William Byron puts Hendrick back into the Daytona 500 spotlight while Shane Van Gisbergen made his first US full season debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the same time

by Sports Benches

Gotta say that this year’s Daytona 500 edition (the race was held on Monday, not Sunday due to rainy weather) was about Ford v Chevy with Chase Elliott winning Stage 1 and Austin Cindric winning Stage 2 where we saw a few of The Big One wrecks not long after the race start and not long before the end of the race. At the end of the day, the winner belongs to William Byron in the No.24 Chevy Camaro from Hendrick Motorsports. He too had a great start who worked his way up to 2nd during the first half of the day, steered clear of caution at all costs including the last restart to stay in 1st as Cindric eventually lost control alongside fellow contender Ross Chastain on the last lap and the race is his to take after all with his first Daytona 500 win. It’s been 10 years since Hendrick last won a 500 with Dale Jr behind the wheel in the No.88 Chevy & double that back to nearly 20 when Jeff Gordon last brought the No.24 car into victory lane back in 2005. Let’s see if Byron can pull off the season championship & end Team Penske’s two-year dominance come November at Phoenix after he finished 4th at the season-finale race last year that saw him end up 3rd in the drivers’ standings behind Kyle Larson and eventual champ Ryan Blaney.

Meanwhile, shoutout to Corey LaJoie in 4th for Spire Motorsports with his best Daytona 500 finish as this team is tipped for big things this year following their huge off-season investments with the 3rd charter for Zane Smith and taking over Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series. Same goes to both Legacy Motor Club cars of John Hunter Nemechek and Erik Jones in 7th & 8th respectively as they are a Toyota team now and their next target is to push the No.42 and famous No.43 for higher honours up front for regular Top 7-10s every week going forward – having seen the No.43 long been under an American manufacturer for several decades. And also great to see Noah Gragson back this time in the No.10 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing after he had to sit the 2nd half last year out due to an inappropriate social media activity. He didn’t do bad in 9th where there’s still a long way to go towards getting that struggling team out of the middle & into the front once again.

If that’s not enough even though someone was there at the 500 but only racing in the other categories, how about our Kiwi Shane Van Gisbergen on his first full US season debut weekend for Kaulig Racing after a decorated career here in Supercars? Well, things might not have been easy from the start where he dropped a few spots from 5th to somewhere outside the Top 10-15 before he suffered some damage from the crash not long before the halfway mark on Lap 37. But fortunately his race wasn’t over where most cautions went his way to regain track position other than the last yellow whilst was running Top 10 for another while in Stage 3 as he completed his first Xfinity Series race in 12th. Yes, there are things where he could’ve been better running the Top 5 and even up front if it wasn’t for the yellows or the mid-race damage. But it’s his first full season in the US after a long time here in Australia, having also raced in the main ARCA Series race on the same weekend. Despite an unfortunate result there on what has been a wreck-spinning race, he did enough to pass the rookie superspeedway test as long as he participated including the practice orientation ones per NASCAR rules. Now he will look to look to dominate up front by getting used to winning with unfinished business ahead for the next race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.

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