The Frontstretch: 2007 Daytona 500 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Sunday February 18, 2007

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2007 Daytona 500 Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Sunday February 18, 2007

 

The Key Moment: Kevin Harvick got a huge push into turn three on the last lap, riding the momentum to victory by the blink of an eye over Mark Martin.

In a Nutshell: Well, no one’s going to be talking about the cheating scandal for awhile after that finish, will they?

Dramatic Moment: The Tony Stewart – Kurt Busch wreck eliminated the two dominant cars and threw the final laps into a wide open slugfest; but the pot really boiled over on that last lap, with a wild wreck that left Clint Bowyer on his roof and a nailbiting finish between Harvick and Martin.

Up until forty laps to go, though, the biggest drama of the day was waiting to see if the prerace singer was going to experience a wardrobe malfunction.

What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

- Why didn't NASCAR throw the yellow when cars began piling up (including one that was on its roof and in flames)? They can say that they wanted the top two to decide it among themselves, but the fact the race remained green meant drivers behind them had to stay in the gas, making the big wreck even worse. Recall the 1998 Daytona 500, won by Dale Earnhardt, ended under caution even though the wreck was far behind the leaders.

- I hope NASCAR wrote the race results on an Etch-A-Sketch, because it'll probably be a while before the finishing order becomes official. It certainly appeared that even on his roof and in flames, Clint Bowyer finished a lot better than the eighteenth place he's credited with right now.

- The longest period between commercials for FOX – the three song prerace concert. What the blazes…priorities, guys, priorities.

- A 3:30 start and 7:15 finish (EST) for the Daytona 500? Personally, I don't like it. As a right-coaster, that's way too late for a race to start or end. And according to fans I have corresponded with on the left-coast, they liked having the races starting at 10 AM and ending at 2 in the afternoon so they could go out and enjoy the rest of their day.

- It sure did sound like an unhappy Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was upping the ante on his stepmother/team owner Teresa after the race, didn't it?

- The commercial of this year’s NASCAR Super Bowl: The "Crazy, Mutant, Desert Guys" Budweiser / Earnhardt, Jr. spot.

- Don’t just look at Sunday’s result sheet to find Nextel Cup drivers; the Top 13 finishers in Saturday's Busch race were all Cup regulars. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. This just can't be healthy for the sport.

- Isn't it amazing how one man's mere presence can leave a moral imprint on a team long after he departs? No driver or team among head NASCAR aficionado Robin Pemberton's last three employers was fined or suspended this week, a rarity with all the cheating going on. It had to be a moral imprint, right? What else could it have been?

- I don't understand what all the hoopla is over Michael Waltrip's fuel issue. It was probably just another step in Toyota's hybrid alternate fuel vehicle program.

- -I guess it's a case of "Be careful what you wish for…you just might get it" this week for NASCAR. Despite Brian France's great desire to have NASCAR in the media headlines this week, to me, they showed themselves not ready for prime time. To use a tortured analogy (and when have I not?) the organization acted like a certain pseudo-celebrity running around getting their hair shorn off, checking in and out of rehab and to get some ink. Believe me, it wasn't pretty. Oh, well; at least, unlike another pseudo-celebrity, the embalming process hasn't officially started yet.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Tony Stewart dominated Speedweeks and was in position to win again on Sunday; leading early, he overcame a pit road penalty to drive back to the front, only to have a single bobble see him hit the wall hard and wind up dead last. That wreck sure did look similar to the one someone else had back in 2001, didn't it?

Kyle Busch led a bunch of laps in the Shootout and his Duel 150, only to come up short both races. He was one of the strongest cars in the 500, as well, but a last lap wreck left him 24th after he was in position to challenge Martin for the win.

Kurt Busch may have had the second strongest car in the 500, but he was unable to avoid hitting the No. 20 car after Stewart got out of shape, and that was the name of that tune. Busch posted a 41st place finish.

Michael Waltrip was so slow all day he could have hopped out of the car in the corners and checked his own tire pressure. He wound up 30th, two laps off the pace.

Defending Daytona 500 winner and Cup champion Jimmie Johnson never seemed to be able to find any speed in his car. He brushed the wall a couple of times, finally having the car get out from underneath him and wrecking for good on lap 174. He was credited with a 39th place finish.

The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune

David Gilliland was credited with an eighth place finish despite a wreck on pit road that put him a lap down at one point, the having to drive through the grass wide open to avoid the final lap wreck that claimed several others. For a Daytona rookie, he acquitted himself well; fellow rookie David Ragan in the No. 6 car vacated by Mark Martin also posted a credible fifth place finish after staying out of trouble.

Things looked dire for the Ray Evernham teams when all three of their crew chiefs were suspended this week. Yet, Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne managed to finish sixth and seventh to salvage their Speedweeks.

