If you looked up the word dominant in the dictionary, you might find a picture of Brad Keselowski celebrating in Victory Lane after winning the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky. Kyle Busch attempted to steal the win away but he didn’t have the car to hold off Keselowski as Keselowski retook the lead with just 19 laps to go. Congratulations to Keselowski who led 199 of the 267 laps in the race. Both he and his Penske teammate Joey Logano were near untouchable as they combined to lead 236 laps in the race. Busch was the only other driver in the field to lead a lap as the Penske bunch were head and shoulders above the competition all night. It was Keselowski’s second win at Kentucky, his second of the season , and his second on a 1.5-mile track this year, the first coming at Las Vegas in the third race of the season. Now the series heads south to the world center of racing at the Daytona International Speedway and the Coke Zero 400.
While the 400-miler at Daytona doesn’t carry the prestige and glamour of the 500 in February, a win at Daytona is a win at Daytona and a win here puts a driver in the history books alongside some of the biggest names in NASCAR history.
This race is the 30th anniversary of one of the most memorable races in NASCAR history. In 1984, Richard Petty began the season with 198 wins and he picked up career win 199 at Dover. He hadn’t been that competitive that season, but Daytona gave Petty a chance for number 200. What was making the race more special was president Ronald Reagan would be in attendance. Reagan gave the command to fire the engines from Air Force One and then landed at the airport right behind the track and was ushered into the press box where he was interviewed by Ned Jarrett and got to call some of the race. Reagan was on hand to witness a moment in NASCAR that will probably never be equaled.
A late caution made the drivers realize that the race would end under yellow and Petty and Cale Yarborough were the top two when the caution came out. In those days the field raced back to the flag and Petty and Yarborough beat and banged on each other coming to the stripe, and Petty held off Yarborough for his 200th and final career win.
Fun Fact: Yarborough might have been second to Petty when they got to the line, but he wasn’t the one who finished second to Petty. He thought that they were racing back to the checkered, not the white flag, so the next time around, Yarborough came down pit road thinking the race was over. It wasn’t and Harry Gant had the honor of finishing second to Richard Petty in his final win.
Most wins among active drivers: Jeff Gordon (6)
Defending winner: Jimmie Johnson dominated the 400-mile race at Daytona, becoming the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982 to sweep both races at Daytona in a season as he also won the 2013 Daytona 500 for the second time in his career. Johnson led 94 of the 160 laps, but it seemed like he led more as his car was nearly unpassable for most of the evening. It was Johnson’s first win in the 400-mile race.
Prediction: This driver was the talk of the garage area back in February during Speedweeks when he won the pole for the 500. He finished a respectable ninth and backed it up with another respectable run at Talladega where he finished 15th. I’m picking rookie Austin Dillon this week. He drives for his grandfather Richard Childress and RCR cars have always been good at the restrictor-plate tracks, even during their recent down times. Winning the pole at Daytona in February showed that RCR not only knows how to build good restrictor-plate cars, but that their drivers are capable of getting the job done. Dillon has been quietly consistent this season and has been hanging around the top 16 in points. He’s 18th in points right now, but a win would almost assuredly earn him a spot in the Chase. I think Dillon will be in Victory Lane for his first career win in the Cup Series on Saturday night with a Chase berth locked up.
David Barr is a graduate of Daniel Boone High School and Mansfield University, where he received his degree in Communications.