Daytona was last weekend, it's on to Phoenix
Jr. celebrated by doing a Polish victory lap, much as Alan Kulwicki would have, driving around the track backwards, waving to the fans. Then, after arriving in Victory Lane, Dale Jr. did something no other driver has done. He ignored the Fox announcer standing at his window and before speaking to any media, made his way through his crew, one by one, thanking and hugging each and every crew member. Other drivers make a point of thanking their crews publicly in their post race interviews, but Jr. showed it.
No wonder he is NASCAR's most popular driver.
It was a busy week for Dale Jr. with appearances on David Letterman, Today and ESPN, and in each appearance he was able to joke, laugh and enjoy himself. He even officially activated his twitter account. The account was created a few years ago, to ensure he would have @DaleJr as his handle, but he had never activated the account. Even without activation, he has 221,000 followers. With activation, in less than a week, he now has over half a million followers. Above is one of the firt photos he tweeted.
In any case, the celebrations that involve Daytona are done, and the teams are in Phoenix. Luckily, the Polar Vortex that seems to be affecting a lot of the country will not touch Phoenix, although the temperatures will not be in the 80's as they were in Daytona.
This week we will see the first example of NASCAR's new qualifying procedure -- the knockout. As Phoenix is only a one mile track, teams will qualify in two rounds. The first round will be 30 minutes. After a ten minute break, the fastest 12 cars will retake the track for an additional 10 minutes and the fastest car will be the pole sitter. Teams will be slotted into position based on their speeds during those sessions. While the qualifying isn't an actual race, given that the fastest times "win", it can be perceived as a race of sorts. What we don't know yet, and won't know until we see the qualifying in action, is how dangerous it can be. Hopefully we won't have cars getting wrecked during the qualifying, but we all know anything is possible.
Practice at the track for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup cars get underway this morning, so at this point I have no idea who the fastest cars might be. We'll have updates on that this evening.
Finally, I will leave you with this video. Please enjoy it. It is self-explanatory, but just goes to show what fun a NASCAR driver can have, away from the track.
The Sprint Cup race airs at noon, Phoenix time, Sunday on FOX.