Recapping the Great American Race


Austin Cindric celebrates his Daytona 500 victory in style with a burnout by the finish line. Photo by Haas Unlimited.

The 64th running of the Great American Race did not disappoint. In a race full of wrecks, rough racing and heartbreak for many drivers, the race displayed NASCAR’s beauty as a sport throughout the weekend. 


The Daytona 500 started on Friday, Feb. 18, with a heartfelt tribute to Dale Earnhardt, who tragically passed away in an accident 21 years ago at the Daytona 500. “The Intimidator” won the race for his first and only time in 1998, and a special marker is on the wall in the fourth turn, marking where he wrecked at about 180 mph. 


On Sunday, Feb. 20, the day kicked off with a pre-race concert by country music star Luke Combs. A beautiful rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by Trace Adkins awakened the American spirit of the crowd along with a flyover from the Air Force’s Thunderbirds. NFL Hall of Famer Chales Woodson made the most profound announcement in motorsports. “Drivers, start your engines!” The cars roared to life, followed the pace car around the two and a half-mile track for a few laps and then the CEO of the Fox Corporation, Lachlan Murdoch, waved the green flag sending them off.


In a race full of wrecks, one was more serious than the others. Harrison Burton went airborne in a wreck that included Kyle Busch and William Byron. Many popular drivers such as Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin wrecked out and did not finish. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. looked poised to pull off an incredible win while not having any teammates, but he wrecked out late in the race. Two groups of teammates were pushing for the lead towards the end of the race. Toyota drivers Bubba Wallace and Kyle Busch pressured Chevy teammates Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney. Eventually, Busch fell back due to the damage he suffered earlier in the race. The final lap was Cindric, Blaney and Wallace, all gunning for the lead. Coming out of turn four, Cindric threw a block up high on Blaney, then came back down low to block Wallace and hold on to win the race. It was an incredible finish to an impeccable race. 


Dawsonville native, Chase Elliot, struggled to gain any true momentum throughout the race. He started at 11th and finished 10th. He avoided a wreck late in the race by going through the grass. He lost control of the car but saved it before hitting the wall. He gave himself a chance at winning but could not pull it off. It was still a good race, and finishing in the top 10 is important for points that will accumulate throughout the season and determine playoff standings.