Ginn Racing got off to a good debut with Mark Martin in second and Joe Nemechek in ninth.

As bad as Jeff Gordon looked most of the day (or at least on worn tires) a twelfth place finish had to feel Deus ex machina.

Worth Noting

Chevrolet continued their stranglehold of the plate tracks, with bowtie drivers claiming the top four spots. RCR was the fourth Chevy team to post a win (joining D.E.I., Hendrick, and JGR) since the loyal opposition rang the bell.

The top finishing Ford was fifth place David Ragan, and the top finishing Dodge was sixth place Elliott Sadler. Toyota ended up with a poor debut, as the top finishing Camry was Dale Jarrett in 22nd.

The top finishing rookie was David Ragan in fifth place.

According to the results posted as this is written, Elliott Sadler is the only driver to post a Top 10 edition in the last two Daytona 500s.

What's the Points?

Oddly enough, with this being the first race of the season the points standings almost mirror the finishing order of the race. Kevin Harvick leads the points, with 11th and 12th place finishers David Stremme and J.J. Yeley slipping into the Top 10 based on points penalties for the Evernham teams assessed earlier this week.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic): We’ll give this one four cans. The photo finish was spectacular, but I still feel the race should have ended under caution. And I still don't like plate races for reasons that should be obvious to most people who saw today's race and anyone who saw the tragic end of the 2001 Daytona 500, exactly six years ago today.

Next Up: Grab the No-Doze and make up a pot of double strength Folgers, because the circuit heads off to Calif-boring-ya next week.

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©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Donna Legacy
02/19/2007 05:49 AM
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How ironic is it that, on the first time that the 500 is run on the same date that Earnhardt died, his team (we all know that under those 29’s is a 3) visits victory lane.

Sign from above don’t you think?

Ed Reed
02/19/2007 06:41 AM
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Ya think NASCAR would have thrown the yellow flag if Earhardt’s old team hadn’t had the chance to win? Great positive headline isn’t it: “Earnhardt’s Old Team Wins on Anniversary of his Death at Daytona” I know, it’s the old conspiracy theory, but with NASCAR’s reputation for inconsistency, I can’t resist it. I think this is my last restrictor plate race for a long time. I’m tired of the unnecessary carnage. NASCAR could fix it, but they want to sell tickets to the vultures who want to see fire and mayhem…and maybe a death.

mike
02/19/2007 07:12 AM
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That is/was not racing.
It’s very much like a destruction derby. A planned event to create excitement thru possible destruction. Fans..we are responsible..For this.

melmel27
02/19/2007 07:38 AM
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Great to see Matt back in the saddle in a new home!! Keep up the awesome race recaps (I kind of need them, I don’t have cable anymore).

Lucas Punkari
02/19/2007 08:18 AM
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Matt, Love your work but I don’t agree with your 500 98 theory. Back then NASCAR as best as I recall usually threw a caution for any spin or incident late, plus it wasn’t a green-white-checkered. However, I agree with Robin Miller’s point last night on Wind Tunnel that NASCAR will now have to be consitent with their G-W-C and race to the line on the final lap, unless the wreck is in front of the leaders (Such as before the start-finish line).

Scott Miller
02/19/2007 08:58 AM
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Here’s another one for the Hindenburg Award: Kenny Schrader. Riding along minding his own business and gets blasted by Blaney coming off pit road. I didn’t think it was possible to drive with your head stuck up your butt. We have a whole season to go but that’s still going to rate as one of the most idiotic moves of the year.

blacker24
02/19/2007 09:16 AM
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It looks like there was a caution maybe. Just nobody knows when.

http://www.roanoke.com/sports/racing/wb/105228

Illogic
02/19/2007 12:48 PM
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Ed you don’t think “Mark Martin wins Daytona 500” would be a great headline for NASCAR too? I’m not seeing the conspiracy here.

John Trussell
02/20/2007 01:51 PM
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Wow. No “Seven Come Eleven” love for Mike Wallace, after running in the mid-30s all day?

Say what you will about plate racing — and there’s a lot to say about plate racing — but I think that man could put an Enterprise Rent-A-Car in the top ten at Daytona.

(Say, there’s a sponsorship opportunity.)

rob fischer
02/20/2007 05:04 PM
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Matt, you need to add What The F%$#??!! award and just permentaly inscribe Dave Blaney’s name in it. That was the dumbest move EVER by a drver with enough talent to win a race or two. if i was Kenny Schrader, i’d made sure that his head was stuck further up his you know what before i left Daytona. Dumb Ass

Canned Reader
02/21/2007 07:55 PM
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Matt, please put a Print feature on your FrontStretch articles so I can read them in the bathroom! No connection to poop and your articles, it’s just where I’m used to reading your Race Recaps. Keep up the good stuff.