This Week in NASCAR [Post Daytona Edition]
With a brand new car, dubbed the Gen6, a changed qualifying procedure, a changed "Shoot Out' and a girl in the race, Jimmie Johnson still did what he does best. Win.
By many accounts the Daytona 500 was somewhat of a boring race, as it seemed drivers couldn't pass. The bump drafting was awkward, at best, with the bumpers not lining up, and most seemed a little hesitant to take the chance. The cars ran around the track in single file, only moving when they had to.
There was an early wreck involving some of the favorites, namely Tony Stewar, Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne, and Kevin bluntly said he felt the 18 had caused it. It wasn't clear from the replay and, in fact, it looked more like Kasey checked up, causing Kyle to get into him. In any case, Tony, Kevin and Kasey had to go to the garage for repairs, and had terrible finishes.
The Toyotas all looked very strong throughout the day, yet three had engine problems and did not finish. Both Kyle and his new teammate, Matt Kenseth, were up front leading, along with third Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Denny Hamlin, when engine woes appeared. First Matt came into the pits and only a lap later, Kyle followed. The engine issues were unrelated, however. Martin Truex Jr., in another Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, had his engine go south only a handful of laps later.
As the laps wound down, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Jr and Jeff Gordon surged to the front after riding in the back most of the day. In the final handful of laps, Jeff was shuffled back, while Dale Jr jumped out of the single file line to try to make something happen. His former teammate, Mark Martin, went with him and while the two were able to move forward, they ran out of steam before they could get by the 48.
The Nationwide race seemed relatively calm as well, surprisingly. There were a few wrecks, of course, but until the last few laps drivers were mostly minding their P's and Q's and staying out of trouble. That all changed with 5 to go, when the race was red flagged. Sadly, once they got back underway for the finish, a simple blocking move by Regan Smith resulted in carnage. As you have no doubt seen, the wreck sent newcomer Kyle Larson's car airborne into the catch fence. The engine and a tire ended up on the wrong side of said catch fence, and 28 people were injured. Of the 28, two remain in hospital receiving treatment for their injuries. Luckily it was not more serious than that, and NASCAR has said they will be evaluating the entire event, the catch fence, the stands, everything that was a factor in the accident. One has to hope they don't make a knee-jerk decision regarding the catch fence and the job it is designed to do. As Kyle Petty said, it did the job. It is designed to keep the car on the track side of the fence and it did exactly that. Now the task is to ensure the car parts remain there as well.
In all, the N'wide race was entertaining. I was particularly impressed with Travis Pastrana. While some claimed he would be an instant success, winning races immediately, others said it was all hype. The reality is somewhere in between. While he was stuck in the middle of the pack with only a handful of laps to go, with no one to draft with him, and cars banging on both sides, he maintained his cool. He didn't panic and he didn't cause a wreck. That, my friends, is true talent. Watch him.
The Camping World Truck Series race ran Friday night, and while I didn't see that race, I am told that it, too, was entertaining. Johnny Sauter was the winner of the race.
Next the Sprint Cup teams go onto Phoenix, and we get to see how the new cars perform on a smaller track. Will it be exciting? If last year's Chase race at Phoenix is any guide, it will be.
So there you have it. Daytona Speedweeks is done for another year. What did you think? Were you disappointed or excited, horrified or relieved, bored or glued to the TV? The 2013 NASCAR season is underway, ready of not.