With the conclusion of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway, the field for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs has been set, and it looks nothing like it did at the start of the weekend.
To make things more intense, drivers about to join the 10-race NASCAR Cup Series post-season had to wait to start the race, as persistent bad weather postponed the race to Sunday at 10:00 a.m. / ET.
With the weather looking crystal clear, the engines were fired up quickly on Sunday as the 37-car field looked to battle it out for 160 laps of NASCAR Cup Series superspeedway action, with the added pressure of the Playoffs looming.
Going into Sunday’s event, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. were only separated by 25 points, a number that would only become significant if the event produced an additional winner.
In the worst-case scenario for Blaney, the Team Penske driver was caught up in a six-car crash before the end of the first leg of the race, with his #12 Ford Mustang sustaining extensive damage.
Advancing through the event, Truex went from defense to offense, picking up a much-needed 15 points, after finishing fifth and second in both legs of the race. However, much like Blaney, things went south for driver Joe Gibbs Racing.
Just after the start of the third stage of the race, Michael McDowell was knocked down at the front of the field, causing a seven-car accident, which also took away Martin Truex Jr, forcing the No 19 to work diligently to repair the damage, which they continued. to do without losing a turn.
As if things couldn’t have gotten more hectic, the threat of precipitation began to rise sharply, as dark clouds ominously surrounded Daytona International Speedway, with several drivers trying to hold their position in case of rain or lightning.
After another pair of restarts, things started to get intense, with constant three-by-three racing throughout the peloton, as the rain continued to close in on the circuit, with a force that many believed would end at the event.
Well, there’s a doubt he hit the track, just not before a massive 18+ car crash in the first corner, which happened when a sudden downpour washed away all the grip in the corner, sending the entire leading pack crashing into a heap.
Only Austin Dillon, Austin Cindric, Landon Cassill and one or two others were able to get out of the massive accident without any significant damage, as the rain began to fall harder and harder.
At this point, the event had already reached the halfway point, meaning the race would have an official winner declared before the drivers and teams left the facility. With a massive downpour hitting the track, Dillon looked to be in a prime position to take the win.
However, thanks to the sanctioning body’s willingness to finish the regular season finale under the green flag, the rain subsided, the track dried up and the engines were retired after one more red flag. three hours.
After the race resumed, the field had shrunk considerably, with over 10 entrants dropping out of the race due to the accident, and several more dropping out due to damage later discovered.
With three laps to go, Austin Dillon, desperate to enter the playoffs, made a move inside Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric, nearly destroying him at turn one, but instead exiting in the lead.
Help from teammate Tyler Reddick would solidify his booking in victory lane and the first 1-2 finish for Richard Childress Racing since Texas in 2020, where Dillon and Reddick also finished 1-2.
Austin Cindric bounced back from a near miss in the final five laps to score a third-place finish, while Spire Motorsports and Landon Cassill recorded a fourth-place finish.
Noah Gragson, making his second-to-last NASCAR Cup Series start for Beard Motorsports, scored the organization’s first top-five finish after being sidelined with a chance of victory.
Cody Ware recorded a career-best sixth, while BJ McLeod – co-owner of Live Fast Motorsports – came home with a career-best seventh. Martin Truex Jr, David Ragan and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10, the only cars on the lead lap.
Bubba Wallace, Joey Logano, Ty Gibbs, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney and Cole Custer completed the 16 entries that were still in progress at the end of Sunday’s 400-mile event.
Despite finishing in the top 10, Martin Truex Jr. was unable to make up the necessary number of points on Ryan Blaney that would put him in the playoffs, finishing just three points behind. outside.
Despite finishing in the top 10 and sitting in the top five in the series points standings, Martin Truex Jr. did not qualify for the 16-driver postseason this year, ensuring that the No. 19 will not finish better than 17th in points.