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OBSERVATIONS: Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway

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Anybody remember the Powershares QQQ 300 from February? The second verse produced by Daytona International Speedway with the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 was just as memorable.

The race started off exciting with the field remaining side-by-side for the first half of the first stage, though the second half failed to produce with a single-file train to the checkered. The following stage was the opposite as no much passing to begin, but the race to the end had a thrilling battle between Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott.

However, the battle to the end of the event was even better than that. 

Sure, the event produced it’s familiar big wreck with 19 laps to go, and that included Austin Cindric going for a small barrel roll on the turn one banking. But we’ve grown used to that on the restrictor plate tracks due to how close the field is. Thankfully, all the drivers involved were okay. This, combined with two more smaller cautions, set-up a late-race run to the checkered – which saw everything you’d expect. 

Larson and Elliott Sadler were set to battle side-by-side right to the checkered, each nosing ahead at different times through the overtime finish. Ultimately, they will go down as having one of the closest finishes in series history according to the record books, separated by 0.005 seconds at the line.

Now, let’s discuss Justin Haley. As the pair traded blows, Haley got a run off of turn four and used to that his advantage, beating the pair back to the line. However, there was a problem with his move – he dipped below the yellow line.

To prevent drivers from racing down on the apron and back up on the track for safety concerns, NASCAR has a double-yellow line rule, which states “when the vehicle’s left side tires are beneath the left line of the inside double yellow lines that separates the apron from the racing surface while passing another vehicle,” a competitor is penalized in violation – unless they are forced under.

With a whole car-width between himself and Sadler, it is clear that Haley wasn’t forced below with his move. The replay also shows him nosing ahead as his left side tires are below the first of the two yellow lines to the left of his No. 24 Chevrolet.

If he would’ve remained on the surface, Haley could’ve had his first career victory. Instead, he gets credited with an 18th-place finish. Certainly a disappointing situation, but he did take it in stride and that is to be applauded given his youth. 

For Sadler, it marks his second straight Daytona runner-up by a mere bumper as he looks for his first series victory since September 2016 at Kentucky Speedway. As the current points leader, it’s clear that he has the consistency to contend for the championship. However, a victory would really solidify his chances against competition like Justin Allgaier and Christopher Bell.

Oh, and there’s another rule that could be analyzed as drivers aren’t supposed to lock bumpers. However, there were plenty of times that competitors got close to each other and there was no call made by the sanctioning body. Recall Haley’s tweet from February.

The NASCAR XFINITY Series can produce some of the best restrictor plate racing as witnessed with each of their three events this year. It’s a shame that both Daytona events have been filled with controversy and will be remembered that way instead.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.