1. Well, Isn’t That Just Super? – The Daytona 500 is often referred to as NASCAR’s equivalent of the NFL’s Super Bowl. Well, the Patriots – Giants game, held two weeks ago, was an exciting and well-played contest in its own right; and, with a Cinderella finish to boot. I just thought it was appropriate to mention here, because while I like the New York Giants, Ryan Newman and the Penske Dodges were just as big of an underdog, overcoming the odds for a surprise victory in Sprint Cup. It’s clear that in terms of entertainment value, both the NFL and NASCAR appear to have delivered in the past month or so.
2. Was It Just A Hunch? – Those NASCAR PR guys are slick; did you catch the NASCAR promo shortly after the opening laps as FOX went to break with Jeff Gordon exclaiming that, “Hey, I like the way this is looking.” And that happened not long after he had taken the lead, either! How did those guys know?
3. Hey, We’re Just Trying To Earn A Living – Four former Indianapolis 500 winners attempted to run in this year’s Daytona 500. Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya all competed while fellow Indy winner Jacques Villeneuve gave it his best effort – but he came up short in qualifying and during the Gatorade Duels. Throw in NASCAR regulars Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart – who have come close to winning the Indy 500 themselves – and isn’t there an argument for this race to now be called “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?”
4. Umm, Excuse Me, Ladies? – Martin Truex Jr., miffed at Kyle Busch for his driving tactics during Saturday’s running of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Camping World 300, remarked, “Kyle drives likes a girl. I mean, come on. We’re out here racing for fun. We had a lot of fun racing today with him, and then I had a huge run and he just blocked me.”
Here’s my thought: Is driving like a girl a bad thing? And, why is it wrong to block a competitor to protect your position?
5. Where Have Them Guys Been All Week? – It has been clear from the start of Speedweeks at Daytona that Toyotas were going to be a force to be reckoned with this year. But of course, no one could count out those Chevys… particularly the Hendrick Motorsports drivers. And – though Ford hasn’t been particularly impressive in February – you just knew that at least one car of the Roush Fenway bunch would be in the mix at the end (Greg Biffle, 10th). But none of those were as effective as grabbing the Bull By The Horns; Dodge driver Newman took the win, and the Charger captured three of the top-five spots and six of the top 10. Big surprise…
6. Presto-Chango! – Robby Gordon, the most successful owner/driver in recent NASCAR Cup history, made a last-minute manufacturer switch to go from Ford to Dodge before coming to Daytona. That meant Gordon, who wound up recording an impressive eighth-place finish in the 500, had four days to convert his cars to conform with NASCAR’s version of a Charger. However, with the new common templates, the Robby Gordon Motorsports bunch were able to accomplish that feat in 24 hours. Don’t you just know Honda is taking note?
7. I’ll Be Right Back! – Those that have become accustomed to holding on because they were certain there would be a caution pretty soon involving David Ragan weren’t disappointed. Ragan provided a much needed bathroom break on lap 160, when he seemed to lose the handle on his Roush Fenway No. 6 and slammed into the wall; he ruined teammate Matt Kenseth‘s day, as well. This is no doubt a make-or-break year for Ragan; and so far, he’s “broken.”
8. Who, me worry? – Two-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson finished 27th Sunday after becoming victim to a lap 177 spin. Hornish gave the No. 48 a little love tap coming off turn 2 to send him around… last year, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet posted a dismal 39th-place finish at the track; does he just feel a need to “spot” the other teams the Daytona 500 now, after taking the checkered flag in 2006?
9. Just Glad I Could Help, Bro – Kurt Busch, the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing, pushed teammate Newman to victory on the final lap after Newman jumped to the high line in front of Busch. In post-race interviews, Busch repeated over and over that he was pleased with his results, Newman’s win and especially the success that the Penske organization enjoyed Sunday. That’s surprising because Busch, known to be temperamental, seemed genuine and believable. The older brother to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch and former NASCAR Cup champion said, “I’m just very happy. I’m not bitter at all for finishing second.” Might it be that Kurt Busch has become older and wiser before our very eyes?
10. Who Could Have Known? – Las Vegas oddsmakers had Newman as a 30-1 underdog to win the 50th running of the Daytona 500. He hadn’t visited a Sprint Cup victory lane in 81 races, and he was driving a Dodge – both serious red flags for any possible racing bettor. But in the end, those odds were overcome; Ryan Newman won the Daytona 500! It’s a phrase we’ll all be getting used to this week.