Can anyone ever remember a day where so much happened in such a short period of time? Where one team scrambled, another waited, others felt angered, and in the end one was overjoyed.
Before any command was given, whether the invocation or one to fire engines, drama already developed. The No. 22 team for Penske Racing suddenly felt a scramble on their hands that was unexpected. Their driver, A.J. Allmendinger, was not going to race. It was revealed that he was the random drug test from last weekend in Kentucky...and he failed.
Suddenly, the team scrambled and got hold of Nationwide driver Sam Hornish Jr, who was flown down by Penske to drive. But would he make it in time? Kenny Wallace was suddenly going from his backup duty for Kevin Harvick, who's wife Delana went home as any day now she could go into labor, to possibly starting the No. 22.
Hornish made it, literally during pre-race ceremonies, and then things just went insane from that point forward.
Like a typical restrictor plate race, things got chaotic. Drivers that were fastest got caught up in wrecks, some not of their own doing, and it came down to a dash in the end.
The one that withstood the onslaught...Tony Stewart. Right place, right time and right circumstances were what won him the race this time. The shot he got from Kasey Kahne on the last lap, combined with the tandem of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle losing their connection, gave Smoke just enough time and room to get in front, and make the run to the checkered flag.
In a bit of a surprise, no writer picked Stewart to win. In fact, only two writers had top-10 finishes, while others just managed to survive. It was a very lucky race for many, and a fortunate one for some.
Here's a look at the positions of the Pool participants after Saturday night's Coke Zero 400:
Billy Fellin (664) Matt Kenseth finished 3rd (3)
Sal Sigala Jr. (627) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 15th (1)
Christopher Leone (598) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 15th (1)
Misan Akuya (596) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 15th (1)
James Broomhead (593) Kevin Harvick finished 23rd (2)
Kelly Crandall (589) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 15th (2)
Kara Martin (576) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 15th (1)
Patti Rodisch (575) Matt Kenseth finished 3rd (2)
Rob Tiongson (571) Jeff Gordon finished 12th (3)
Dustin Parks (568) Jeff Gordon finished 12th (1)
Ryan O'Hara (555) Jeff Gordon finished 12th (1)
Michael Hirshbein (524) Kyle Busch finished 24th (1)
Next Race: Now that the chaos of Daytona has come to an end, it's time to have a little magic to get to victory. From a high-banked, high-speed superspeedway, it is now time to go to a very flat, but still very fast, one-mile speedway.
There's no need for lights at the next race, as another Sunday afternoon event is on the horizon. What awaits the teams is the Magic Mile of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It's a track that is barely banked, but highly competitive. Last year, one team dominated both races, and now has momentum coming out of Daytona.
Writers, take those plates off and have your picks for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 sent in by Thursday, July 12, at 10 p.m. ET.
Writer Note: It is extremely important to get your picks in by the deadline this upcoming week, as I will be posting early due to my trip next weekend to the 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals in Bloomsburg, PA, with media credentials. Plan is for a late-Thursday posting, or immediately after the last writer sends (whichever happens first).
Thank you in advance for helping me out. It is greatly appreciated.