Holy Cow! What a week. Talk about a multitude of potential column topics. This week was a veritable cornucopia. The No. 48 penalty fiasco. Tony Stewart returns to his old ways. Junior quits in the Busch race. Matt Kenseth really does get pissed. A first trip to Daytona for a stock car race for the author. So many topics, so little time.
No need to waste space on the Chad Knaus deal. Everyone else is beating it to death. If the part was illegal, sit him down and dock them points. If it wasn’t illegal, he shouldn’t be suspended, just like Dover last year. "˜Nuff said.
Meanwhile, Tony Stewart wins the “open mouth, insert foot” award for the weekend. After looking like a true advocate for the voice of reason after the Bud Shootout, Stewart lost his mind in the 500. Matt Kenseth didn’t do anything wrong to turn Tony in turn two. Smoke felt it was too early in the race to pull such a maneuver. Then, Tony refused to back off when Jeff Gordon made an aggressive move in the first third of the race. Again, probably too early, but nonetheless, Stewart could have lifted and avoided damaging his car and possibly Gordon’s. Next, Stewart proceeded to make a bonsai move across three lanes to eliminate Kenseth from contention in the Daytona 500. He followed that by body slamming Kyle Busch after Busch attempted an ill-advised block on the backstretch late in the race. Tony then got on national television and all but admitted he intentionally wrecked Kenseth. Let’s hope it was the weather, and the old Tony just came out because of the cold front.
In other “news,” did anyone else notice that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. just plain gave up during the Busch race? Late in the race, Junior was hung in the middle of the front row in a three wide pack. Kevin Harvick was behind him with two of the cars he owned going for the win on the inside lane. Whether he couldn’t suck up or chose not to we’ll probably never know, but he pulled back from Dale, Jr., and left him without a push. The results were quick and disastrous…the 8 car was swallowed by the pack. Within a lap, Junior had fallen out of the top 10. Instead of clawing and scratching for what he could get, Junior gave up. He dropped to the end of the pack and rode out the last lap. When the big wreck happened at the end, Junior pulled onto pit road and directly into the garage, not even bothering with the post race spoiler check. Somewhat surprising from the king of plate racing.
It was a treat to see the fire that burns in Matt Kenseth on Sunday. After Stewart ended his chance at winning the 500, Matt chose to demonstrate his displeasure to Tony as they came out of the pits. Whether Matt wants to admit it or not, he hit Stewart as they were pulling out onto the track. NASCAR chose to penalize him for rough driving. The radio communication between Matt and crew chief Robbie Reiser let everyone listening hear just how intense the mild-mannered Kenseth really is. It was refreshing to hear the emotion and desire in Matt’s voice as he argued with his crew chief.
Finally, your author was able to enjoy his first trip to Daytona for a stock car race. I worked on the pit crew for a go-kart race at the big track in the early ‘80s. Sitting in the stands for the Great American Race was a real treat. The Busch race was extremely good racing. The Cup race was devoid of the Big One, and still provided some good racing in the pack, although passes for the lead weren’t nearly as numerous as would have been expected. The weather on Sunday left a lot to be desired, though. I felt more like I was at a Big Ten football game in November than at the Daytona 500, but the experience was truly awesome in spite of the weather. It still comes in second for me to the Indianapolis 500 in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but it was still an awesome spectacle.
Wow, what a ride the last week has been. Let’s hope the rest of the season can live up to the precedent set by the first weekend of racing.
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