On the twelfth anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s untimely passing, the NASCAR Home Tracks’ inaugural Battle at the Beach at Daytona International Speedway ended up putting on quite the show.
In what proved to be a pretty dull short-track race, filled with more cautions and wrecks than regular green flags runs, a hot young driver channeled his inner “Intimidator” and brought forth the most note-worthy portion of the 150-lap feature on the very last lap.
Kyle Larson was a big shot going into tonight’s race. With a public endorsement from Tony Stewart, Larson had a new band of followers on his side and was the favorite to take home the win. All eyes were on this young man for his extreme racing talent. Larson started on the pole, alongside C.E. Falk, a 25-year-old racer with a handful of Camping World Truck Series starts to his credit.
In between the caution flags, the race centered on the battle between Falk and Larson. Falk led the most laps and was in contention to win the race, leading at the end. But Larson was not too far behind, knocking on Falk’s door.
In auto racing, when the white flag is thrown, drivers put everything they have on the line and make drastic moves that can either make their race or break their race. Tonight was no different as Larson gave Falk a slight bump coming to the checkered, in between Turns 3 and 4. Falk’s car got a little loose, but didn't give enough room for Larson to get where he wanted to be. Larson responded again with an intentional push that spun Falk out into the makeshift infield.
Social media was abuzz with the finish of this race. Love it, hate it, debate it, or embrace it. Kyle Larson will be credited as the winner of this race. Some would say that Larson pulled an Intimidator-style move on Falk. While it can be easy to agree with that statement, we all have to understand that the culture of the sport has changed. The days of the “Intimidator” are behind us and in today’s era we have embraced a culture that prides itself on clean, respectful racing. There will never be another driver like Dale Earnhardt Sr. But that’s another post in itself.
There is no doubt that Kyle Larson has talent. Unfortunately, he took his talent too far tonight. Ultimately, this finish comes down to perspective. Kyle Petty (@KylePetty) said it best when he tweeted: “Wins are important, but respect is a greater trophy. #JustSayin”
Tomorrow the stars of the Whelen Modified Tour and K&N Pro Series will take to the 0.4-mile short track and have their shot at the Battle of the Beach. Tune in to live, primetime coverage on SPEED Channel beginning at 7pm EST/6pm CST.