Austin Dillon won the biggest race on the NASCAR calendar, and the biggest race of his life at the Daytona 500. Twenty years after Dale Earnhardt guided the No. 3 to Daytona’s Victory Lane for the first time, Dillon took advantage of a great restart in overtime to bring the three car back where it belonged. On the final lap, Dillon got a bump from Bubba Wallace and made a run. Aric Almirola tried to block to preserve his lead and got spun out, allowing Dillon to take the lead. From there, it was smooth sailing for the win.
After that showing, Dillon should be on top of the world. Instead, he is looking up at two other drivers in the NASCAR championship points standings.
After the dust settled, the three top Daytona finishers, Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace and Denny Hamlin, were third, fourth and seventh in the points respectively. This is a NASCAR fan’s biggest problem with stage racing. The NASCAR season is only one race old. “The Great American Race” is the highlight of the NASCAR calendar, yet the winner of the race is stuck behind Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano in the standings. Stage racing is designed to reward consistency, but it must be frustrating that winning the biggest race of the year isn’t enough to sit atop the standings.
To his credit, Blaney racked up a Can-Am Duel win, a stage win and led 188 laps, so this is not to say he doesn’t deserve to be higher in the standings than his 7th place finish at Daytona. But Dillon should be first. Sure, he only led one lap, but he made it count. Winning a race needs to mean more in NASCAR.