If you watched the 2016 Daytona 500, especially the closing laps, you were in for quite a treat.
With the field coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap of the 200-lap event, Matt Kenseth led the lead pack. As they exited the turn, Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin made a daring charge to the front from fourth place.
Hamlin, Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. went three-wide as they approached the finish line. Kenseth, in his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, dropped down to block Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry (at least that’s what it looked like). Instead, the resulting contact knocked Kenseth up into the outside wall as Hamlin and Truex, in the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota Camry, duked it out.
In the end, it was Hamlin by 0.010 seconds (or four inches) over Truex. The margin of victory was the closest in Daytona 500 history. Filling out the top 10 were Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Regan Smith, Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch. Kenseth fell all the way back to 14th.
Hamlin and his team weren’t the only ones excited. John Farrell was celebrating the fact that he won the first week of the new season of “In This Corner.” His three choices of Hamlin, Harvick (fourth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (36th) gave him 41 points, which was less than Alex Pohlman and Howard Hitchcock (the “In This Corner” guest picker for the week) and good enough for the weekly point.
Hitchcock’s three picks Kyle Busch (third), Jimmie Johnson (16th) and Earnhardt (36th) for a total of 55 points. Pohlman didn’t fare as well with 92 points: Ryan Blaney (19th), Earnhardt (36th) and Elliott (37th).
This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels a little north of Daytona Beach, Fla., to Hampton, Ga., and Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
If this is your first time reading our “In This Corner” weekly column, we’ll explain how it works. The 2016 season marks the second year our “expert” prognosticators, Alex Pohlman and John Farrell, will choose who they think will win the upcoming race. (They’re only experts in their own heads.)
Every week last season, Alex and John picked one driver they thought would win that weekend’s race. Alex based her picks more on guts, while John based his picks solely on stats. The weekly winner between the two of them was the one who chose the driver who finished better in the race. For every weekly win, they received a point. In the end, Alex beat John 14-10. (It wasn’t a full season as they began with the May Dover race.)
This year, “In This Corner” is similar, but with some new twists thrown in to make it more challenging and entertaining. Joining Alex and John each week will be a different guest prognosticator. In addition, instead of selecting one possible winner, each oracle will pick three drivers they think have the best shot at ending up in Victory Lane.
Whoever selects the three drivers with the lowest accumulated finishing position will receive the point for that weekend. For example, if Alex picks the race winner and the 20th- and 30th-place finishers, but John picks the 10th-, 15th- and 20th-place winners, John would get that week’s point (depending on who the celebrity guest picker selects) because his drivers’ accumulated finishing position total (45) was lower than Alex’s (51).
The celebrity guest forecaster can choose whichever three drivers he or she wants regardless of who Alex or John select. However, Alex and John can only have one pick in common.
We will keep a running tally between Alex, John and the guests every week. At the end of the season, the prognosticator with the most points will be crowned the victor.
Our second guest picker of the season is someone who has been involved in NASCAR racing since the 1950s – NASCAR Hall of Fame Historian Buz McKim. Buz is a former Director of Archives for the International Speedway Corporation located in Daytona Beach, Fla. He became Historian of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., in 2007 and is responsible for the acquisition and preservation of artifacts depicting the history of NASCAR competition.
2. Carl Edwards: He and his team seem to be “jelling.” They looked good in the Daytona 500 despite body damage. And Carl got his first Cup win and first XFINITY win at Atlanta on the same weekend!
3. Martin Truex Jr.: He’ll be ready for a win after that heartbreaking 4-inch deficit at the line at Daytona.
2. Kevin Harvick: Harvick always has a strong presence at Atlanta and with a nickname like “The Closer” this is one driver who will be competing for the checkered.
3. Matt Kenseth: Matt Kenseth had a strong season last year and with a strong run at Daytona last weekend, he will show how strong he will be this season as well.
2. Kyle Busch: Dating back to last fall’s Martinsville race, Kyle Busch has five consecutive top-five finishes, and I don’t see that trend changing this weekend at Atlanta where he already has two wins.
3. Kurt Busch: Kurt Busch is tied with two other active drivers for the second-most wins at Atlanta with three (the most recent coming in 2010), but what sets him apart is he’d led more laps (687) there than any other active driver.
GUESTS – 0; ALEX – 0; JOHN – 1