The Frontstretch: The Big Six: Questions Answered After the Budweiser Shootout by Amy Henderson -- Monday February 20, 2012

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The Big Six: Questions Answered After the Budweiser Shootout

Amy Henderson · Monday February 20, 2012


Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind this weekend’s Sprint Cup event? Amy Henderson has you covered with each week with the answers to six race day questions, covering all five W’s and even the H in her Big Six.

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

Talk about being there at the end. We barely heard a whimper from Denny Hamlin all night long, but when it counted, there he was, finishing fifth. The run is made all the more impressive by the fact Hamlin lost two laps early on, involved in a Lap 10 wreck only to stay patient, work with a damaged engine and draft to perfection after earning Lucky Dogs to get those laps back. Now, it’s too early to say if new (and defending Cup champion) crew chief Darian Grubb is having that big of an impact or if Hamlin will regain the form that nearly carried him to the 2010 title himself. But if the 31-year-old can run like he did Saturday night – quietly staying out of trouble only to make some noise at the end – Hamlin could well roar back into championship contention this year. Sometimes. you don’t have to be overtly spectacular to turn heads; you just have to get it done right.

Danica Patrick was the star of FOX’s television coverage – sometimes, to the point she threatened to overshadow the race itself.

What… was THAT?

Note to FOX: Danica Patrick wasn’t in this race. That might come as a surprise, considering how much airtime Patrick got visiting the Hollywood Hotel and watching the race from the spotters’ stand. Sure, she’s going to be in the Daytona 500 next week, but so were 25 other competitors who were actually on the track Saturday night, competing at speed in some of the most thrilling superspeedway action in recent memory. Sorry, FOX, but Danica Patrick watching a race isn’t exactly a story, let alone one to stretch out for half of the broadcast.

Where… did the pole winner wind up?

After a miserable 2011, Martin Truex, Jr. hoped his luck was turning around when he drew the pole position for the Budweiser Shootout. But unfortunately for Truex, Jr., all that got turned around on Saturday night was his racecar. The seven-year vet was involved in the same midrace wreck that claimed Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth, among others after sticking strongly inside the lead pack all night. The end result of that mess? A decidedly unlucky 19th-place finish.

When… will I be loved?

The blame for the huge pileups in this race lies squarely with NASCAR. The sanctioning body was in such a hurry to find a way to curb the tandem draft that the collateral damage (and the safety issues that go along with it) were clearly not deemed as important. With the previous style of tandem drafting, based on recent racing history both of the big wrecks would have involved fewer cars, or better yet never happened due to competitors being spaced out all over the track. Simply put, pack racing breeds wrecks, the serious, upside-down type like we saw on Saturday night. Oh, wait; maybe that was exactly what NASCAR and a lot of fans wanted to see (except for the part where Dale Jr. gets involved, anyway). Considering 80 percent of fans said they didn’t like the pairs in a national survey last year, it makes me wonder how many based that opinion on the lack of wrecks like we saw on Saturday night — and how many went home satisfied that the Big One is back.

Why… were there so many cars in this race?

When the lineup for the Shootout was announced, it would have been a lot easier if NASCAR had just told everybody who wasn’t in the race. The automatic inclusion of the top 25 in driver points (along with past winners of either the Shootout or any points race at Daytona) was really put into perspective when you consider that just five Cup drivers who didn’t start and park at least part of the time last year got excluded. Such a bloated lineup makes this race feel a whole lot less special, doesn’t it? Luckily, NASCAR realized that the luster has faded, announcing Sunday the race will revert to its original format beginning in 2013. The criteria to enter, rules that worked so well from 1979 to 2008 will now revert to the previous season’s pole winners and past editions of the Shootout. NASCAR should be applauded for this move… I just wish it happened sooner.

How… much light did the Budweiser Shootout shed on what to expect next week in the Daytona 500?

A lot, and not all of it good. With the pack style of racing, it was made abundantly clear that the Big One will happen again – probably more than once. That means, like the Shootout, the winner will likely come from a small group of cars, dodging the wrecks to duke it out at the finish. So remember, 80 percenters, if your guy gets taken out next Sunday, you got what you wished for.

The Shootout did, however, give a look at some of the likely contenders for next Sunday’s Daytona 500 – assuming they survive. Two years ago, Jamie McMurray had a bad fast Shootout car, and although he didn’t win the exhibition battle that night, was able to break through and win the Daytona 500 a week later. McMurray, it appeared had that same look Saturday night until he got caught up in one of the multi-car wrecks. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also had a similar strength early on, as did Kevin Harvick, who were also involved in crashes not of their making. Finally, if Kyle Busch is able to avoid trouble better than he could on Saturday, he’ll be a contender, but a race like he had in this one simply won’t win over 500 miles. And, as always, Tony Stewart looked like he’ll be knocking on the victory door when all is said and done – will this be the year he breaks it down? Smoke is 0-for-13 for his career in the Great American Race.

Contact Amy Henderson

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

02/20/2012 09:41 AM

While I like Danica Patrick and hope she does as well as should be expected, I have had about enough of the media hype already. Why would Fox have her commenting on the Bud Shootout? She hasn’t even run one Sprint Cup race at Daytona yet. She sounded like she knew all about it and willingly shared her wisdom with us. We are so lucky!!

02/20/2012 10:42 AM

More Danica again!!!!!

Anything Danica is a story for Fox.

02/20/2012 12:02 PM

Well, both Fox and Danica looked like a**s. Fox for putting her on and Danica for agreeing to act like the guru of racing. They both failed miserably and annoyed a lot of fans.

02/20/2012 12:08 PM

The less I see and hear of the Waltrip brothers. boggity boogity and the gopher plus Danica Patrick the better I like it!!!Oh another thing I found repulsive was all the commentatiors with new facial hair. Hey guys find a razor. Get rid of it.

J H Jones
02/20/2012 01:37 PM

Is it time for more professional announcing of the races? I watch with the sound off.

02/20/2012 01:56 PM

To clueless FOX TV; MRN and PRN both have FREE live broadcasts on the internet this year. Don’t have to listen to Ole DW, Mikey, or Danica. SWEET!

02/20/2012 02:09 PM

Who is this DANICA person and what has she ever done? Oh, that’s right .She is a model/spokesperson or something.

Carl D.
02/20/2012 02:16 PM

I said I wasn’t going to let the Danica hype get to me but the only thing Fox didn’t have Danica do Saturday night was belt out a version of “I Will Always Love You” in tribute to Whitney Houston. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt even though there’s a lot of doubt, but the media is doing it’s damnedest to make me wish she never wins a freakin’ Nacsar race.

02/20/2012 07:01 PM

What was FOX thinking? Not so much of Danica. That was expected for the 500 Hype. Fine. Why on earth did they hire Michael (STUPID) Waltrip for the premier series. This is what we have to look forward for half a season. Saturday was pathetic everytime this clown opened his mouth. Absolutely the wrong move FOX. You had the perfect combination last year. I can only figure MW must be paying FOX to get more air time. You will not gain any ratings with this donkey in the booth.

02/21/2012 01:16 PM

The bottom line with FOX is, if we as fans don’t like it shoved in our faces, we will get it shoved in our faces repeatedly. See Waltrips, Danica, Stupid Gophers, etc.

Does this have anything to do with the decline of the sport in recent years?


Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
Earnhardt Out For Charlotte and Kansas After Talldega Concussion
Piquet, Jr. Wins K&N East Opener

Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.