The 2013 Daytona 500 was a huge success, but it was the big surprises from The Great American Race that made the event so thrilling.
Some of the biggest names in the sport did well on Sunday, but a plethora of crashes doomed many of the race’s top contenders.
That’s what you get at the Daytona International Speedway.
Danica Patrick Finishes Eighth
Despite starting on the pole for the race and looking strong throughout Speed Weeks, many discounted what Danica Patrick and the No. 10 car could in the heat of the Daytona 500.
After an eighth-place finish in the biggest race of the NASCAR season, no one can question the talent Patrick showed on the track or the composure she showed off the track when questions swirled about her relationship with fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (h/t ESPN.)
The great finish was a huge shock to many, but the barrier-breaking performance—Patrick was the first woman in history to lead a lap in the Daytona 500—made this surprising performance a highlight of the weekend.
The Generation-6 Car Performed Well
Over the offseason, the sport of NASCAR underwent a major overhaul with the new Generation-6 series cars, harkening back to a time when the cars resembled the production vehicles they represented.
Now the fans can buy the cars they saw at the Daytona 500.
The racing was different at Daytona as well—passing appeared to be more difficult and the aerodynamic difference caused a few accidents—but the issues that plagued the event in 2012 like two-car drafting were solved.
There will always be fans that don’t like the changes, but the new designs for the vehicles signaled positive changes for the sport in both safety and the mainstream popularity of the sport.
Jimmie Johnson Is Even More Determined
Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 car finished in second place in 2012 Sprint Cup Series Championship race, and while many felt the team would have a slow start as they tried to get back to the mountain top, a Daytona 500 win stunned the NASCAR world.
For the second time in his career, Johnson started the season off with a monumental Daytona 500 win, but it’s clear that the five-time champion is looking to add a sixth series title in 2013.
It’s hard to keep a team focused after so much success, but if it were somehow possible that Johnson and the No. 48 crew want to win a championship even more now, the effort shown during Daytona’s Speed Weeks is indicative of that.
Johnson starts the series as the favorite to win it all