The Frontstretch: Seven Points to Ponder: Daytona 500 Edition by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday February 16, 2009

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Seven Points to Ponder: Daytona 500 Edition

Mike Lovecchio · Monday February 16, 2009


Does this win seal Matt Kenseth’s legacy as one of the greatest drivers in recent history?

Without a doubt. In 328 starts, Matt Kenseth has established himself as one of the best drivers of this era. By winning the 2009 Daytona 500 and the 2003 Sprint Cup championship, he joins an elite list of just eleven other men to have earned both titles (Most Recent: Jimmie Johnson, 2006). Other honors for Kenseth since joining the Cup Series full-time in 2000 include: 17 wins, Rookie of the Year honors, one of only two drivers to make the Chase every year since the format’s existence (Johnson is the other), and the record for most consecutive weeks atop the points standings (33). He may not be the world’s flashiest wheelman… but the numbers are there.

Harvick summed up Kenseth’s career best in a post-race press conference.

“He can win 7 or 8 races in a year,” he said. “And never receive any credit.”

Until now.

Long overdue victory for Jack Roush

While there was plenty of talk this month about Mark Martin’s winless streak in the Daytona 500, the guy he used to drive for had quite a winless streak of his own. Jack Roush has competed in the Daytona 500 every year since 1988, and has had a multi-car operation since 1992 without ever winning the Great American Race. Ironically, after waiting 21 years, the crew chief that got Roush and Matt Kenseth to Victory Lane, Drew Blickensderfer, was calling his first Cup race atop the pit box.

No penalty for Junior

The talk of the garage following this year’s 500 was the Lap 125 wreck between Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brian Vickers which wiped out nearly a dozen cars. Did Earnhardt take out Vickers on purpose? Nobody knows for sure. But was Earnhardt’s wreck similar to that of the one that resulted in a five lap penalty for Jason Leffler? Yes. The fact that there was a call on Saturday and not one on Sunday is another sign of NASCAR’s struggles with consistency — and is something that has started to irritate longtime fans.

It was a less than stellar day for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The debate on his run-in with Brian Vickers aside, the team had two self-induced miscues on pit road that cost them plenty of track position.

Poor day for Hendrick

For a team that had some pretty good cars on Sunday, the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports entry was Jeff Gordon in 13th. Three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson struggled with handling all day and finished 31st, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. had problems on pit road — to go along with his major wreck — slumping to 27th. And pre-race favorite Mark Martin, along with Gordon, misplayed a gutsy pit call for tires with rain approaching to finish 16th.

Allmendinger improving

On Sunday, Allmendinger was out to prove a late surge in 2008 was no fluke, and came out in the Daytona 500 with his best career finish – third. It appears the switch may have flipped and the open-wheel convert has “figured it out” when it comes to stock car racing — but it remains to be seen if he can secure sponsorship and run the full schedule for Richard Petty Motorsports this season.

Was it the right decision to call the race so early?

Simply? Yes. I left the track just after 9 p.m. and the rain was still falling; add the fact, NASCAR said it would take approximately 3 hours to dry the track, and this one was a no brainer. A midnight restart? No thanks.

Good / Bad week for Busch

Any driver would be happy with a win and two 2nd place finishes in a four-race weekend… but not Kyle Busch. His win came in a non-points paying race — the Gatorade Duels — and he was noticeably upset with failing to make a last-lap pass in the truck and Nationwide races. His weekend then came to an abrupt end when a lap 123 took him out of the race with arguably the strongest car in the Daytona 500.

Contact Mike Lovecchio

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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?
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Kevin in SoCal
02/16/2009 09:40 AM

Kenseth was also the first driver to get Roush a Cup championship, and now he’s the first to get Roush a Daytona 500. Mark Martin hand-picked him, and now Martin picked Joey Logano too. Lets see how that plays out.

I was surprised as well that Jr didnt get at least a 2 lap penalty for the same move they gave Leffler 5 laps for. It just proves there is a different set of rules for Dale Jr just because of his overzealous, rabid fans.

M. B. Voelker
02/16/2009 10:25 AM

I’d like to point out something to any Kyle Busch haters reading.

Note that Kyle handled the racing adversity quite well on Sunday. Naturally he gets mad when other drivers’ boneheaded moves affect him. But, …

What gets Kyle truly upset is when he feels that HE has failed — as on Friday and Saturday.

“Old School” fans like to repeat that “Second place is just first loser.” Anyone who has followed Kyle can tell that is exactly how he thinks of those second-place finishes that he failed to turn into wins.

02/16/2009 10:59 AM

Quote “NA$CAR struggles with consistency, something that is starting to irritate fans”

STARTING, to irritate fans? Where have you been man, under a rock?

Larry Burton
02/16/2009 11:17 AM

I disagree with them calling the race early. The last fifty laps was going to be the best racing of the day and Nascar took that away from the fans. That’s why they’ve got lights so they can run into the night if they have too. Remember Charlotte a few years ago, they ran way after midnight so why couldn’t they have done that last night? If you did’nt want to stay and watch the race at least it could have been ran to a conclusion and you could have found out today who actually won the Daytona 500. I’ll never beleive it’ll take three hours to dry the track out. I’ve seen way more tracks with less banking dried out in less time than that. As far as the Jr. incident, Anybody who watches Jr. knows he is one of the cleanest drivers on the track along with Mark Martin but occasionally even clean drivers make mistakes. Remember Mark Martin last year causing a wreck in a Nationwide race to win a race I believe? And don’t forget about Busch wrecking Jr. at Richmond with a “racing” deal last year. Also, don’t forget about Busch taking out many drivers who were running for the championship in the Nationwide and Truck Series last year also. Busch has no reason to complain whatsoever.

