Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Sorting through the winners and losers from the "Great American Race."
NASCAR's biggest race is over and done with for another year. But who besides Jimmie Johnson left the Daytona 500 as a winner, and who went home as a loser?
The only way the new First Lady of NASCAR could have had a better Speedweeks was by winning the Daytona 500. And with a little more experience she probably would have, considering she was running third on the final lap and was reluctant to pull out in front of the hard-charging Dale Earnhardt Jr., who would have likely pushed her into the lead.
Regardless, when everything was said and done and all the hype had subsided, Danica Patrick without question, far exceeded anyone's expectations. Not only by becoming the first woman to ever lead a lap in the Daytona 500, but also running in the top 10 throughout the entire race.
Although it's pre-race coverage left a lot to be desired -- there was no interview with Mike Helton following the events of Saturday and the decision to bring in Erin Andrews and have her walk pit road minutes before the race was at best questionable, and worst, asinine. It would be wrong to say that Fox didn't come out ahead with its broadcast.
First, the network scored by having Patrick speed to the pole in qualifying and then by her being a major player in the outcome Sunday. In addition, it didn't hurt that Dale Earnhardt Jr. --the sport's most popular driver for the time being, anyway -- was in contention late. And when you add everything together it's not hard to comprehend why ratings jumped 30 percent over last year's numbers.
Before Sunday, it would be fair to say that more people knew Michael McDowell for his terrifying tumble at Texas a few years back than anything else. This is understandable considering that in 114 prior Sprint Cup Series starts he had never finished better than 20th.
But at least for a day anyway, McDowell gave folks something else to talk about as finished the Daytona 500 in the ninth position -- and did so with a team that hadn't completed a full race since 2011.
Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth
In the days leading up to the Daytona 500 the consensus was that in some order Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth were the three favorites. However, as it often happens in plate racing, it would be luck and not performance that would dictate who would win the 500.
Within the first 35 laps both Stewart and Harvick were in garage with severely damaged cars after having nowhere to go when Kasey Kahne went skidding sideways in front of the field. While Kenseth's day came to an abrupt halt when the engine in his Toyota went sour as he was leading -- something he did for a race-high 88 laps.
Instead of being contenders, Kenseth, Stewart and Harvick were bystanders and finished 37th, 41st and 42nd, respectively.
Having wrecked five Ford Fusions in a week's time, it's fair to say no driver had a worse Speedweeks than Carl Edwards. Let's give him credit, though, as he was optimistic throughout and said following his wreck in the 500 that he was going to go out and "dominate and win" next week at Phoenix.
Front Row Motorsports
While Edwards cracked up five cars over a period of multiple days, Front Row Motorsports saw its three entries get demolished in a single incident on Lap 139 of the Daytona 500. And for team with limited funds and at a time when parts for the Gen-6 car are still rather scarce, that's an ominous way to begin the 2013 season.