This week we were treated to a first in the history of NASCAR. To begin with, we had the first ever rain out of the Daytona 500. This event pushed the race into Monday; but Mother Nature didn’t want the race to be run in the early portion of the day as again rain threatened. Taking the high road, NASCAR postponed the start time until 7pm Monday night. This astute move became the 2nd first of the weekend.
NASCAR in prime time on Monday night. The upside of this was a lot of people who worked Monday were able to see the race, not to mention the impact on TV ratings.
While I am positive somebody, somewhere has had this idea before, and they were probably laughed out of the room, it took place. It suddenly became apparent the Idea of Monday Night racing was seen as a logistic nightmare for the teams and drivers…but for the fans the product on the track was amazing. This was one of the more exciting Daytona 500 races in recent memory, and having it under the lights in prime time just made it that much more spectacular.
Maybe it was the Monday night mojo, or it may have been just a product of the extra day and a half of waiting around, but the on track excitement went through the roof this year. Yes, there were all the normal wrecks every race has, but then fate (or whatever) took over and Juan Pablo Montoya took the cake with his sideways slide into a jet dryer during a caution. This stunt was another first for Daytona. Luckily he and the safety driver in the jet dryer truck were both ok and suffered no major injury. Well, Montoya suffered a major injury called “embarrassment”. He knew his car was having mechanical problems. What do you think he was thinking going so fast under a yellow flag with a crippled car?
After the incredible fire and two hour clean up and delay, the final laps were what you have come to expect of NASCAR restrictor plate racing. Even with the delay many stayed glued to their seats. It came down to the final laps and just cemented the legacy of this year’s race. All in all it made a lot of people see the idea of “Monday Night Racing” may not be a bad thing. In the barren wasteland that is the sporting landscape during February and March an occasional prime time race on Monday night would be good for the sport and give the fans some added excitement. I know I sure enjoyed it. The NFL does it – why not NASCAR?
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With Daytona in the rear view mirror and Phoenix in the windshield, NASCAR now moves toward the start of the real season. With the excitement coming off one of the more exciting races ever seen, it is now time for the drivers and teams to get down to the real nitty gritty. It is going to be a 25 race sprint to get yourself in position to be able to be part of the chase for the Sprint cup. But with the new points system and some rule tweaks this off season, it is going to put more emphasis on the win instead of always being consistent.
Don’t get me wrong, you still have to be consistent to be able to stay in the hunt. But now, winning one more race as opposed for settelling for 4th could be the difference of getting into the chase or just driving for the final races of the year. This race will be the first real race of the season because they will be driving on a more common track type and will get in their weekly routine. Daytona is a special race and a different kind of animal with the lead up, but succsess at Daytona doesn’t always mean succsess for the season, just ask Jamie McMurray.
Races at tracks like Phoenix will be the ones that make or break your season, If a driver and team can have succsess here and through out the season, then they will be in the chase to see if they can win a coveted championship. As haulers are leaving home bases towards the track, the tension will be building because everyone will feel the pressure of the season start this weekend. A solid run this week could help catapault you into the rest of the season and give you momentum going forward. Every driver knows that this is the first real race of the season, and as the weekend draws closer, the tension is begining to mount.
The 2011 edition of the Daytona 500 was probably one of the most entertaining and unpredictable races I have watched in the last couple years. While the tandem racing was the key for success, it still made for entertaining theatre. Especially in the last 20 laps, there were wrecks, and surprises happening all over the place, which led to the amazing finish that had me standing in the middle of the room yelling at the TV. But I will get more into that a little later; let’s start with a recap of the early portion of the race.
The race started with a lot of tributes to Dale Earnhardt and the usual catching up of all the new things going on in this year’s version of NASCAR. The biggest thing that dominated the pre-race talk was the death of Dale Earnhardt, and there were tributes galore. From the race coverage, to commercials and then the most amazing tribute seen in sports, the silent lap on the 3rd lap of the Daytona 500. I have to say that this was very cool to see and brought a combination of tears to my eyes and goose bumps. Then that followed up with a tribute commercial by Chevrolet that was basically “3 forever”.
