Austin Dillon won his way into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and Ryan Blaney narrowly claimed the last playoff berth in Sunday’s regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway.
But removed from the playoff drama, multiple smaller teams scored a result they can be proud of.
Here’s our list of winners and losers from Daytona, as the race for the championship looms…
Austin Dillon – In 2015, he survived getting launched into the catch fence. And in 2018, he won the Daytona 500 after making contact with Aric Almirola on the last lap. Now, Austin Dillon has another memorable Daytona moment by coming through in a must-win situation. Actually, make that two memorable Daytona moments, counting his escape from the rain-assisted melee at Lap 138 that preceded the red flag.
Ryan Blaney – Perseverance paid off for Blaney and the No. 12 Team Penske crew, who soldiered through an early wreck to finish 15th (six laps down) and snag the final playoff spot by three points over Martin Truex Jr. Blaney enters the playoffs as the lone winless driver among the 16 title contenders.
Landon Cassill – In his eighth Cup start of the season, Cassill took the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish. It ties his best career Cup finish; Cassill finished fourth at Talladega Superspeedway back in 2014. Those are his only top-10 finishes in 334 career Cup starts.
Noah Gragson – Gragson – like Cassill, a full-time driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – finished fifth Sunday in the No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet for his best career Cup finish.
Cody Ware – Ware’s sixth place finish in the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing Ford is his best career Cup finish.
B.J. McLeod – A native of Wauchula, Florida (a little over two hours southwest of Daytona International Speedway), McLeod also notched his best career Cup finish by placing seventh in the No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports Ford.
Martin Truex Jr. – Entering the final restart at Lap 145 (following the red flag), Truex held the last playoff spot on points over Blaney. But damage to his car from an earlier crash caused Truex to fade over the final laps and lose his hold on the playoff spot. Austin Dillon took the checkered flag to finish Truex off. The 2017 Cup champion will have to wait another year to challenge for a second title.
Austin Cindric – Cindric, this year’s Daytona 500 winner, had a chance to sweep the season at the “World Center of Racing.” But he was in the wrong place at the wrong time with three laps to go, when a desperate Austin Dillon nudged him out of the way to take the lead. Cindric climbed back up to third by the finish.
Justin Haley – Haley was among those needing to win Sunday in order to make the playoffs. With rain approaching, he stayed out to inherit the lead under caution at Lap 128. The gamble helped put him among those challenging for the point when that rain suddenly hit the track at Lap 138. Haley lost traction and was collected in the ensuing wreck. He was credited with 28th place.
Erik Jones – Jones, also in must-win mode, looked to be a potential threat during the second stage. But he too got involved in the Lap 138 crash, which dashed his hopes after leading 22 laps on the day (second-most of all drivers behind Chase Elliott‘s 31 laps led). Jones was credited with 17th place (DVP).