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Motorsports 101 Debate: was the 2014 Daytona 500 the Best Daytona 500 in the Last 15 Years?

February 26th, 2014 at 7:11 AM
By Clayton Caldwell

The 2014 Daytona 500 was exciting. Over the last 15 seasons the Daytona 500 has had it's high and low points. There have been some that have been really exciting and others that haven't been. Where does the 2014 Daytona 500 rank in the last 15 years? Motorsports 101 writers debate. 

It Takes the Cake – Clayton Caldwell

The 2014 Daytona 500 was one for the ages. While many fans were just simply happy with who went to victory lane on Sunday, the racing was nothing short of spectacular and NASCAR has finally figured out a way to make the pack racing awesome again. 

There is no doubt that the 2014 Daytona had its flaws. The 6+hour rain delay was one that many casual fans had a hard time waiting on, however as far as the racing goes it was sensational. Maybe it was because the threat of rain was in the forecast all night and the drivers thought that any minute a cloud could have come over the track and the race would be over. 

'daytona' photo (c) 2008, Katy Warner - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Whatever the reason may be the 2014 Daytona 500 was the best in the last 15 years. As a person who doesn't like the tandem draft at the Superspeedway tracks, that eliminates the 2011 race in which Trevor Bayne won driving for the Wood Brothers. The 2007 running of the Daytona 500 is one that stands out for sure. There was no doubt that it was exciting and there was racing throughout the Daytona 500 and made people really on the edge of their seats. I remember a casual race fan calling me up after the 2007 Daytona 500 and saying he thought that race was awesome and wanted more. 

However great that race I enjoyed the 2014 running more. I like the fact that the leader is no longer a sitting duck. It used to be the lead was a place you didn't want to be at the end of the event and the fear of the slingshot pass was something to be scared of. I feel the leader has a little bit more control over what is going on up there now. You can block, like we saw several leaders do on Sunday and I like the fact the leader has some sort of control. I think that fact alone takes the cake for me. 

There is no doubt the 2014 Daytona 500 was one that is for the ages. Where it ranks in the history of the event, remains to be seen but over the last 15 years I believe it's at the top. 

2007 Daytona 500 Does It For Me – Mark Eddinger
 
The 56th Daytona 500 on Sunday was a great race but was it the best edition of The Great American Race in the past 15 years? I would have to side with no.
 
The record six hour and 22 minute rain delay definitely brings it down a notch. The racing that fans saw though was terrific. Drivers were going after the lead on every lap and not just sitting and waiting in line afraid that they might make the wrong move and lose a ton of positions. And maybe the rain delay which pushed the Daytona 500 into the nighttime hours was a good thing for the racing. The track was cool and the cars were fast.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr winning also of course weighs in on whether it was the best Daytona 500 in the last 15 years which dates back to 2000. Earnhardt Jr's win in the 2004 edition of the race was a great memory and sealed that Daytona 500 into the history books forever as the victory came three years after his father Dale Earnhardt was killed in a last lap crash in Turn 4 of the 2001 Daytona 500

The 2001 race was very exciting with the Dale Earnhardt Incorporated cars of Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr out in front and Dale Earnhardt himself trying everything to hold off the strong cars of Sterling Marlin and Ken Schrader behind him to allow one of his self-owned cars to win the big race. It was the first win for Michael Waltrip after not winning in his first 433 career Cup Series starts. Unfortunately the tragic death overshadows everything in that race.

Ryan Newman's victory in 2008 was in a great race with an exciting finish where he drafted with help from his Penske teammate Kurt Busch to take the lead down the backstretch on the final lap. Trevor Bayne's win for Wood Brothers Racing came out of nowhere in 2011 and was really exciting. Personally I enjoy the tandem drafting and that was the only Daytona 500 where the tandem draft was prevalent and it made for a wild race and a scenario where truly anyone would win.
 
'Kevin Harvick Shell Pennzoil Chevy Impala' photo (c) 2008, Freewheeling Daredevil - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
 
My favorite Daytona 500 though in the past 15 years was the 2007 race when Kevin Harvick beat Mark Martin to the line by half a car length. A caution for a big wreck with five laps to go forced a red flag and then a green-white checkered finish. Harvick and others formed a line on the top side and Harvick charged from far back to get in contention down the backstretch on the final lap. Off Turn 4 it was neck and neck between Martin and Harvick with a huge pack right behind them. As Kyle Busch clipped the apron setting off a huge crash out of Turn 4 Harvick side-drafted by Martin to narrowly win at the line. Clint Bowyer's No. 07 car famously came across the finish line on its roof to finish 18th after being turned in the crash.

 

 

 

Tags: Dale Earnhardt Jr., daytona 500, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, Motorsports, NASCAR

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