Jeff Gordon snapped a 66 race winless streak on what turned out to be a demolition derby of a race. The Subway fresh fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway was set up to be the first real race of the new season, but quickly turned in to a wreck fest. Early on the pole sitter Carl Edwards got into a wreck and immediately had to go behind to wall to make repairs ending his chance at a victory.
Gordon himself even had a little scrape where he had some minor damage, but was able to overcome that to be in position to win the race when it mattered. He was able to hold off a late charge from 2nd place finisher Kyle Busch to seal his first victory under his new sponsor with his new team. After a long winless streak, Gordon looked like last week’s first time winner in victory lane. Jeff Gordon’s name will now be back in the hunt after this victory and he will be a favorite to win next week’s race in Las Vegas.
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.