The first race of Daytona Speedweeks is officially in the books, and you could say it went as typically as you would predict.
The ARCA Menards Series event at Daytona has been about watching the future stars of NASCAR get behind the wheel of top-notch equipment, and show their experience. Ideally, it gets those entered in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series event some extra seat time. They certainly proved their worth on Saturday, with several at the top of the running order.
With a mix of different experience levels thrown together, restrictor plate races for ARCA can either be really exciting, or just plain out boring. Last year’s Lucas Oil 200 featured five straight green-white-checkered restarts due to ARCA’s “no race ends under the yellow flag rule,” prompting a rule change to have only one attempt for 2019 restrictor plate events. On the flip side, the Talladega race saw them simply cruise to the finish.
As the laps began to trickle down in the Lucas Oil 200, it appeared as though we were going to watch them cruise single-file to the checkered flag as the top-seven rode in line together. With many lacking experience on the superspeedways, combined with drivers just wanting to come out with a car in one piece, you don’t see the big moves like we’ve become used to in other series.
However, an incident further back changed the complexion with a late-race caution.
While Harrison Burton controlled the restart ahead of Christian Eckes, it was Todd Gilliland making the move with Brandon McReynolds. Using his experience in bump drafting, Gilliland was set to push McReynolds up the high line to the front and challenge for the win. It would’ve been interesting to see whether the charge actually worked out, and the high line was viable. However, instead, a bump the wrong way and McReynolds went spinning across the backstretch. As we said – inexperience vs. experience; this was a lesson of how to make sure bumpers are aligned when drafting.
Placing both Burton and Gilliland on the bottom together for the restart was all she wrote, as Gilliland easily pushed Burton out and away from the other challengers. Although a charge was mounted coming off turn four by Gilliland, it proved to not be enough to power by Burton.
Beginning Friday, Burton and Gilliland will begin their full truck series campaign as teammates for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Earning experience with their first laps on the 2.5-mile oval, it should help boost confidence for them to hang with series veterans.
Although the Lucas Oil 150 may not have started off in the most exciting fashion for ARCA, it shouldn’t diminish the future for the series this year. With a couple new tracks to their already diverse schedule, combined with a variety of talent, it’s going to be another great year of competition.
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