The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: NASCAR's Budweiser Duel 150s by Thomas Bowles -- Thursday February 21, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: NASCAR's Budweiser Duel 150s

Thomas Bowles · Thursday February 21, 2013


The Key Moments
Duel OneKevin Harvick thought it was time to go, prior to the first green-flag pit stop of the race and he went, blowing by Trevor Bayne on Lap 37. That was pretty much all she wrote. The field spent the rest of the day simply trying to lap up Harvick’s beer exhaust, the Bud Chevy in another time zone just like the Sprint Unlimited Saturday night.

Duel Two – Jeff Gordon led. Then he sped… on pit road, so Kyle Busch pretty much took control from there. Kasey Kahne tried, and failed on the last lap to make a charge as teammate Matt Kenseth served as sacrificial lamb for Busch’s second career Duel victory.

In a Nutshell – 45 cars, 43 spots. Two DNQs identified within 10 laps. An ill-handling car. Not enough parts and pieces. Drivers still learning the draft and running – shall we say it – a little scared to wreck?

Sounds like the perfect recipe for a single-file parade to me.

Dramatic Moment – For a hot minute, the first five laps of Duel 2 looked like it was going to be insane. Mike Bliss, one of the aforementioned DNQs was up to 14th, all the underdogs looked like they needed to fight and the inside line was working hard against Jeff Gordon. And then… it all took a side turn to the local library where we could watch paint dry.

Kyle Busch’s second Duel victory of his career was sealed with a kiss. But good feelings about the Gen-6 are far from sealed after the Duels resembled a single-file parade much of Thursday.

Kasey Kahne, for about five seconds had us believing the No. 5 car could pick off not one but two Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas.

The lone serious wreck of the day, in Duel #1 when Denny Hamlin lost control had Carl Edwards nearly flipping again in a savage hit to the outside wall.

The national anthem singer, at times had more energy than those already guaranteed a comfy spot in the race.

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

If it sounds like I’m being hard on the Duels, don’t get the wrong impression; I think they’re a Daytona tradition that should never be dropped. Sometimes, though all the pieces of the puzzle work against you to produce disaster. The biggest problem with these races was lack of energy, and it stemmed from the smallest car count to attempt the 500 in several years. The number was understandable; after all, some of the lower-tier teams don’t even have two Gen-6 chassis in stock yet. But when you’ve got such a shortage of equipment, combined with two cars in Bliss and Keselowski clearly off the pace (virtually locking in your field of 43) you know the prevailing attitude is going to be, “play it safe.” Sometimes in life, even the best pitchers wind up throwing stinkers and the Duels, by and large one of the more exciting events of the year most times had their bad run of the decade Thursday afternoon.

Slick tape? Welcome to the new fad sweeping the NASCAR garage, on about half the bumpers of Sprint Cup vehicles these days. From Matt Kenseth to Ryan Newman, this substance, which looks like an extension of the rear decals is put in layers on the back of the car to help with bump drafting… even though these Gen-6ers are not that good with it. Designed to “grab” the car behind you and keep the front bumper from sliding, it’ll be interesting to see how much the movement catches on before the 500 (Jeff Gordon, for one was a car that I saw with a minimal, if any amount of this tape on the rear.)

The gecko isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon in NASCAR as GEICO has agreed to sponsor Mears for a full season in 2013… and beyond.

GEICO is sponsoring Casey Mears for a full season, which begs the question – what took them so long? Why, as a Fortune 500 company would you want to keep associating yourself with a single-car team you’re causing to start-and-park in the races you don’t back them? Then again, if I was getting free advertising for 12 events in which the team keeps your decals on for the hell of it I’m guessing it would take me years to pay, too.

So Kyle Busch says the leader is nearly impossible to pass. Kevin Harvick says it’s nearly impossible to get a run on someone. Does that mean the Daytona 500 is destined to fail? No, no, no. You have to understand, these guys just went a few seasons where they could snap their fingers in the draft and jump from 20th to 2nd. Moves are back to the “old school” way of strategy and calculation, where runs are slower and it’s going to take more than a full lap to set a guy up. We’re in the midst of those growing pains, right now and know some of the newbies, like Busch himself weren’t around for this type of drafting that resembles the early 1990s more than any other era. My only concern for the 500 surrounds green-flag pit stops; if it’s caution-free, for an extended period of time I think the packs will break up into groups of 8 or 10 which will make passing more difficult. But never fear; we’re talking modern NASCAR here! At this point, a 120-lap green-flag ending, with handling and not green-white-checkered the rule of thumb. would be more surprising than the mystery debris that will appear with 20 laps left to bunch the field.

