On the coldest week of the year, the 2015 Sprint Cup season started on fire.
The 2015 Sprint Unlimited featured active passing, aggressive angst and a far more broad list of Daytona 500 contenders than when the evening started. Here’s a breakdown of winners and losers from Saturday night.
Win: Joe Gibbs Racing
Matt Kenseth got the win, which doesn’t count as a win in the official Sprint Cup stat sheet but does get a monkey off Kenseth’s back from last year. Carl Edwards settled in nicely with a third place finish. Kyle Busch didn’t implode. Denny Hamlin’s inspection punishment could have been worse. For a team with more internal reshuffling that I can remember in recent years, the notion that any four of these drivers can win the Daytona 500 is a big win for Joe Gibbs.
Lose: Roger Penske
Fans of Team Penske should feel a bit nervous right now. Everyone knows Brad Keselowski isn’t the most popular person in the garage. Nobody believes Kyle Larson wrecked Keselowski on purpose, but the start feels ominous.
Then there’s Joey Logano. After his spat with Kevin Harvick, is Logano the driver with the second biggest target on his back?
I’m not saying Logano is in the wrong. But at a track where friends matter, does either Penske driver have enough support should the other find trouble?
Draw: The Little Guy
In the first race with this new setup, the driver who led the most laps…Martin Truex Jr. In fact, The No. 78 led more laps Saturday night than in all of 2014. Casey Mears also ran well.
That said, neither won in the end. Sprint Cup fans also have to realize restrictor plate tracks tend to allow the smaller teams a better chance to win.
NASCAR is better when every team in the field has a legitimate chance to win. Based on a small sample Saturday night, the chance of an upset exists, though it may get smaller after the Budweiser Duels on Thursday. Enjoy one of the most fun weeks on the racing calendar, and insert a random catchphrase here.