Denny Hamlin racing tight with Kyle Busch in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Denny Hamlin racing tight with Kyle Busch in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last week marked a milestone on the NASCAR calendar as the 2020 season commenced at Daytona International Speedway. Speedweeks, which consists of a number of racing events over a two week stretch, wrapped up on Monday with the 62nd running of the DAYTONA 500.

While the DAYTONA 500 was certainly the headliner of Speedweeks, there was plenty of other entertaining races in NASCAR’s other two national series – the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) and the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series (NGROTS).

The NGROTS race at Daytona is always one of the most enjoyable races of the year. It always seems to produce a close finish and plenty of surprises, and this year was no different. Grant Enfinger took home the checkered flag, but for each of the other four drivers who finished inside the top-5, it marked their career-best finish.

This includes Jordan Anderson and Natalie Decker, who not many people expected would contend for a win. Anderson has become a great story NASCAR as he started his own race team when he was just 26 years old, and has started to become more competitive over the last two seasons.

For Decker, her fifth-place finish marked the highest finish ever by a female competitor in the NGROTS. This was great for the sport as auto racing is unique in that men and women compete in the same playing field. Hopefully Decker’s performance will help peak the interest of more women in NASCAR.

On Saturday, Noah Gragson picked up his first career NXS victory after a caution came out on the last lap. Now in his second NXS season, Gragson is hoping to build upon his success at the end of last year and contend for a championship. With the departure of Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick from the Xfinity Series, it will be interesting to see who steps up as a major player in the series. If last weekend was any indication, it might end up being Gragson.

And finally, to wrap up the weekend, the DAYTONA 500 didn’t disappoint. While the race was postponed due to rain after getting in only 20 laps, the pageantry for “The Great American Race” was as colorful as ever. Celebrities on hand included Darius Rucker, Cole Swindell, Omar Epps and Winston Duke, among many others. Of course, POTUS was also in attendance as President Donald Trump served as the Grand Marshal and led the field around the track a few times.

When the race finally picked back up again on Monday afternoon, fans were treated to a spectacular show as there were a number of lead changes from the onset of the race. Even guys like Corey LaJoie and Michael McDowell made their way to the front for a few laps. This year’s DAYTONA 500 differed from many of the previous ones in that there was plenty of side by side action throughout the race as the drivers went two and three wide early on instead of lining up single file.

Then as the race progressed, we saw plenty of cars pile up like we always expect when NASCAR hits the high banks at Daytona International Speedway. At the end of the race, it was Denny Hamlin who crossed the finish line a mere .014 seconds ahead of Ryan Blaney, marking Hamlin’s second consecutive DAYTONA 500 win and the third of his career.

During his career, Hamlin has become one of the best drivers at plate races at Daytona and Talladega. He joined Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95) as the only drivers to win back-to-back DAYTONA 500s. He’s also one of only six drivers who have won at least three DAYTONA 500s.

This past weekend marked a memorable start to the NASCAR season, and I’m excited to see what else unfolds as NASCAR heads out west for the next few weeks. And don’t forget that soon after they return to the east coast, all three series will be coming down to South Florida to race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, March 20-22.

NASCAR ACTION THIS WEEKEND

Sunday, February 23 at 3:30 PM (ET)

NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Tune In: FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

Saturday, February 22 at 4:00 PM (ET)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Tune In: FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

Friday, February 21 at 9:00 PM (ET)

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Tune In: FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

Feb. 21 Fast Lane Friday

Feb. 23-24 National Auto Sport Association

Feb 29 Performance Driving Group

Mar. 27-29 NASCAR Racing Experience

Mar. 31 Florida Track Days

2020 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES

Mar. 20 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Race

Mar. 21 NASCAR Xfinity Series Race

Mar. 22 Dixie Vodka 400 NASCAR Cup Series Race

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