As the Duels prepare to get underway, later today here’s a random collection of thoughts heading in…
The night before the Daytona 500 may be nerve-wracking for many drivers and teams, but the night prior to the Budweiser Duel 150 qualifying races may even be more so – particularly in light of the activities yesterday on track. In the first practice session, Ryan Newman began to get loose while running in a pack with Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Newman ended up spinning across the front of Edwards’ Fastenal Fusion, while Mark Martin narrowly avoided wiping out his third car in five days at Daytona, slightly wrinkling the front fender (is any damage “slight” at a superspeedway?). Newman, who qualified fourth in the Quicken Loans No. 39 will repair his car and avoid starting from the rear of the field.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., however, had an engine let go during practice and will be forced to start at the back in Budweiser Duel #1. Brad Keselowski had a fuel system failure, which originally led him to believe his Roush Yates power plant had expired, but such was not the case.
The latter problem, you could call a fluke or just the teething issues of converting over to a new engine in a new car with different plumbing. However, there’s something to be said for doing everything in-house, something that is no longer the case at Penske Racing.
With virtually all of the incidents that have occurred so far during Speedweeks having been the result of a driver on the outside cutting down low into another car, we might be learning one glaring weakness of the Gen 6 car – visibility? On the superspeedways, with their small rear lip spoilers that look like something from the mid-1980s, the drivers can see through the windows of the car in front to avoid trouble. That’s something that was not possible with either the original rear wing of the CoT or the massive rear vertical blade used on CoT v.2.0. Clint Bowyer remarked how the new car does have a bit of a blind spot, though making reliance on spotters that much more demanding.
Perhaps NASCAR may want to consider allowing drivers to communicate with each other as they were able to do during the tandem drafting days of recent memory. Then again, it wasn’t needed in the 1980s when they were going over 210 mph on bias-ply tires with virtually no semblance of downforce. Maybe instead of bigger spoilers, they need bigger mirrors.
Sitting in the middle of the car is safer, obviously where side impacts are a concern, but not so much for peripheral vision…
The next person who says that the Generation Six car is “sexy”, you have my permission to punch them in the mouth. I don’t know what primal feelings are aroused by a Toyota Camry… unless you’re the sort that has a crisis over 30mpg fuel economy, or gets a semi over cubic feet of trunk space. And no, I don’t care how many people say it, the Fusion looks nothing like an Aston Martin DB9 from the front. It looks like the singing Filet-O-Fish from the McDonald’s commercials. After all, it is Lent…
FOX has unveiled a new camera system at Daytona that skates across wires over the track, in an effort to provide the view afforded to that one seagull that Dale Earnhardt, Sr. nailed on the backstretch in 1990, a moment that gave pitcher Randy Johnson something to aspire to. They have also introduced the Gyro-Cam, an innovation which I can only assume isn’t wrapped in shaved lamb.
What is it with these moving cameras that do little more than trigger nausea and a potential epileptic episode? Between this angled addition, the one that scoots across the ground in the middle of the turns, and the Digger Cam, they have to be running out of interesting places to put a camera. What’s next; they’re going to mount on to the green flag during a restart? Maybe stick one on the air gun to give fans a feel for what the impact wrench is seeing as it attacks 10 hex bolts per tire.
Having perused some classic Daytona 500 footage on YouTube the past week or so, I am astonished that after 30 years, they are unable to broadcast a race better than Ken Squier and company did back in 1983, or come up with an in-car camera that even comes to within a whiff of the one that he developed back then. It panned, zoomed, showed the driver at work, and gave a feel of what it actually felt like to be in the passenger seat. Any attempt since to duplicate it in the last ten years has failed on a grand scale. The videos that RCR puts up on their YouTube channel with crudely mounted GoPro action cameras do a better job of capturing the action than what has been introduced as of late.
Remember TNN’s suspension camera in the 1990s? Where has that innovation gone? For all the talk of new cars the last two weeks being a nod to the past, somebody dig out the BETA Max and whatever else worked 30 years ago, too.
And in closing, congratulations to Danica Patrick for winning the pole position for the Daytona 500. While she has received the lion’s share of the media attention this week, and for good reason, it’s no surprise that the typical detractors are first in line to pipe up and say “it’s just qualifying/it’s all car/testament to the team/all she had to do was hold the wheel straight.” Okay. Fair enough. However, that wasn’t the sentiment when Carl Edwards won the pole last year; after all, he was the odds on favorite to win the title after having lost it on a tie breaker to Tony Stewart just a few months earlier. Did anyone make the same comment about Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his Daytona 500 pole in 2011 – or Trevor Bayne just getting a good shove and eight extra green-white-checkered laps after David Ragan committed Hara-Kiri by botching a late race restart? Of course not.
Does this mean she’ll win the Daytona 500? I doubt it will have much, if any effect. I just have a hard time understanding why some people who have failed to do or accomplish something are usually the first to belittle the achievements of someone who actually succeeded. Be it jealousy, sexism or just being a first-class asshole, the reasons are silly and unfortunate. It is a time-honored pastime in American sports, almost as much as the deifying of athletes who turn out to be philanderers, deadbeats, drug addicts, gamblers, womanizers, rapists, or murderers.
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