We come to Daytona once again for a Fourth of July tradition. Racing at Daytona is always special but when we do it and celebrate our great country of America, it is even more special. We’ll see fireworks light up the sky next Saturday Night. The last five Night Races at Daytona have been some to remember. We’ve had amazing finishes, first-time winners and some great racing.
2007: In 2007, we were still calling the race the “Pepsi 400 but that night we saw a spectacular finish. For the most part of the final five laps, Kyle Busch (then in the No.5) and Jamie McMurray (then in the No.26) were racing side by side. They were coming across the line simultaneously almost every lap. Coming out of turn four for the final time, Busch had a slight edge but McMurray stayed along side. At the line it was too close to call but NASCAR officials eventually ruled McMurray the winner. At the time, McMurray had only one previous race in his career so this win was pretty special.
2008: In 2008, we saw a pretty calm race until the end. The biggest story leading up the finish had been Tony Stewart getting replaced in the car by J.J Yeley because Stewart was experiencing flu like symptoms. With two laps to go, Jeff Gordon was second coming to the restart and he got turned from behind which sent his car spinning but he did not hit anything and the caution did not come out.
Then coming to get the white flag, we saw cars getting lose and sliding around but they did not wreck until they got to turn one. When the No.77 of Sam Hornish Jr got into the No. 28 of Travis Kvapil and turned Kvapil back across the field, the wreck began. That incident ended the race and then NASCAR went back to the video to determine the winner. Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch were side by side when the wreck began but when NASCAR went back to the videos, they determined Busch had a slight edge over Edwards and pronounced Busch the winner of the race. After coming so close last season, Busch got redemption and got across the line first this year in Daytona.
2009: In 2009, the race was run on July 4th for the first time since 1992. Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin dominated the race; they led a combined total of 149 laps. Two big wrecks occurred in the race; the first one occurred when Kasey Kahne (then in the No.9) got into the back in David Stremme (Then in the No.12) and then Stremme went head on into the wall and collected multiple cars with him. Many Daytona fans were angry because Dale Earnhardt Jr was involved; Jr was also involved in the 2009 Daytona 500 pileup. So 2009 in Daytona wasn’t a happy memory for Earnhardt Jr fans.
Coming to get the white-flag, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin and Busch pulled up the track to pass Stewart. Hamlin pushed Busch around Stewart but Stewart got back up behind Busch before Hamlin could. Coming out of turn four Stewart was trying everything to get Busch loose and then Stewart moved up the track. Stewart would go to the outside of Busch and when Busch attempted to block Stewart, Stewart turned Busch head on into the outside wall and Busch hit hard. Stewart would go on and take the checkers and the wreck wasn’t finished quite yet. Kasey Kahne (then in the No.9) couldn’t see a thing and he ran right into the back of Busch’s car, lifting Busch’s car into the air and back down. Then Joey Logano hit Busch one last time in the drivers’ door. Cars were scattered everywhere and Stewart went on to celebrate his first win at Daytona since 2006.
2010: In 2010, the race wouldn’t begin until after 9 PM due to showers but the show went on. On lap 103, Montoya and Kyle Busch were racing each other for the lead when Montoya turned Busch head on into the outside wall. Busch was the dominant car of the day before this incident. After winning in 2008, Busch had been turned into the wall the next two years. A 22 car pileup occurred when Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch made contact on the backstretch and bunched the middle of the field up and the big wreck began.
Burton and Busch didn’t suffer nearly as much damage as what the main cars in the wreck did. Drivers involved included last year’s winner Stewart. Other drivers involved included Martin, Johnson, Newman, Logano, Hamlin and many others. A green-white-checker finish was also a part of this race. More fireworks erupted with the finish in this race. On the last lap, Kurt Busch bumped Bowyer into the wall then Bowyer spun back across the backstretch and through the grass. No caution came out and the race continued, Harvick held off Kasey Kahne (then in the No.9) and Jeff Gordon to take the checkers.
2011: In 2011, we saw a great race. The race had competitive racing and a first-time winner. The 2011 Daytona 500 champion, Trevor Bayne ran into trouble early when the No.2 of Brad Keselowski got into the back of Bayne and turned him around into the wall. The first big wreck occurred with two laps to go when Joey Logano turned Mark Martin on the exit of turn two. When cars went high to avoid the wreck, they all got involved. Drivers involved included; Stewart, Truex Jr, Bowyer and many more.
The second attempt of the green-white-checker finish left David Ragan leading with Matt Kenseth pushing him in the two-car-tandem with other tandems approaching them. On the final lap, two separate wrecks occurred. One in turn three started when Landon Cassill (then in the No.51) turned Marcos Ambrose and David Reutimann (then in the No.00) was also involved. Then when the cars roared out of turn four, another wreck occurred. Dale Earnhardt Jr made contact with Jamie McMurray and sent McMurray spinning back up the track. Other drivers involved include; Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Jeff Burton and Juan Pablo Montoya. Kenseth pushed David Ragan across the line and Ragan won his first career Sprint Cup Series race. The race ended with fireworks and a first-time winner, not a bad combination for a fourth of July showdown in Daytona.
In the last five Daytona Night races, we’ve seen great racing and close and wild finishes. Drivers who won one year, have gotten involved in a wreck another year. That shows how wild and unpredictable the races in Daytona are. I expect a combination of all these races for our race this Saturday Night in Daytona. No matter what the outcome Saturday Night, we should see a great race.
By Jason Schultz