02/16/2009 11:25 AM

Here’s an idea: Since NASCAR knew rain was coming, why did we have to sit through two hours of pre-race coverage and then come up 120 miles short on racing?

Did the fans pay/tune-in for a race, or for a Keith Urban concert and a stupid Digger cartoon? Where’s the priorities?

The race started at 3:30 EST. There’s the problem, not track-drying.

Back in the day, that race would have been started early.

Kevin in SoCal
02/16/2009 12:26 PM

Larry, are you referring to Charlotte 2005 when the levigated track caused caution after caution? That wasnt a rain delay, that was a bad track. Daytona last night would have taken 2 or 3 hours to dry, and the rain was not letting up. You might have been willing to sit and watch nothing for 4-5 hours but the fans in the stands and watching on TV probably wouldnt. They had to call the race. Remember all the complaining last year when NASCAR tried to dry the track at California and get the race under way, instead of postponing it. Now there’s complaining that NASCAR called the race. Will anything make the fans happy?

And it was just a few years ago that NASCAR made the start time later. Jeff Gordon’s 2005 win was the last one in daytime. Jimmie Johnson’s 2006 win was at night. Watch the replays and see.

02/16/2009 12:46 PM

As the blood gushes from my tongue – Nascar made the right call. For those fans to sit there another 6 total hours waiting for the track to dry and the race to end, getting even more liquored up with nothing to do, then to heard them to the freeways with the lives of traffic cops at risk, we would be reading about “that terrible tragedy in Daytona overnight” in this mornings local rag. It pains me, but they made a good one this time.

02/16/2009 01:07 PM

Had the race been continued there would have been a last lap crash that would have allowed a driver in the right place at the right time to win. It could have been Kenseth again or possibly Junior. Plate races have always been great until a few years ago when the finishes were always marred by some idiot driving above their head. The out of bounds rule was supposed to reduce the number of wrecks, but stupidity knows no bounds. And this weekend proved numerous times, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

02/16/2009 01:59 PM


Do you eat with that mouth?

02/16/2009 03:25 PM

keep watching and buying tickets to this joke and you’ll keep getting the same s#&*% in your hat from these nasjoke people give it up go to a srort track and have some fun at the races.

02/16/2009 03:39 PM

Regarding Dale Jr’s wreck with Vickers in the 500… Consider the similar incident in Saturday’s Nationwide race and some of last years “yellow line” calls and I think it is time to scrap the yellow out of bounds. After last year’s finish in which the first accross the line was not the winner, I thought the driver was forced below the line since the front of their car was past the rear bumber of Stewart. Since then, Saturday and yesterday both drivers basically chose to hold their line so as not to be accused of passing below the line. This is the absolute logical consequence of the rule. It just isn’t right for a car to force another below the yellow line to cause the competitor to break the rule since there is no consequence to the blocking driver. Ever wonder why thy don’t block a car passing on the outside – might be because they would cause a wreck? Also, no, I don’t believe that the circumstances surrounding Saturday’s 5 lap penalty was similar to Dale Jr’s: it wasn’t anywhere near the yellow line, and the car turned was not blocking.

02/16/2009 08:19 PM

to ted:
you have no right to bash a guy for winning the race just because you don’t like him…i bet if it had been your favorite driver that passed for the lead right before the race was called you’d be a happy camper right now…that’s called being a hypocrite in my book!!

02/16/2009 09:08 PM

I don’t think winning a rain shortened race, after inching ahead on the scoring loops at the time of a caution puts you in an elite group of anybody. Maybe Michael Waltrip and Jeff Burton, but I don’t see them with a lot of championships. The race was to be 500 miles, there was a lot of strategy playing out. Oh, yeah, does anyone remember when Dave Marcis won a rain shortened race because all the lead lap cars pitted besides him? If boring Kenseth had actually won a 500, maybe I would feel different.

And MB, “Old Schooler” thats a weird term. I am a Dale Earnhardt fan, and Dale said that second place was the fastest loser.

Guess I’ll watch next week because its like playing golf. The expectation of one great hole keeps you coming back. We’ll get em next week, thats what all the drivers say.

02/16/2009 10:53 PM

Yes, start the races earlier when there’s a threat of rain. It’s a no-brainer the heck with the TV contract. The people at the race deserve to see the whole thing and I’d rather watch the tail end of the race than a called race.

Kenseth is a great driver, but winning a rain-shortened race isn’t the same as lasting to the end and taking it on lap 200. I wouldn’t put him in the elite for winning a race that way, even Daytona.

02/18/2009 10:05 AM

Frontstretch needs to ban this “ted” guy’s IP, his posts are nothing but profanity-laden insults to other regulars and writers.

I mean come on, spelling it “fuking” to get past the site censorship is childish and really, really poor spelling and grammar. Then again all his posts are.

I eagerly await your “idiot” reply. It’s people like you that give stockcar fans the bad stereotype.

Kenseth winning the race is a win, and that’s all there is to it. Blame NASCAR for starting the race late, not the guy who has 18 career wins and a championship.

As far as Dale Jr, the wreck was entirely his fault, and he did admit his mistake… but he was wrong to say that Vickers shouldn’t have blocked him. It’s a plate race—the nature of the race IS to block. He would’ve gotten around him later on in the race, he had a much faster car.

Blame the game, not the players.

02/21/2009 02:22 AM

hey ted, how about you pull your head out of your ass. kenseth’s win is dam great win. he earned it. every driver knew there was rain on the way. all the teams were racing to the rain.

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