Does this win seal Matt Kenseth’s legacy as one of the greatest drivers in recent history?
Without a doubt. In 328 starts, Kenseth has established himself as one of the best drivers of this era. By winning the 2009 Daytona 500 and the 2003 Sprint Cup championship, he joins an elite list of just 11 other men to have earned both titles (most recently, Jimmie Johnson in 2006). Other honors for Kenseth since joining the Cup Series full-time in 2000 include: 17 wins, Rookie of the Year honors, one of only two drivers to make the Chase every year since the format’s existence (Johnson is the other), and the record for most consecutive weeks atop the points standings (33). He may not be the world’s flashiest wheelman… but the numbers are there.
Kevin Harvick summed up Kenseth’s career best in a post-race press conference.
“He can win seven or eight races in a year,” he said. “And never receive any credit.”
Long overdue victory for Jack Roush
While there was plenty of talk this month about Mark Martin’s winless streak in the Daytona 500, the guy he used to drive for had quite a winless streak of his own. Jack Roush has competed in the Daytona 500 every year since 1988, and has had a multi-car operation since 1992 without ever winning the Great American Race. Ironically, after waiting 21 years, the crew chief that got Roush and Kenseth to Victory Lane, Drew Blickensderfer, was calling his first Cup race atop the pit box.
No penalty for Junior
The talk of the garage following this year’s 500 was the lap 125 wreck between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers which wiped out nearly a dozen cars. Did Earnhardt take out Vickers on purpose? Nobody knows for sure. But was Earnhardt’s wreck similar to that of the one that resulted in a five-lap penalty for Jason Leffler? Yes. The fact that there was a call on Saturday and not one on Sunday is another sign of NASCAR’s struggles with consistency – and is something that has started to irritate longtime fans.
Poor day for Hendrick
For a team that had some pretty good cars on Sunday, the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports entry was Jeff Gordon in 13th. Three-time defending champion Johnson struggled with handling all day and finished 31st, while Earnhardt had problems on pit road – to go along with his major wreck – slumping to 27th. And pre-race favorite Martin, along with Gordon, misplayed a gutsy pit call for tires with rain approaching to finish 16th.
On Sunday, AJ Allmendinger was out to prove a late surge in 2008 was no fluke, and came out in the Daytona 500 with his best career finish – third. It appears the switch may have flipped and the open-wheel convert has “figured it out” when it comes to stock car racing – but it remains to be seen if he can secure sponsorship and run the full schedule for Richard Petty Motorsports this season.
Was it the right decision to call the race so early?
Simply? Yes. I left the track just after 9 p.m. and the rain was still falling; add the fact, NASCAR said it would take approximately three hours to dry the track, and this one was a no brainer. A midnight restart? No thanks.
Good/Bad week for Busch
Any driver would be happy with a win and two second-place finishes in a four-race weekend… but not Kyle Busch. His win came in a non-points paying race – the Gatorade Duels – and he was noticeably upset with failing to make a last-lap pass in the Truck and Nationwide races. His weekend then came to an abrupt end when a lap 123 took him out of the race with arguably the strongest car in the Daytona 500.
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