Who needs soap operas, there was more drama in the Daytona 500 than Days of Our Lives and As the World Turns combined.
If the first race is any indication NASCAR fans are in for some interesting racing in 2012.
For starters it took 3 days to get the race in. Driver introductions were held on Sunday afternoon, and the race finished up around 1 AM Monday, Daytona time.
Burning down the track
For a while it looked like an underdog team that barely made the race might win by default. Dave Blaney, driving for independent team Tommy Baldwin Racing, held the lead for two hours during an extended red flag as the track burned and a few rain drops fell.
The fire erupted when Chevy driver Juan Pablo Montoya’s transmission failed under caution sending his No. 42 car crashing into a safety truck towing a helicopter engine and 200 gallons of class A jet fuel being used to blow debris from the racing surface.
Montoya climbed from the car as it burned on both ends, and the safety truck driver was helped from his truck and down from the steep banking just before the spilling jet fuel ignited. Both are okay.
A penalty for tweeting?
During the red flag Brad Keselowski started trending on Twitter and garnered over 100,000 new followers as he tweeted photos and updates from the track. If Super Bowl quarterback Eli Manning had done that he would have been fined by the NFL.
Dale Earnhardt Jr thinks there may be a penalty coming. “I heard he was in trouble for having a recording device in his car,” said Earnhardt. Who knew Keselowski was carrying his phone. Do they even have time to call or text during the race?
Who’s more popular now?
Danica Patrick was NASCAR’s most popular driver leading up to the 500; drawing bigger crowds than even Dale Earnhardt Jr. But on lap 2 Patrick was caught up in a 5 car crash that also sent 5 time champion Jimmie Johnson to the garage. “We waited 36 hours to wreck on lap one?” asked Kyle Busch during the caution period.
The race ended in a 2 lap green-white-checkered shootout that came down to Matt Kenseth beating Dale Earnhardt Jr to the finish line. It was Kenseth’s second Daytona 500 victory.
Junior likes night racing
Will the Daytona 500 become a permanent night race after this? One driver would approve of that. “Yeah, I’ll work, I’ll race any night you want to race,” said No. 88 driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“We were talking about it on the back straightaway. That was kind of fun actually, standing around on the back straightaway. It reminded me of Hickory when we’d race over there and they’d have a funeral and you’d have to stop and talk about the race or whatever, whatever you’d want to talk about,” said Junior/
But I don’t know, I mean, when you’re in the car you don’t think about what night it is, and you could just forget, really, to be honest. But whenever they want us to race, we’ll race.
What is your take on the race? Did you see any other dramatic moments, and have you ever seen anything like this?
Bud Shootout Teases NASCAR Fans
Are you ready for some racing? NASCAR kicks off the 2012 season Saturday night under the lights at Daytona with the 34th running of the Budweiser Shootout.
The Shootout, originally called the Busch Clash began in 1979 and the first winner was Buddy Baker who held off Darrell Waltrip by a car length. Originally it was a 20 lap event with no breaks. The event was a contest between the previous year’s pole winners and there were only 9 drivers in the field.
Saturday night’s event will be a little different. It will be a 75 lap race with a 10 minute break after 25 laps. Kurt Busch is the defending champion of the race who won last year’s event by a record .058 seconds on a last-lap pass of Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman becoming the 19th different driver to score a win in the race. That win was the only win for Dodge in Shootout history. That race had a record 28 lead changes over 75 laps.
Five drivers have won the race by leading only the final lap. Dale Earnhardt was the first in 1980, Neil Bonnett in 1983 and 1984, Rusty Wallace in 1998, Dale Jarrett in 2004 and Kevin Harvick in 2009.
Dale Earnhardt Jr scored the win in 2008 leading a total of 47 laps, an event record. The No. 88 car has been to Victory Lane 5 times in Budweiser Shootout history with three different drivers; Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Dale Jr. The only other car number with as many wins is the No. 3 with 5 wins by Dale Earnhardt.
The green flag is set for 8:10 Saturday night, so pull your belts tight and get ready to race.
Who are you picking to win?
Do you want to see two by two tandem racing in the Daytona 500 like you saw last year?
That is a question that Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III has been asking fans – and he says most people are telling him they definitely don’t want to see that style of racing again in 2012. According to Chitwood race fans expect to see the big pack style of racing at Daytona.
