify for the playoffs.
The drama was high and the drivers were racing their asses off! However, successive yellow flags made it difficult for them to maintain their positions. For Wallace to come back and finish 3rd overall was truly some great driving.
Chris Buescher’s Pain, Tyler Reddick’s Joy
One of the hardest parts of the end of the regular season is the conflicting emotions. Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney celebrate their respective wins, and others come to terms with the loss. The worst feeling has to be the guy who finishes 17th.
When it’s a driver that put together a performance as Chris Buescher did, it almost breaks your heart. “We had to be more aggressive…we did that today,” he said in remarks after the race that were posted to Twitter.
As for Richard Childress Racing and Tyler Reddick, things couldn’t be better. Reddick had quite a time traversing the race. Through the yellow flags, it didn’t look like he was going to be able to battle back into the race. However, by the time the checkered flag went up, Reddick crossed the line in his Chevy in sixth place. Afterward, he couldn’t have been happier to get some water and celebrate the playoff spot.
The duality of NASCAR. Let’s get ready for the playoffs!