Only in NASCAR does the season kick off with the biggest event of the season. And on February 13, the 2016 NASCAR season began with the Sprint Unlimited.
With no points on the line, the 25 drivers will battle it out for 75 laps to see who will earn the honour of being crowned the first winner of the season and to notch a Daytona win.
There is no qualifying for the Sprint Unlimited, the crew chiefs drew numbers to determine the starting positions of the drivers.
Sir Elton John sang that “Saturday Night’s Alright for Firghting” but in NASCAR, Saturday night is perfect for racing.
He field for the Unlimited is made up of pole winners, previous Daytona winners, and previous Unlimited winners.
It has been 83 days since the drivers last competed on a track…and they are ready to get the season started.
The Sprint Unlimited is a 75 lap race divided into two segments – a 25 lap segment and a 50 lap segment.
The starting line up for the race:
Martin Truex, Jr
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Brian Vickers – sitting in for Tony Stewart
Dale Earnhardt Jr
Darrell Waltrip gets the 2016 season started off with his signature Boogity Boogity Bookity.
Brad Keselowski pulls to the lead on lap one to lead the field.
By lap three the drivers have spread the field out to three wide.
Jaie McMurray has been barreling through the field, and with only five laps coplete, he has already found his way into the top five.
Ten laps into the race and Brad Keselowski continues to lead the field.
Jamie McMurray has moved from the back of the fied and took over the lead on lap eleven.
The first caution flag of the race comes out on lap 12 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr spins out after cutting a tire. He also hits Kenny Hamlin’s car in the spin; but the damage is minimal.
When the pits open, several of the drivers come down for service. Brad Keselowskk got a piece of debris covering his grill and had to come in the get it removed before the lack of air flow caused major issues to the car.
The caution flag was also a lucky break for Joey Logano whose water temperature had risen to a dangerous level.
Jamie McMurray is in the lead and brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 17.
Shortly after the restart on lap 18, Kyle Larson takes over the lead of the race but McMurray quickly retook the lead.
Conditions are mild but windy at Daytona and there is a great deal of debris flying around the track.
Brian Vickers hit the wall hard after cutting atire on lap 23, bringing out the second caution flag of the race. Several other cars were caught up in the may-lay. Dale Earnhardt Jr had significant damage to the side of his car; Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger, and Kevin Harvick were all involved in the wreck. Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and Brian Vicker’s cars are all in the garage getting repaired.
NASCAR is using the caution as the caution flag that separates the two segments of the race.
Denny Hamlin is now the leader of the race and will lead the field down for the green flag restart on lap 29.
Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin have been trading the lead ever since the green flag dropped and on lap 36, they’re still fighting for the lead spot but on lap 37, Keselowski finally takes over the lead of the race. Keselowski has more debris on his grill.
The third caution flag of the race comes out after Jimmie Johnson wrecks his car and tears up the front end of the car after hitting Casey Mears car. He takes his car to the garage.
Drivers take advantage of the caution flag and bring their cars down pit road for some fresh tires and fuel up.
Dale Jr is six laps down after getting his car worked on; as the only car laps down on the track, Jr gets the “lucky dog” and gets one of his laps back.
Brad Keselowski brings the field down for another green flag restart on lap 47 but Denny Hamlin quickly begins the battle for the lead with Keselowski. Hamlin takes the lead on lap 48.
Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers, and Clint Bowyer are all officially out of the race.
Brad Keselowski takes over the lead of the race on lap 52; and Hamlin retakes the lead on the following lap.
On lap 57 Kasey Kahne tangles up with Jamie McMurray in a bump drafting incident and wrecks the car; hitting AJ Allmendinger in the process. The wreck brings out the fourth caution of the race.
Denny Hamlin brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 61.
Jimmie Johnson is out of the race.
The fifth caution flag of the race comes out on lap 65 when Kasey Kahne’s car starts smoking and putting oil on the track.
When NASCAR throws the green flag for the restart, there will be only six laps remaining in the race. Denny Hamlin will lead the field to green.
With only tree laps to go Kurth Busch brushes the wall but the track stays green until the drivers reaches the backstretch and the “big one” happens when Casey Mears, Brad Keselowski, and Carl Edwards run into each other. Kyle Busch was also involved in the wreck.
With the wreck so close to the end of the race, NASCAR will have the first opportunity to try out the new overtime system. An official start line has been added on the backstretch. Once the leader of the race reaches that line, the start is official and the start counts. If the leader does not make it to the line, then the race will continue until it becomes official.
Denny Hamlin leads the field to the green flag restart and they make it to the official overtime restart line.
Denny Hamlin is still in the lead when the white flag waves. There was a wreck in the back of the field and the caution flag waves, but Denny Hamlin notches his third Sprint Unlimited race of his career. Hamlin led the most laps of the race
Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick, and Martin Truex Jr were all involved in the last lap wreck.
Only four of the 25 starting cars finished the race without any kind of damage.
The final results for the 2016 Spring Unlimited:
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Martin Truex Jr
Dale Earnhardt Jr
photo credit: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CbI3FnOXIAA3M8n.jpg
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