NASCAR has in fact made some changes to eliminate the 2 car breakaways. Spoilers have been adjusted and radiators have been reduced in size to make tandem racing more difficult.
Driver to driver radio communication has also been eliminated. In 2011’s Daytona 500 drivers had 20 to 30 other drivers radio frequencies dialed in so that they could talk to each other. Now the only communication allowed will be between the driver, crew chief and spotter. The spotter may only talk to his driver and may not spot for 2 drivers at the same time.
But Dale Earnhardt Jr says that NASCAR has not gone far enough if they really want to stop the practice. According to Junior if more changes are not mad this year’s race will look just like last years.
If fans leave Daytona unhappy it may be difficult for NASCAR to continue to hold their interest later in the season.
NASCAR learned a hard lesson in 2009 when it tried to enforce no bump drafting rules at Talladega. Fans were outraged at officials for telling drivers how to drive the car. Sometimes NASCAR does have a hard time figuring out what race fans want. According to my friend David Newton at ESPN when we had pack racing fans were calling for the pack to be broken up – and now that the pack is broken up they are calling for pack racing.
So why do the drivers insist on racing this way? The cars simply go faster in twos. Speeds topped 204 mph during winter testing at Daytona. If a race car driver can find a way to go faster they are going to go faster.
So do you like the tandem racing, or would you rather see Daytona pack racing? If you were in charge of NASCAR would you try to stop it? What would you do?
Trevor Bayne Does What Was Thought Impossible – Wins Daytona 500 In Just His 2nd Start
Trevor who? 20 year old Trevor Bayne claimed the Daytona 500 victory in just his 2nd Sprint Cup series start. Bayne appeared to have a lot more experience when he held off 2nd place driver Carl Edwards coming to the checkered flag. Edwards attempted to lure Bayne up off the double yellow as they came to the finish line but Bayne never wavered as he streaked to the checkered flag. This was the first win for the Wood Bothers in nearly 10 years
Bayne may not receive any championship points for the win. He is not even racing full-time in the Sprint Cup series this year. Under a new NASCAR rule drivers must specify which championship they are running for and Bayne has elected to receive points in the Nationwide series where he has a full-time ride. But Bayne has 4 more races to change his mind
All of Rick Hendrick’s cars were involved in crashes in today’s race. Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon all crashed early. Martin was able to return and recover from a 3 lap deficit to be a threat for the e win at the end. Gordon and Johnson were not.
Dale Earnhardt Jr had a competitive car all day until he was forced into the grass during a late race crash and cut a tire. After a quick change he returned to the race but was then caught up in another crash and slammed into the backstretch retaining wall.
On lap 3 of the race fans stood and held 3 fingers in the air as broadcasters observed a lap of silence in honor of Dale Earnhardt.
If you saw the race what do you think of the win for Trevor Bayne? And did you think Dale Earnhardt Jr showed an improvement with his new crew chief and race shop?
It is that time again. Super Bowl Sunday is coming up,followed closely by Daytona 500 Sunday. So which one do you think is the bigger deal? No question about it: the Daytona 500 is bigger that the Super Bowl. Here’s why:
1. People watch the Daytona 500 to see the action, the strategy and the competition. Not to see who has the best commercial. There is always a huge discussion following the Super Bowl about the ads. There are even awards for the best Super Bowl ads. When is the last time you heard a bunch of NASCAR fans talking more about their favorite commercials than their favorite drivers?
2. Race fans can actually buy a ticket to the Daytona 500. The average football fan would have a hard time getting a ticket to the Super Bowl if their favorite team was playing. Most of the tickets go to corporate sponsors and big businesses.
3. Around 100,000 People will attend the Super Bowl at Cowboy’s Stadium in Arlington, Texas this year. The Daytona 500 will easily attract 2 to 3 times that many race fans. If only 100,000 people showed up Daytona would look like a ghost town. Plenty of race fans will camp out at the track for 2 weeks just to see the race.
4. 43 teams will be battling to be the Daytona 500 Champion. And at least 25 of them have a legitimate shot to win it. Only 2 teams are playing in the Super Bowl.
5. Jamie McMurray won last year’s Daytona 500. I can’t remember who won last year’s Super Bowl. Can you?
People used to say the Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of racing. Maybe we should start saying that the Super Bowl is the Daytona 500 of football.
Can you think of another reason why the Daytona 500 is bigger than the Super Bowl? Please post it in the comments below.
