Each week, Frontstretch Senior Staff Writer Becca Gladden looks at the weekend’s Nextel Cup race from a reporter’s point of view, covering the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of the race, the drivers, the TV coverage, even the commercials. Check back every Monday for Becca’s fun and thought-provoking commentary.
Who… gets my shout-out of the race?
Congratulations to rookie David Ragan, who finished fifth from a 35th-place starting spot in Mark Martin‘s old No. 6 ride and just his third Cup start ever. Ragan is under a lot of pressure to perform, and he did so admirably today. After the race, David vowed to run well in California and prove that today’s finish was “not a fluke.”
What… will be the newest entry in the Official Darrell Waltrip Dictionary?
For years, DW has discussed writing a dictionary with all of his unique vocabulary words like “slideways” (a car sliding sideways) and “coopetition” (competing cars that cooperate in the draft). Prior to Sunday’s race, DW noted that there is a “stigmatism” associated with Toyota’s entry into the Cup series. I am anxiously waiting to see if he meant to say “stigma,” or if this is Darrell’s new word to explain the way many fans view Toyota as a company.
Where… is the one area that FOX needs to improve the most?
Although I prefer FOX to NBC when it comes to race broadcasts, the latter did have a nice “Through the Field” feature in which they discussed each of the first 20 or 25 cars in the running order, and they did this several times throughout the race. FOX’s coverage is typically tunnel-visioned on a handful of drivers in the race, excluding most of the others as a result. The boys in the booth need to make a much greater effort to cover all the drivers in the race, not just a select few.
When… has the character of a race changed so dramatically from start to finish?
Up until the last 30 or so laps, fans were complaining bitterly that the race was B-O-R-I-N-G… mostly single file, follow the leader runs with hardly any passing up front and very few lead changes. While it’s true that the finish was dramatic, let’s hope that the first 170 laps were not a vision of things to come for the rest of this young NASCAR season.
Why… do a few teams have a lot to smile about – while others have cause for concern?
On the plus side, Richard Childress Racing and Ginn Racing both had two cars in the top 10, as did Ray Evernham despite two crew chief suspensions. On the other hand, only one Roush Fenway driver (Ragan) finished higher than 23rd, only one Hendrick driver (Jeff Gordon) was higher than 20th, and only one Gibbs driver (JJ Yeley) was higher than 28th. DEI finished 29th and 32nd, while underdog teams like James Finch and Mark Simo had drivers in the top 15. No doubt the last-lap melee was responsible for the unexpected finishing order, but when it comes to plate-track powerhouses, it would seem that the times, they are a-changin’.
How… will this race be remembered?
Folks will be debating the finish for a long time to come, but it’s important to note that even if NASCAR had thrown the yellow, it would not have guaranteed a victory for Martin because of the use of computerized scoring loops around the track. I also wonder if there would be this much of an outcry if it was anyone other than Martin that Harvick passed for the win. Either way, the win is Kevin’s, and Mark all but guaranteed that he will be back again next year for the 50th Anniversary of the Daytona 500.
Final Thought: Call it luck, call it fate, call it a bad call by NASCAR. No matter how you view it, Sunday’s Daytona 500 winner is Harvick. Coincidentally (or not), Harvick was in the Richard Childress Chevy that he assumed after the death of Dale Earnhardt in this race six years ago Sunday – a crash which was eerily similar to Tony Stewart‘s wreck today. But despite any anger or disappointment that fans may feel about the finish, you shouldn’t take anything away from Kevin and his race team for a great win.