The Frontstretch: What's Left To Be Said About The Daytona 520 by Kurt Smith -- Thursday February 18, 2010

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What's Left To Be Said About The Daytona 520

Kurt Smith · Thursday February 18, 2010


There I sat in my capacity as Official Columnist of NASCAR, after two long delays, which at least enabled me to spend some time with visiting in-laws that have zero interest in racing. Before the first green-white-we’ll-figure-it-out-eventually, my three fantasy drivers that day, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, and Jeff Gordon, were all in the top 15. I’m grateful in any plate race when two of my drivers even so much as finish, so I was happy about my prospects.

Two restarts and what had to be a little confusion in the flag stand later, Gordon was spinning out and Martin and Burton were being shuffled back to eventual 11th and 12th place finishes. Just that quickly, out the window went any money I could win this week.

When Kurt Smith’s fantasy racing picks fell from the top of the pylon to outside of the top 10, it put him in a rotten mood…until Jamie McMurray’s feel-good win melted that all away.

This is the sort of thing that puts a competitor like me in a rotten mood. I wouldn’t go as far to say I would refuse to be interviewed afterward, but my frustration was certainly evident.

Then Jamie McMurray broke down in victory lane, and it all melted away.

Had my wife not been slightly irritated with me for retreating downstairs from company to watch the race, she would have liked seeing it. She watches Extreme Home Makeover frequently, a show where fire hydrants of happiness tears are shed as a requirement. Somehow Jamie’s breakdown was different from Jeff Gordon letting loose after his first win, where you sort of felt like saying, “get a grip, man”—and I say that as a big fan of Jeff Gordon. Maybe it was just evident on McMurray’s face that the guy’s had a rough few years, and that finally, even if unexpectedly, he reached a pinnacle in motorsports.

It was hard to argue that a sentimental favorite won. I always did think Jamie was a good guy and a better racecar driver than he has ever been given credit for. I’m not sure why things never seemed to work for him at Roush, but it happens.

And I sincerely hope that NASCAR doesn’t point to McMurray’s victory as a success of its four car per team rule. That rule screwed McMurray out of his ride at Roush, not anything McMurray, Jack Roush or a sponsor did.

Thankfully, things worked out for Big Mac.

Insert Awful Hole Pun Here

The hole in Daytona couldn’t be helped. It happens. As someone currently living up to his behind in global warming in the Northeast, I can personally testify that severe weather causes unexpected problems. Yes, the red flags were excitement killers, as they always are. But my only beef was that Fox could have shown replays of classic 500s instead of immediately reverting to let’s-get-a-Danica-segment-in mode.

It’d have been one thing if I or another commentator had been calling for repaving Daytona for years and forecasting disaster, but I wasn’t and as far as I know no one else was either. It’s easy to say it should have been prevented in hindsight.

But think of this…we still got to see what turned out to be a great ending. That would not have happened had the race started at 4PM, as we saw last year. The track would have been even colder and harder to fix. Instead of touting that new green-white-green-white-green-white-checkered rule, NASCAR ought to be happy about the new start times.

We’re Going Back To Our Roots With This Album

An analogy struck me as I was watching the same sport that frequently insists that it’s just as great as it always was talk about getting back to their roots.

All of my favorite bands had their heyday in the 70s and 80s…Rush, Chicago, ZZ Top, etc. Some of them are still around and even making good music, even if they are not as prolific as they once were. Chicago claimed to be going “back to their roots” with what ultimately became the “Stone of Sisyphus” album, and Rush said the same thing about “Snakes & Arrows”, and I will diplomatically say about two bands I love that neither CD is their finest hour.

It makes me skeptical of the whole “back to our roots” claim in general. It seems to be the de jour fallback for those whose superstardom has passed. You know who says, “We’re going back to our roots”? Someone who hasn’t had a hit in 20 years.

Besides, NASCAR isn’t, nor should they, go back to the days of a car winning a race by two laps and having maybe six drivers who could win on a given week. They just need to get rid of the Chase, loosen up on the car specs and testing restrictions, and add some variety to the schedule (a big “just”, I know). That, I believe, would fix a big chunk of their ratings problems, and it would do so much more effectively in the long term than putting every one of the sport’s eggs in the Danica basket.

This is hardly new, by the way. I’ve been hearing the “back to the roots” stuff for years from NASCAR, and, well, judge for yourself.

Buzz Aldrin Syndrome

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. looked agitated about running second in the 500, and I expect it may have been because Teresa won a 500 before he did following their less than amicable split. Hell, he should have been grinning from ear to ear. When was the last time he ran second?

I don’t know about this “Junior looked like his dad out there” stuff. Yeah, so did Brad Keselowski at Talladega last year. With all due respect, Dale, Sr. probably would have been the first to say that anyone can get to the front catching a draft at the right time. Still, Junior’s testiculars to the wall charge to the front at the end was most definitely exciting to watch, no matter who the driver would have been, but especially for a guy that was at the end of his rope last year. Caution to you Junior fans out there, though…don’t go thinking he’s back yet. It was a plate race after all.

By the way, where was Teresa?


It’s hard to argue what a boon Danica Patrick is to the Nationwide Series after her 35th place debut, driving right into a big wreck that she had about half a track to avoid. Who cares? Have you seen her in a bikini? If a scantily clad Danica lying on the beach is not true racing, I don’t know what the hell is.