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Jamie McMurray on Letterman After Daytona 500 Win
David Letterman and Jamie McMurray discuss the Daytona 500 victory, the pothole, and why Dave shouldn’t have a street legal version of Jamie’s race car.
Is it Time to Re-pave Daytona?
The last time Daytona International Speedway was re-paved Jimmy Carter was President, and the No. 1 song was Night Fever by the Bee Gees. That was 1978.
Time and weather finally took a toll on the racing surface in Sundayâ€™s Daytona 500 when a hole in the track caused the race to be red flagged twice for over 2 hours.
There are at least 2 good reasons why Daytona has not been re-paved since:
One â€“ The rough and bumpy surface brings both handling and speed into play as the keys to winning, and makes for some great racing.
Two â€“ It would cost $20 million to re-pave the historic 2.5 mile speedway.
Do you think the track should be re-paved?
Photo Courtesy NASCAR Media
McMurray Wins in First Try for New Boss
Jack Roush must be feeling a little embarrassed today after letting Jamie McMurray go at the end of last season.
McMurray went on to win the Daytona 500 driving Teresa Earnhardtâ€™s No. 1 Chevrolet allied with his old boss Chip Ganassi.
Roushâ€™s best car finished 3rd.
Martin Truex Jr has to be saying â€œwhat if?â€ as well. Truex left the No. 1 car to go to Michael Waltrip racing this year, where he finished 6th in the Daytona 500.
At the Daytona 500 Championâ€™s Breakfast this morning McMurray had the best line: “I woke up and 1st thing I was hoping was that Danica wasn’t going to be on the cover of the paper.”
McMurray was being chased down on the last lap by Dale Earnhardt Jr who finished 2nd. Earnhardt is living up to his promise to be ruthless this year.
Earnhardt moved up 17 positions in the closing laps â€“ going from 19th to 2nd.
The win meant a lot for the entire race team. â€I’m just happy for the whole team.Â I’m happy for all the partners.Â I’m happy for Felix and Teresa, happy for every single person that’s ever been a part of this team.Â It’s really important,â€ said Chip Ganassi.
McMurray thought his chance to win was slipping away when he saw Dale Earnhardt Jr in his rear view mirror. â€œI looked in my mirror and saw the 88.Â This guy has won a lot of races here.â€Â But McMurray was fast enough to hold off Earnhardt at the checkered flag.
McMurray tried to describe what it meant to win the Daytona 500.â€ It’s unbelievable.Â I can’t really put it into words the way it feels,â€ said McMurray.
â€œAs a kid growing up, this is what you dream of, of being able to win the Daytona 500.â€
Photo Courtesy NASCAR Media
Daytona Duel Talk — Have Your Say
Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch Winners
Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch were winners in todays two Gatorade Duel qualifying races in Daytona.
The first of two Gatorade Duels were a little wild with Daytona 500 polesitter Martin Truex Jr. spinning, but avoiding the wall.
Bill Elliott — another fast qualifier — also had trouble and brushed the wall after he burned his transmission up.
Tony Stewart proved that his new team is a contender when he crossed the finish line just behind winner Jeff Gordon.
In the second race Dale Earnhardt Jr was out front early and often. But Junior made a rare mistake in the pits when he slid through his stall on the first pit stop. The mistake moved Junior from the lead to 7th.
Then Dale Jr had to pit again under green with tire problems — losing a lap in the process. His teammate Mark Martin also pitted with tire problems.
With just 13 laps to go David Reutimann booted Ryan Newman into the concrete wall on the backstretch. Looks like Newman will need the backup car.
Mark Martin made a strong run at Kyle Busch on the last lap, but couldn’t make the pass giving the win to Kyle Busch.
Did you see any wild moments in the race? Anything you want to talk about? Have at it.
Who’s In the Daytona 500?
Still trying to figure out who’s in the Daytona 500 – and who’s out? Â Join the crowd.
Some of the NASCAR drivers and crew chiefs even admit they have a hard time figuring out qualifying for The Great American Race.
Between the top 35 rule, Sunday’s front row qualifying, Thursday’s Gatorade Duels, and the Past Champion’s Provisional it can get a little hard to figure out.
If you want a detailed explanation of exactly how Daytona 500 qualifying works check out David Poole’s The Baffling Calculus of Daytona 500 Qualifying.
I’ve given up trying to figure it out – I’ll just wait until NASCAR posts the official lineup on Thursday.