Quite honestly, the kind of start to the NASCAR season the sport needed was one that took focus off the negative and onto the positive. All through the off-season it was talk of change to determining a champion, and then those changes going into effect. It was about "more focus on winning, while also being consistent."
NASCAR had to get back to what is most important...RACING.
Finally, the sport got to see the best drivers hit the track in the marque event of the season. All eyes were on 43 cars and their wheelmen, plus one wheel-woman, do battle for the ultimate trophy in the sport. In the beginning, it was a short-lived run. Downpours, warnings, and waiting made up most of the afternoon as heavy rain hit the Florida area and made fans take cover. The green flag waved shortly after 1 p.m. but then just about an hour and 20 minutes later it was halted as the rain washed up and made the biggest race of the year go into rain mode.
After six hours and 22 minutes of waiting, thanks to track drying and Musco lights, the racing got back under way, and what all the fans got in return was exactly what they paid their hard-earned money for. Two-wide, three-wide, every lap, and every corner, and no one was waiting around for things to happen. It was nearly a race to another caution, hoping the rain stayed away.
Not only did it stay away, it gave fans a full race, and for their patience, and their never-give-up attitude, they got the ultimate gift.
It was just over 10 years ago when a young man still reeling from the loss of someone he loved, as well as many fans adored, got the biggest win of his career. In three of the last four seasons, he would look out the windshield to see the one car ahead of him take the checkered flag, and the biggest win of the season. This time, it was the move on the final restart that sealed the deal, and talent, drive and desire took over.
For the first time since 2012, the No. 88 Chevorlet saw the checkered flag first, and for the first time since 2004, Dale Earnhardt Jr. could say that he is a winner in the Great American Race.
Not only does that in essence give him the first spot in the Chase, but after just one week in the pool, two writers already have a victory on the year, the quickest a multi-win week has happened in the pool since it began. Take a look at where each writer stands after the season-opening Daytona 500:
Kara Martin (48) Dale Earnhardt Jr. WON - 1
Ryan O'Hara (48) Dale Earnhardt Jr. WON - 1
Rob Blount (42) Brad Keselowski finished 3rd - 0
Rob Tiongson (40) Jeff Gordon finished 4th - 0
Patti Rodisch (38) Matt Kenseth finished 6th - 0
Dustin Parks (36) Austin Dillon finished 9th - 0
Billy Fellin (31) Kevin Harvick finished 13th - 0
Michael Hirshbein (26) Kyle Busch finished 18th - 0
Sal Sigala Jr (26) Kyle Busch finished 18th - 0
Misan Akuya (9) Tony Stewart finished 35th - 0
James Broomhead (9) Tony Stewart finished 35th - 0
Aaron Rosser (9) Tony Stewart finished 35th - 0
NEXT RACE: How exactly can one follow up a race, much less a two-week span of spectacular events, like what just occurred in NASCAR? It's nearly impossible since so many things happened that were worth writing about, and memorizing.
Somehow, NASCAR is going to do so because after such a weekend, teams now must unload the restricted cars, and get to the fully horsepowered, bigger spoiler machines as the series now heads out west. Once again the Phoenix International Raceway welcomes the top drivers to their speedway, and embark on their own celebration of being around for several decades.
Writers, the season's biggest race is done. Now, we're into the heart of the schedule. Have your picks submitted by 10 p.m. on Thursday, February 27, for The Profit on CNBC 500.