Rollin' the dice at the Jewel in the Desert
NASCAR has developed the safest equipment possible with the current technology and I'm sure the drivers will be safe. I am not so sure, however, that we won't see more crashes to rival those seen at Daytona. I'm sure that is also on the mind of the drivers, perhaps most notably that of Danica Patrick, who was in the race that took Dan's life.
As an aside, I am watching Nationwide qualifying right now, and I am really impressed with the progress Johanna Long is making! At 19 years of age, she is going to be a force in NASCAR before too much longer.
Brian Vickers was one of the victims of the closing of Red Bull Racing last year. He has remained without a driving position and did not race in the Daytona 500. I have been vocal that I believe it is his own ego and big mouth that have him in this position, and I stick to that opinion. However, Michael Waltrip, one of the nicest guys in NASCAR has announced that he will hire Brian Vickers to drive the 55 car for a number of races this year. Mark Martin is once again running a reduced schedule and Brian will fill in some of the seat time. Could MWR have any two more opposite drivers? Perhaps they are hopeful that Mark's mild temper and humble ego will rub off on Vicker's arrogance? We can only hope.
One thing I will say, without question in my mind, is that this may be the very last chance that Vickers will get. Yes, he is a talented driver, but he is only human and can make mistakes. He can also make deliberate moves that cause accidents. Continually berating his crew and fellow drivers for every incident he is involved in has gotten really old. When fans are watching live with huge screen TVs showing the replays and the fans at home are seeing those same replays, having a driver claim he had no part of an accident that was clearly of his making is ridiculous. Certainly a driver can be mistaken. However, Vickers constantly does this. He needs to shut his mouth, walk away and wait until he cools down to offer an opinion. We see where this kind of attitude got Kurt Busch and he is easily more talented than Vickers.
Okay, off the soap box.
Qualifying for the Nationwide Series is done, with last week's winner, Elliott Sadler on the pole and the race will air later today. Those of us in Canada will see it on TSN, while ESPN2 will carry it in the US.
Tomorrow will see the Sprint Cup race, but the drivers have had time to practice and today Dale Earnhardt Jr was the fastest car on the track. However, Tony Stewart told the media that last year at this track he had one of the best cars he had in the whole season. In case you forgot, Smoke fell just short of the win at Vegas last year, to Carl Edwards, they guy he tied at the end of the season and took the championship from by virtue of wins. Both of those two are obvious choices for fantasy picks.
Matt Kenseth has a new sponsor for this race, with Zest, and has one of the best looking (and best smelling?) cars in the race. With his strong start at Daytona, and his history at the track, Matt and his Ford Fusion should also be contenders.
The newest Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, calmed down long enough to grab the pole in the Sprint Cup race. Kasey will also start on the front row for the Nationwide race, so if he can keep his excitement at bay and settle in to just drive the car, he could be a surprise winner, giving Rick Hendrick his 200th win. Dale Jr., of course, wants to be the one to break a losing streak and give Rick that honor.
It could be the last weekend for Jimmie Johnson to have his Crew Chief, Chad Knaus, on the pit box. The Appeals Board will meet on Tuesday and both NASCAR and HMS will be given the opportunity to present their side of the controversy over unapproved car parts at Daytona during Speed Weeks. Once thing this fan had forgotten was that the Appeals Board has the power to eliminate the fines and penalties, uphold the fines and penalties or increase the fines and penalties. NASCAR used to have a representative on the panel, but that is no longer the case. Exactly who will make up the Appeals Board is unclear at this point in time, but I will certainly be glued to SPEED Channel and my computer (probably twitter will have it first) on Tuesday.
I'll leave you with my hopes and prayers for a safe race tomorrow. I happened across this picture of Kevin Harvick's helmet, and I truly believe the equipment in these cars protects the drivers just as well as possible, but it just can't hurt to say an extra prayer or two.