As Speedweeks fades into the past, it's worth remembering what went right. For all the justified criticism NASCAR gets, it's worth cherishing when things go right. And Speedweeks 2014 was indeed an exercise in great racing. So what went right?
The track changed with the rain - Until the 500 the racing had been defined by one-line racing - the top line was the line to run for the Cup cars, while the bottom was the fast line for the Busch Series and the Trucks. But with the rain, the track changed - the entire top/bottom dichotomy disappeared as the track got grippier. The result was the leaders could stay side by side and it almost didn't matter which line cars ran.
The Trucks forced the top line to move - The Nextera 250 for the Trucks was the classic tale of two halves - the first half was a single-file parade where the only battle was for 11th; after Lap 51 however all hell broke loose as Kyle Busch and Timothy Peters got to the lead and fought it out heading a 20-plus Truck slugfest ultimately won by Busch.
Some striking trivia from this race - Chevrolet is 0-for-lifetime in Daytona's Truck races.
The racers had no choice but to go for the lead - Drivers in preseason were asked about how hard they're trying and several claimed they were trying as hard as they could. The irony is the rain and threat of its return showed they can try a helluva lot harder; with the drivers racing first for halfway and then for whenever the race might end, the battle for the lead was the most amazing in a Cup race seen in years.
Restrictor plate racing is still superior racing - An overlooked bit of trivia - 2014 was the fourth time in the last seven runnings the Daytona 500 broke 40 official lead changes, and a related fact.........
The best racing is when the draft is more important than handling - This was a Speedweeks where the draft and handling were jostling pretty intensely all week; NASCAR's spoiler changes worked okay here; the bigger spoiler change for the intermediates won't get its first tests until March at Vegas and Fontana; here NASCAR hopes the draft becomes more important.
So it went with Speedweeks 2014.