After Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway, two things were clear to all that watched the race: next Sunday’s Daytona 500 is set to be one of the craziest races of the year, and Denny Hamlin has made a full recovery after his back injury last year. Hamlin suffered a L1 compression fracture after wrecking on the final lap of the 2013 Auto Club 500 and spent several weeks out of the car, before returning and struggling the rest of the season, sans a win at the season finale in Homestead. The Virginia native won all three segments of the 75 lap sprint event, walking to the win in the final few laps after half the field was taken out in crashes. The Unlimited also featured a rather comical collision the day after Valentine’s Day between NASCAR couple Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick after Patrick spun to avoid a wreck and Stenhouse had no way to avoid Patrick’s stopped car. The wreck was triggered by Matt Kenseth cutting down onto Joey Logano in the tri-oval, then involving Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart and resulting in four series champions piled up into the wall just exiting the tri-oval. Stewart was also recovering from an injury in 2013 after a wild sprint car crash that shattered his right leg, but was unharmed after the crash.
Speedweeks continues Tuesday with the UNOH Battle at the Beach, which will see the regional K&N Pro Series and Whelen Modified Tours take to a temporary short track on Daytona’s Superstretch. Wednesday will begin practice for the 500 and Thursday will hold the Budweiser Duel qualifying races, for the first time at night. The twin 150 mile races will set the qualifying grid for the 500, other than the front row which is held by rookie Austin Dillon and Martin Truex Jr. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series kicks off their 2014 season on Friday night and on Saturday the NASCAR Nationwide series also gets their season started. Finally, Sunday holds the 56th running of the Great American race, which is set to produce an incredibly close pack for 200 laps around Daytona’s 2.5 mile oval.