The Duels are moving to nighttime beginning in 2014. Honestly, it’s one of the best ideas the sport has had as of late, with FOX picking up the live television feed. If NASCAR could get more cars on the entry list, and I think they will in 2014 what better way to drum up excitement for Sunday’s big event than two balls-to-the-wall heat races? As we said, this year is an anomaly in terms of competition and I think there’s a great opportunity to grow here.

Danica Patrick’s co-owner wanting her to start-and-park? Of course Gene Haas wants the publicity involved by making sure his first female starts from the pole on Sunday. In the end, Ms. GoDaddy pulled the perfect compromise by gaining experience but playing it safe, hanging at the tail end of the lead draft for most of Duel #1 before coming home an invisible 18th.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

You’ve gotta feel for Carl Edwards. The season hasn’t officially started yet and the No. 99 team has already wrecked four times, from January testing (one) to the Unlimited (two) to Daytona 500 practice (three) to Thursday’s Duel #1. The sad part is each of these wrecks were not of his making, as in this case Denny Hamlin just lost it off Turn 2 and slid right in front of Edwards’ path. That also ruined a potential top 5 starting spot for Trevor Bayne, third-fastest in qualifying but now starting from the rear after his primary car was torn in “Tiny” little pieces.

Jeff Gordon might want to check his tachometer. Without that costly pit penalty, he would have won Duel #2 going away.

Last season, BK Racing started with speed so awful they needed their top-35 spots in owner points just to make the Daytona 500. After one year of experience, they’re not any better, needing those provisionals a second straight time with David Reutimann and Travis Kvapil.

Ryan Newman tried to enter the pits, running solidly in contention but ran into the McDonald’s Drive-Thru of Jamie McMurray instead. It cost him $5.79 for a #2, two laps of time to make an extra stop that is en route to a disappointing 21st-place finish.

Mike Bliss had a window net fall down within 10 laps of the race, forcing a black-flag penalty that killed his chance to make the main event. Martin Truex, Jr. was penalized in the last lap of his Duel for having his side window fall out. What gives? Add in the window problem Carl Edwards had in the Sprint Unlimited and we’ve got a pattern here.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

David Gilliland was a lap down in Duel One before the late caution gave him the Lucky Dog. He came back to finish 12th for new sponsor Love’s Travel Centers. Which, while we’re at it let’s give credit to fellow underdogs Josh Wise (16th in Duel 2) and Joe Nemechek (12th in Duel One) who snuck in without the best equipment in the stable. Honorable mention goes to Michael Waltrip (14th in Duel One) who was third down the stretch at one point and in position to pull a gargantuan upset.

Austin Dillon did pretty much everything right en route to a third-place finish: perfect pit stops and an excellent pairing with Jeff Burton. Even though Burton lost the draft late, along with teammate Paul Menard in Duel 2, RCR has to be happy with their four-car fleet heading into Sunday.

Juan Pablo Montoya did right-side damage to his Chevy on a pit stop but used the final caution to his advantage, tearing through the field up to third at the checkers.

Worth Noting

  • No one has won the Busch Clash/Bud Shootout/Sprint Unlimited/What Will They Call It Next, their Duel race and the Daytona 500 in the same season. Harvick is now in position to make history… move over, Danica.
  • Mark Martin, in contention late in Duel 2 before fading to sixth has now gone 0-for-30 in Duel qualifying race wins. Think plate races aren’t his speed?
  • Austin Dillon, third in the No. 33 car was just three when teammate Burton ran his first Daytona 500. Ah, the generation gap.
  • Kyle Busch blamed the problems with the Gen-6 aerodynamics at Daytona on the angles of the windshields. Good thing he ended it by saying, “I’m not an engineer.”

What’s the Points?

None. In fact, I don’t think I heard the Chase mentioned once here… how refreshing.

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 each Duel two generic cans. Were they award-winning? Hardly. But they did serve as an important test session for Sunday; considering their history of being heart-stoppers, I can cut NASCAR a break here as well as reward them an extra half-can for bringing back the old qualifying format. I do think, after the 500 we’re going to be looking back at a thrilling finish and going, “Man, good thing they used these test sessions on Thursday to figure it out.” For all our sakes, let’s hope I’m right.

Next Up – The Great American Race, the 55th Running of the Daytona 500 is this Sunday at 1 PM.

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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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Steve K
02/22/2013 12:15 AM

I am not sure there will be a long green lap run because of the difficulty they have getting onto pit road under green. The chaos was the turning point of both races.

As hopeless as things seem for a great 500, whatever Montoya did at the end of duel one gives me hope.

Bill B
02/22/2013 07:29 AM

I expect the 500 to be a parade for at least the first 100 laps.

The worst part of the duels was listening to the idiots in the booth obsess over the transfer spots and “who was in and who was out”.
Hey. Idiots. There were only two cars going home. Don’t you think we realized that? Had there been a big wreck involving lots of cars from the top teams, it may have gotten interesting. But there wasn’t, and until there was the drama of the transfer spots was moot. Especially with Brian Kesolowski lagging behind from the start in the first race and Mike Bliss going 3 laps down early in the second. There are your two DNQ drivers right there. No drama.

