Other thoughts from me on the Daytona 500:

Kevin Harvick really has a knack for sneaking up to the front. Much like his victory in the 2007 Daytona 500, Harvick also had to make his way from the back of the field to claim a second-place finish on Sunday. He was also sneaky in winning last weekend’s Shootout.

But no matter how he does it, he’s got to keep doing what he did on Sunday. While Harvick and his Richard Childress Racing team have been strong in recent years, they haven’t been able to hang with Jimmie Johnson and the Hendrick Motorsports crew in terms of fighting for the championship. This Sprint Cup title will probably be decided amongst Hendrick, RCR, Joe Gibbs Racing (Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin), and Roush Fenway Racing (Carl Edwards, David Ragan, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray), so now it’s just a matter of RCR stepping up to contending for wins every week.

Three of their four cars (Harvick, Clint Bowyer in fourth, and Casey Mears in 15th) made the top 15 on Sunday. That’s a good start.

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Joey Logano’s got a lot of pressure on his shoulders as he steps up to Sprint Cup and the No. 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. The 18-year-old from Connecticut made history on Sunday when he became the youngest driver ever to start the Daytona 500.

Unfortunately for him, his first official Sprint Cup race ended with a thud. Literally. On Lap 80, Logano was turned around coming out of Turn 4 by another car and sent hard into the inside wall near the entrance of pit road. He emerged from the battered Toyota unscathed.

Logano has been hailed as a phenom by many in the sport and with good reason. Before coming to Sprint Cup, Logano won in just his third Nationwide Series start in 2008 and went on to notch 14 top-10 finishes in 19 NNS events. In 2007, he won the NASCAR Camping World East series crown. He had been in JGR’s development program for several years as well.

But will all this pressure to perform be too much for him? He is, after all, just 18 years old.

I don’t think we’ll have that problem. Logano appears to have a good head on his shoulders and he’s got a great team to help him get used to the rigors of Sprint Cup racing. That will help him become an even better driver regardless of whether he sets the world on fire immediately or not.

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Finally, a word about that gopher.

No, it’s not the one that drove Bill Murray insane in Caddyshack. I’m talking about Digger, the animated gopher that pops up whenever Fox switches to its under-the-track “gopher cam.” He’s getting a major push from Fox that includes a 3D upgrade and a new pre-race cartoon.

The first Digger episode debuted during Sunday’s pre-race show. After watching it, I find myself comparing him to “Scooter,” Fox’s former animated baseball on their MLB broadcasts.

I don’t know if that’s a good thing. Apologies to baseball fans that had gotten over Scooter until I just mentioned him.

Full disclosure: I am an IndyCar contributor to FoxSports.com. So I’m taking a chance here by mentioning anything remotely bad about Digger. But he was almost in every “Gopher Cam” shot on Sunday, screaming and popping back into his hole as the cars drove by him at ground level. Not only that, he’s now being used in sponsor screens like Fox’s NFL robot.

I checked out some auto racing message boards. Sure enough, some of them had posted that they were drinking every time they saw the gopher. For their sake, I truly pray that they were joking.

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About The Author

Chris Estrada is a Blast Magazine correspondent. His work appears in The Boston Globe, Indy Racing Revolution and FoxSports.com

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