One for the little guy: Small teams have big day in Daytona

Michael McDowell's No. 95 Ford survived the chaos at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday to record his first top-10 finish since the 2013 Daytona 500.

Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images

This weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway was certainly one of the strangest to date. Postponed on Saturday night to Sunday morning, the race was delayed multiple times for rain, saw two massive wrecks, and in the end was called early as Aric Almirola scored his first career victory.

While Almirola and his Richard Petty Motorsports team were enjoying the win, a host of other teams were celebrating their own solid finishes.

Thanks in part to the uniqueness of restrictor-plate racing, along with the two big crashes, the top-15 featured names such as Casey Mears (fourth), Michael McDowell (seventh), Danica Patrick (eighth), Terry Labonte (11th), and Alex Bowman (13th).

Of that group, Patrick was the only driver not to score their season-best finish Sunday in Daytona.

For McDowell, it was his first top-10 finish since the 2013 Daytona 500. For Labonte — who runs a very limited schedule — it was his best finish since running third at Sonoma in 2006. For rookie Alex Bowman, it was a career-best day, topping his previous career-best of 22nd at Auto Club Speedway.

Despite the strong runs, many — especially Mears — were hoping the rain would let up and the race would go back to racing. A true equalizer race, the underfunded teams that were able to survive the chaos hoped for a shot at the win, and ultimately making the 16-driver Chase field.

Brian Vickers, who finished second and was also looking for his first win of the season, was somewhat "shocked" at NASCAR’s decision to end the race early.

"Knowing that we weren’t even supposed to start the race last night until 7:00 p.m., I was shocked that we called it at 2:00 something in the afternoon," Vickers said. "You know, I was expecting â€‘‑ I know a lot of the fans tuned into the TV and stuck around at the racetrack waiting to see a finish, and I was expecting them to wait a little bit longer knowing that we have lights here and it was going to be a night race anyway. So I was a little surprised, but then there were circumstances that maybe not so surprised that it was called early."

 

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