NASCAR revs into action with historic Daytona 500

NASCAR revs into action with historic Daytona 500

daytona 500
Denny Hamlin’s No.11 car edges out Martin Truex’s No.78 car in the closest finish in Daytona 500 history. Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016 (USA TODAY Sports)

BailOut: A column by Caleb Bailey, Sports Editor

For those who don’t know, watching grown men (and one woman) race stock cars around a track for three hours is a thing. Not only is it a thing, but it is one of the most-watched events on television.

For years, stock car racing, which originated from those running from the law with illegal moonshine during prohibition, has become a national phenomenon. It is not just middle-aged southern men with a beer gut and a mullet screaming at the television for “their driver” to go faster.

It is the third-most advertised sport in the world, outside of soccer and American football. The one stock car racing company that most people associate with the is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, or NASCAR.

Any fan of NASCAR knows how important last Sunday was. 43 drivers took to the Daytona International Speedway for the first race of the season: the Daytona 500.

It began Sunday when a rookie, Chase Elliott, won the pole position in one of the most dominant qualifying performances in NASCAR history. Elliott took over the No. 24 car, driven for years by NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, who was coincidentally in the broadcasting booth to watch Elliott wreck out in just the opening laps of the race.

It was relatively a dominant performance for Denny Hamlin from the start of the race. Of the 200 laps driven, he led 95 of them, more than double what the next-highest lap-leader had (Matt Kenseth with 40).

However, veteran Martin Truex Jr. made a late push for the lead as he and Hamlin began battling it out. The lead changed over the last few laps with Hamlin just barely in front entering lap 200.

The two were neck-and-neck and it came down to a photo finish for the two races. Hamlin beat Truex by the smallest margin in Daytona 500 history at just a difference of .02 seconds.

Hamlin crossed over the finish line and emerged victorious in the Daytona 500 for the first time in his career. He took a few victory donuts in the infield and celebrated in style.

It was just win No. 27 for Hamlin in his young 10-year career in the Sprint Cup Series, but it will likely go down as one of his biggest and the best.

NASCAR is back and there probably could not have been a better way to start the season.