With a thrilling Daytona 500 quickly fading into our rearview mirror, I have just a couple of comments before we settle in for a Sunday afternoon nap during the Auto Club Parade from California. Speaking of which, did anyone catch California Speedway president Gillian Zucker on SPEED TV during Speedweeks? Man, they’re trying hard to move tickets for that race.
First, I’ve heard some say this Daytona 500 was a snoozer for the first 150 laps. While I don’t necessarily disagree, I think with this aero package and tire compound, we should have seen it coming. Please, NASCAR, don’t make any crazy new alterations to the plate packages, though; you got the finish you wanted in the end, and in terms of safety, cars grinding into a single-file parade beats all of them running in one giant pack of 43 cars for three hours.
Now, I’m not usually one to complain about the broadcast coverage because I remember a time when only a certain number of races were even aired. However, when FOX goes to commercial with 16 laps left as a wreck is breaking out I find major fault with what they’re doing. Number one: this is a plate race, and you know another yellow is coming. Don’t interrupt green flag racing, the most exciting racing we’ve seen all day, to show us that stupid Tony Raines and the elephant commercial we’ve already endured a dozen times.
Number two… and I repeat, because this is critically important: A wreck was clearly starting as they were sending us to commercial! It’s hard for me to get past that one. How can you leave when you see cars two or three seconds from spinning out?
Number three; as stated earlier, many people thought the first half of the race was a bore. Why doesn’t FOX frontload the telecast with a few more commercials while the drivers are minding their manners? I know all about paying the bills, etc., but the most intense action of the day was taking place and they broke away to show us DLP, Chevrolet and Budweiser commercials… only to come back for two minutes of replays followed by another block of commercials. It is becoming more obvious with every broadcast that racing has become secondary to the almighty sponsor dollar.
I’m not done with you yet, FOX; do we need an hour and a half pre-race show? Couldn’t you have skipped all the Kelly Clarkson crap and the 142 references to the Daytona 500 being “the Super Bowl of our sport” and given us more coverage of post-race interviews instead? I would have loved to have heard from Jim Hunter or Mike Helton (as farfetched as that may be) on the yellow-flag decision or from a number of other drivers. Instead, they whisk us away to a cartoon that has been on the air for 20 years, just to make sure their primetime programming starts on time. Sad, sad coverage, let me tell you. It’s too bad, too, because the race had one of the most thrilling and frantic finishes I’ve seen in years.
Now, on to this week’s questions:
Q: My question has to do with the entry of Toyota into the Nextel Cup Series. I know they’ve had great success on the Craftsman Truck circuit, but can we expect the Camry to have the same success in the Cup Series? And I always thought the production model Camry was smaller than the Monte Carlo, Fusion and Charger. Is this true? And how does NASCAR regulate the size differences? – TonyFastback
A: Good questions, Tony. First off, I believe Toyota will have success down the road, but as their performance in the Daytona 500 showed, the new kid on the block is still light years behind the Big Three. I think it’s also important to keep in mind that the Chevy, Ford and Dodge teams are running leftover 2006 model cars and only just beginnning to build the new CoT chassis. Toyota teams, however, are building both the CoT and their standard car fleet; that’s a lot to take on. Give Toyota a year or two and let them add a new organization to the roster; say, Penske Racing, before they begin to experience true Cup success.
As for the size and spec differences, all of the street-model cars that are sanctioned for NASCAR use are of slightly varying sizes. Once upon a time, NASCAR required the cars to be sedans. However, the Ford Taurus, which was dropped in favor of the Fusion following the 2005 season, and the new Monte Carlos are coupes, a far cry from the approved vehicles of yesteryear. That is all irrelevant today, anyway; with common templates used by NASCAR in the inspection process, the cars you see on the track bear little, if any, resemblance specwise to a street vehicle. Sadly, when the CoT hits the track in a few weeks, they will have lost any semblance to an actual street car.
Q: Matt, NA$CAR screwed us again! When a wreck starts, the caution is thrown and the field freezes. But since it’s the Daytona 500, they throw out the racing back to the yellow rule and so a national TV audience gets to see an exciting finish? I feel for you, Mark Martin. You deserve better. – Jackman9
A: Yes Jack, it seems the sanctioning body quite literally threw caution to the wind and ad-libbed on the caution. Although NASCAR would tell you they threw the yellow when Clint Bowyer began his spin, I don’t buy it because Martin and Kevin Harvick themselves both said they were waiting for an indication the race had gone yellow and the field was frozen. NASCAR threw the caution at the start/finish line on Sunday, which is inconsistent with how they normally handle such situations.
I, for one, thought that although NASCAR was inconsistent in order to entertain a nationwide viewing audience, it was the right call. In fact, I believe that if a wreck happens behind the leaders on the last lap, those racing for the win should be allowed to continue dueling back to the start/finish line.
Finally, I feel for Martin too; but you can’t deny that he handled the situation with class and respect. Mark, if you want to change your mind and run a full schedule, it’d be A-OK with me. The sport needs you!