D.W. pointed out during the lengthy red flag that if you approach a sponsor who doesn’t know what the Nationwide Series is and tell them that Danica races there, that the sponsor would be much more willing hearing that news. Well hell’s bells, with that kind of thinking, what’s the holdup on putting Pamela Anderson in a Nationwide car? Pam only has one fewer major racing series wins and a more impressive set of bazongas.

I thought about D.W.’s assertion for a moment, and while I think he’s probably correct, I wondered why all a business owner would need to know about racing sponsorship was that Danica Patrick was racing in the series. Seriously, would you put $10 million into putting your company name on a racecar with that being the only selling point? Especially knowing, as you and I both know, how much coverage a non-Danica car will see on TV. Any business that runs that way, I’m interested in having them sponsor this column.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s Danica update. Who won that Nationwide race again?

That Jeff Gordon Wasn’t No Earnhardt!

Hey, how about Larry McReynolds showing his true Jeff Gordon-hating colors following Gordon’s probably unintentional bump draft of Kasey Kahne sending the 9 car spinning? “Now, I gotta say this, he (Gordon) was the one who went to NASCAR and told them to crack down on bump drafting!”

I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if he hadn’t added the “I gotta say this” qualifier, but that, to me anyway, betrayed his motivation. All of the standard “I hate that dang Jeff Gordon” code is in that comment: Gordon is a whiner, Gordon thinks rules don’t apply to him, NASCAR gives Gordon special treatment, Gordon races dirty. The only thing missing was “I think he might like other men too D.W.!” Maybe the word “crack” was a sly allusion to suspected homosexuality.

You’re just not a real Southerner unless you despise Jeff Gordon. Talk about getting back to our roots…where’s the anti-Gordon bile been in NASCAR these days?

My favorite Jeff Gordon Hater story: my Dad and I were in a racing collectibles shop some years ago, and we were talking about racing with a guy wearing a Dale Earnhardt (Senior) shirt. The Earnhardt fan referred to Gordon as “the fag” without saying his name. Dad asked him who “the fag” was, and he responded “Jeff Gordon!”, which, of course, we both knew was coming. And my Dad, a Chevy-hater who never really had a dog in that fight, says, “You just don’t like him ‘cause he used to beat the shit out of Earnhardt all the time.”

Classic. All I can say is from the look on the guy’s face, I’m glad he wasn’t armed.

We Now Return You To Racing At Different Speeds

I know it sounds sacrilegious, but I’m actually glad we take the plates off and go to a track where drivers don’t need help to pass. Fontana isn’t that bad, at least as the cookie-cutters go. And hey, before you know it, we’ll be at Bristol again.

So congratulations Jamie and Mrs. McMurray, hope you enjoyed the Big Macs. Here’s hoping the No. 1 runs as well as its driver is liked this year.

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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…


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02/19/2010 07:11 AM

The Gordon haters are now Johnson haters. I guess we can call them success haters.

02/19/2010 08:27 AM

Wow, someone agrees with me on Snakes and Arrows…that album outright sucked. Rush’s worst ever.

Good column Kurt.

Bill B
02/19/2010 10:51 AM

Hmmm, I rather thought “Snakes & Arrows” was the best album Rush put out since “Hold Your Fire”. No way it touches those albums between “2112” and “Grace Under Pressure” when Rush was at their peak but it was still better than 95% of the crap that passes itself off as music these days.
The fact is you can never go back so in some ways comparing anything to anything else when 20 years of time has passed is pointless (even though it is human nature to try).

02/19/2010 10:55 AM

hmm – I must be one of those new generation NASCAR fans. What are these “albums” everyone’s talking about. You mean CDs?

And who is RUSH?

02/19/2010 11:00 AM

I believe more than ever that a writer for a Nascar site has to have a lobotomy as a prerequisite to being hired. What a waste of time!

Kevin from PA
02/19/2010 01:03 PM

Mmmm – which sounds more dated: referring to a collection of music as an “album” or saying that you were in a “racing collectible shop”. I haven’t seen either since about 2005.

(BTW VaBlueGrass – my 13 year cousin would probably wonder what a CD is. Unless you can buy it from your Iphone App – it doesn’t exist (or isn’t cool enough to deserve to exist))

Kevin in SoCal
02/19/2010 01:04 PM

Kurt said: They just need to get rid of the Chase,

Yeah, because it was so much more exciting before knowing who the Champion was going to be in September, and watching football instead. Unfortunately, even with the Chase we still know who the Champion is going to be, and watch football instead. LOL

02/22/2010 08:21 AM

Now Kurt really…I gotta say this. “The fag” WAS the one who whined to NASCAR and told them to crack down on bump drafting !!No?

“Gordon’s probably unintentional bump draft of Kasey Kahne” INDEED !!

SURE Kurt, it was about as unintentional as my slam of wonder(if he’s really a)boy above. Isnt his well rehearsed line afterwords, “Well, I didnt mean to wreck him”.

Standard MO for Gordon IM(not so)HO!

Best wishes!

02/22/2010 07:26 PM

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about, Blu!

Seriously, Jimmie just doesn’t gin up the hate like Gordon or Earnhardt did. That isn’t a knock on Jimmie, just is what is.

02/23/2010 10:55 AM

LOL Kurt! KNEW ya’d like that!

I dont really care for or about “the robot” JJ, BUT, I just cant stand that Cheshire cat of a crew chief Knauss.
I truly have extreme dislike (I dont HATE anyone)for that cheatin’ bas..err…booger!

I think he and Gordon may be ..ahh..“buddies” honestly!

I truly do miss Dale….

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