Those are things everyone knows following the Daytona 500.
But not everything fans saw came out as crystal clear. Some mysteries remain unsolved after Austin Dillon won the sport’s biggest prize Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
He’s the first among a list of the three biggest unknowns leaving Daytona.
1. Dillon’s status as a fan favorite
Does he need to be? Some brash drivers find their fan base with age. Just ask Darrell Waltrip.
But Dillon might never reach that point. Consider his answer when asked about the contact with Aric Almirola on the final lap, where he sent Almirola spinning:
“I guess I could have lifted and gave it to him,” Dillon said. “I guess that was my other option, give up a Daytona 500 ring that I’m wearing. I don’t know, I’m glad he’s not mad.
“If he needs to do it to me at Talladega for everybody to feel good, I’ve got a Daytona 500 championship trophy, ring, whatever, I don’t care. I’ve got the [car No.] 3 back in Victory Lane at Daytona. It feels pretty good.”
Some view that comment as a lack of class. But to Dillon, that’s just racing. He grew up living in the NASCAR garage. The soft don’t survive. Those who worry about how everyone reacts to every comment go nuts.
The only way he knows how to go about it is to jump on the roller coaster and enjoy the ride. His brother, Ty, handles it differently, with a little more let-actions-speak mentality.
There is no convincing people that Dillon is the proper driver to wheel the No. 3 car. Those who are against it will always be against it.
And that’s OK. A polarizing driver winning the Daytona 500 can do great things for NASCAR. It will encourage debate and possibly increase the drama.
But some will want to use the win as some sort of defining moment, a ratification of sorts for Dillon to drive the No. 3 and that he deserves it and any mention of silver spoons should disappear.
2. The yellow-line debate
The confusion continues over the yellow-line rule, which is only applicable to restrictor-plate races. So that means everyone can forget about it until Talladega in April — and there’s not even a reason to find an answer until then.
The rule seems pretty simple. A driver can’t pass underneath the yellow line and if a driver is forced below the yellow line, the driver who forced the competitor below the line can be penalized.
NASCAR typically defines a car being below the yellow line as a full wheel below it. But television angles, especially from the inside of the track, can give a skewed look of just how far below the yellow line the wheels actually have gone. And then the whole “forced” and “advanced position” judgment calls leave plenty of room for critique and inconsistency.
So, did Johnny Sauter make a legal pass during the truck series race, a pass that theoretically helped him later take the lead and win the race? Maybe. NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell tweeted that fans got a bad angle and it was a legal move.
Earnhardt was so confused that he even called O’Donnell last week to talk about it so Earnhardt could then go on his podcast and explain it.
But that was before the truck race, and then Earnhardt was confused again.
“It’s no different than any other fan,” he said. “I’m inquisitive about what I see on the track and the calls they make and like to try to understand.”
Busch blew two left rear tires early in the race, sending him several laps down. What happened?
No one seems to know. Goodyear said it was neither a puncture nor a manufacturing issue.
Goodyear’s Greg Stucker had this to say with about 20 laps left in the race: “They were pretty much identical [issues]. We see nothing else like that up and down pit road. We have guys with twice as many laps on tires. … It’s not obvious to us that there was any sort of cut or anything else. It didn’t look like a tire rub. It didn’t have that appearance. It just looked like the tire was getting overworked. We just need to understand what could contribute to that.”
Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens: “I can tell it wasn’t setup and it wasn’t air pressure, the two things I’m in control of. Beyond that, I don’t know. We didn’t change left sides in the clash or in the duel with the same setup and the same air pressure [as the 500]. And now we can’t go 20 laps, but yet we didn’t change anything after that and ran the rest of the race. So I don’t have a darn clue what’s going on. We had teammates that were multiple pounds lower on air [pressure] than us, and it was not even a concern at all. … There were no rubs on the tire. None.”
Goodyear will take the tires back to Akron to see if its engineers can tell them anything more.