Who… gets my shoutout of the race?
Before the race, the television crew called him the best Cup driver without a restrictor-plate win, and early on, it looked like Kurt Busch might change that. Instead, Busch endured a race in which he was involved with at least three wrecks and a race car that was beat up on every part. Yet Busch never got the brunt of anything and held on to finish seventh. Look up “underrated” in the dictionary and see if Busch’s picture is beside it.
What… was THAT?
International Speedway Corporation officially petitioned NASCAR for a second date at Kansas Speedway in 2011. ISC declined to say which track it would take a date from (leading candidates are Fontana, Michigan and Martinsville). What makes Kansas so deserving? No, it’s not the great racing. It’s a casino. Really? Gambling now trumps racing as a reason to host a race? Wow. All I have to say is it better not be Martinsville, a track that produces great racing. A race at Kansas is about as good as one at Fontana, so hopefully that track will be the loser in the deal, which is sure to happen, as ISC is owned by the France family. NASCAR needs to only allow transfer of dates from like track to like track, but don’t count on that actually happening.
Where… did the polesitter wind up?
Exactly where he started. Kevin Harvick had the best car almost all night long. He took the pole by virtue of rain, but took the win by virtue of a good car and driving smart enough to avoid the wrecks that decimated the field. Harvick also made a statement about his championship chances, showing that he’s the point leader because he can win races as well as be ultra consistent.
When… will I be loved?
It’s Daytona, and stuff happens. Some of it is avoidable by some people, and some isn’t. Still, someone has to be singing along with the Everly Brothers, and this week, the most unloved driver on the track was Juan Pablo Montoya, who got into then-leader Kyle Busch, outing Busch into the wall. It looked like the wreck was the result of Busch and Montoya both misjudging the run Busch had on Montoya; Busch moved up to clear Montoya and Montoya came down to take advantage of the draft from the No. 18. They got together and Busch ended up in the wall. If Busch had held his line, the incident would have been entirely Montoya’s fault. But he didn’t, so give Montoya about 75% of the blame on this one. But he still wins the most unloved award because he happened to wreck Busch, who doesn’t take any wreck well if he’s on the receiving end. Jeff Burton caused a bigger wreck in the closing laps, but his was more of a racing incident as he got loose in front of the field, so even a huge multi-car wreck can’t get Montoya out of this one.
Why… don’t we have this kind of coverage every week?
TNT’s Wide Open coverage of Daytona is something that should happen far more often, with the commercials appearing in a box on screen while the race runs uninterrupted except for the commentators, who are silenced during commercial blocks. Because of that, we saw AJ Allmendinger’s crash live, even though it happened during commercials, and we’ve seen every restart as well-a huge improvement over traditional broadcasts.
How… cool was it to see the No. 3 in victory lane again?
As much as I don’t like to see the Cup drivers winning all the races in the Nationwide Series, it was a feel-good story to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. pilot the number and paint scheme his father made famous to a Daytona win. It was also pretty cool to see a collaborative effort between different entities; Richard Childress provided the racecar with a little help from Teresa Earnhardt, but it had a Hendrick engine and a JR Motorsports crew, which was nice to see in a NASCAR where teams guard their secrets closely and share little. Finally, the lap 3 tribute to a legend still greatly missed was stirring. All in all, it was an emotional night for everyone involved, from the team to the fans.
Almost as cool as that was the No. 36 Cup entry, painted in tribute to Richie Evans and his storied modified career. Evans is the winningest driver in NASCAR history, with nine championships and more than 400 wins in the modified division. Steve Park, a product of that same series, piloted the No. 36 in the Coke Zero 400.