The racing was as good as it has been in Daytona for a long time. It seemed odd to watch 2 car tandems dominate the race, then the multi car packs that have been the norm for the last 15-20 years. There was the usual “Big one” early in the race that took out a lot of big names and thinned the field out to the point that it opened up the racing for some cars, which usually are not in the mix. Guys like David Regan, Robbie Gordon and Paul Menard had banner days at the track and built solid momentum for their seasons.
But the biggest surprise of the race was its winner. 20 year old Trevor Bayne won his 1st race and his 1st Daytona 500 in only his second Sprint cup race. Trevor has signed to be a part time driver for the Woods Brothers team who is one of the oldest surviving teams in NASCAR. This win today will probably cement his opportunity to drive the full season. The way he was able to win the race and celebrate something so special was an incredible sight to see. Trevor was so excited to win the race that when he was told to head to victory lane, he exclaimed “I don’t know where it is” which just added to the experience. It is a great thing for the sport to have someone so energetic and happy to win that people who watched for the first time will want to watch again.
This was by far the best Daytona 500 I have seen in a long time. The circuit now moves onto Phoenix for the next race, and all I have to say is that if it can be as half as exciting as this one race was, and then NASCAR will gain a lot of viewers this season.
It is that time of year again for the NASCAR Sprint cup series to kickoff with its annual super bowl. The biggest race of the season is the first race of the season, but this year there is a lot going on around the racing that usually isn’t always a factor. This year there have been changes to the points structure and some other new rules that may or may not have an effect on things during the race. But the thing that is looming large over this massive Taj Mahal of racing is the anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt. Probably the biggest death in the sport and luckily the last for now.
There will be an in race tribute to the fallen star, plus I am sure there are to be many more tributes around the track that will not be seen on television coverage. But as far as on the track action, it seemed like it may be a weekend of destiny when Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the poll on qualifying day. But in typical junior fashion, he ended up wrecking and having to go to a backup car that will now make him start at the back of the pack. This doesn’t mean that he won’t have a chance at winning the race, but it just makes it a whole lot tougher to get in contention.
With the new pavement at the track, it has taken away the “Pack” mentality of racing and drafting that fans have known and love for so long. If you watched the nationwide race, then you saw that it was easily a two car group that will make the most moves. This year’s race may break records for lead changes and could be very entertaining in the final laps as anyone within the top 10 has a shot to make that last lap pass. So, be sure to find your new roster of drivers for this year’s race, because there have been a lot of changes in who is driving for what company and some even have new numbers and paint schemes this year.
The favorites to win this race will be the usual suspects, but I have found myself leaning toward five drivers who could easily win this race. So I will give you my top 5 and a dark horse pick just for grins.
- Kurt Busch
- Tony Stewart
- Clint Bowyer
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Kevin Harvick
And lastly the dark horse pick for the Daytona 500 is Brad Kesolowski.
I am sure most race fans will get goose bumps when our favorite announcer DW throws out his favorite tag line of “Boogity Boogity Boogity! Let’s go Racin boys”
It has been reported that Daytona is planning a special tribute to Dale Earnhardt during the Daytona 500 this weekend. While there will be many fan tributes outside of the stadium and there will be mentions of the anniversary of his death made during pre-race and even as the green flag drops. But the brass at the track are coordinating an effort to have a silent lap during the race to honor Dale. Obviously this will be the 3rd lap, which they are hoping to have even the TV broadcast in on the act. While this is a very cool way to honor Dale Earnhardt, it will be very odd watching the race and hearing silence.
But on top of that, they are going to wait until Saturday night after the Nationwide race and paint the famous number 3 in the infield. Once again, a very cool tribute, but waiting so long has to make you wonder if the paint will fully be dry by the time the green flag drops on Sunday. Either way, this is how Daytona will honor Dale, and it will be a very cool and very moving tribute. Hopefully all the fans will partake in the event by standing and holding up 3 fingers to add to the moment.