02/22/2013 07:29 AM

Ok…elephant in the room…the Duals were all in all pretty boring! There..the beast is set free! The Sprint race at least gave the appearance the new
cars were racy… But sorry
yesterday was a snooze fest. Now don’t get me wrong…I totally don’t want a wreckfest.. But I would love to see more then one line of cars on the track…it’s a long race…and if yesterday proves to be the norm…I’ll either be very very drunk by the time it’s finished or in a deep sleep!

02/22/2013 08:27 AM

I fully expect to see single file racing…until those debris cautions come out.

Only the super rich teams (mainly Hendrick) have lots of parts to spare so they will be full-on at the end. Most of the field will be playing it extremely safe to save cars, parts, and money.

Hey, don’t knock Kyle Busch for what he said…remember, he was right about the POS COT when he said it sucked.

02/22/2013 08:51 AM

I didn’t watch either of the races. I was at work during the day and since they don’t even start at a time when I could legitimately take a “late” lunch and go find someplace where they would be on TV, well, I simply can’t worry about it.

Larry, I wouldn’t be too sure about HMS having lots of extra parts. Remember they had to end their test sessions early because they didn’t have anything extra.

Let’s face it with as small a field as it was, why not be careful with your primary car so you can win on Sunday when it really matters?

Not sure how much of the 500 I plan to watch. I’m not a big fan of RP tracks in general. I don’t want to see a lot of wrecks – ever. However a good race would be nice. Past history says that if the drivers are smart (and considering the number of weird wrecks that have happened in practice and in the races), I expect them to do a lot of riding around until the last 10 laps. Just the nature of the beast, but it doesn’t make for compelling TV

54 Yr. fan
02/22/2013 09:16 AM

I think the duels are an indication of the what we will see all year. The drivers will continue to look like a merry go round just following each other. Until NA$CAR awards points at intermediate points of the race, it’s just riding around until near the end of the race.

02/22/2013 09:58 AM

I too was tired of the whole “all important transfer spot” making it sound like Jr and Jimmie weren’t going to make the race. Do they think we are that stupid?

And why did FOX give Nemechek the shaft with no interview. He finished higher than Waltrip who they tripped over themselves to congratulate. (At least we won’t have to hear him in the booth…at least until he crashes out)

While I’m a Danica supporter, I finally realize why people hate the hype. Did they really have to show her on top of the hauler during the 2nd race? I almost thought they were going to interview her after the 2nd race too it was that bad yesterday.

If the telecast yesterday is what we have to look forward to from FOX this season, its going to be a long first part of the season.

02/22/2013 10:25 AM

If my memory is correct, Edwards has wrecked five times because he was involved in the Sprint Unlimited practice crash.

02/22/2013 12:55 PM

The drafting has a real 1990s feel again. Track position and a strong car are now more important than ever. I hope we get more action on Sunday, but I like a draft where the strong cars rise to the top. You will have to earn your passes on Sunday.

Jacklegged Nascar Expert
02/22/2013 01:20 PM

Could it be- gen 6 car D.O.A.?

Doug in Washington (State)
02/22/2013 01:56 PM

All the hoopla of the “Gen6” car… and it’s not really a different car. Just a different body and a few suspension and rollcage mods from the “awful COT”. Some of the top team’s Daytona cars ARE COTs from 2010, 2011, just with a makeover. And most the the small teams, that’s all they have.

02/22/2013 02:35 PM

Doug, agreed, the Gen6 car is just the same chassis with a new “look” on top of it. RP tracks are a combo of boring followed by a few laps of downright scary. Personally I hate them.

Steve, thank you for the comment about the hype over DP. The broadcasts overdue this for everyone – I mean we’ve seen it with the Jr lovefest, and then it was Montoya, or whoever else is flavor of the month. Every driver has fans — how about a fair and balanced broadcast? What a concept! The hype is the reason I am not bothering to tune in for any of the pre-race stuff and will probably have the TV muted. I’ll use my computer and hope that has figured out how to get raceview working so I can follow what I want.

It would be so nice if the announcers would just call the race – instead we have Waltrip & Company aka “it’s all about me”

02/22/2013 04:15 PM

So Nascar is finally moving the Duels to night time racing. I always wondered how they expected to get fans geeked up for the 500 when the first race that affects starting positions is run at a time most people can’t watch it!

02/23/2013 01:38 PM

NA$CAR sucks worse then ever. What is the purpose of the “duals”. Any other race or series “its go fast or go home”. NA$CAR could learn a lot from smaller series and especially the NHRA.


Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

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