Oh man. Nothing quite like 13.5 hours of coverage for one race. I will fully admit that I was really tired by the time Sunday’s Daytona 500 finally ended. Regardless, there is a lot to discuss about what we saw Sunday.
With this broadcast, it’s hard to figure out where to start. I suppose the end of it is a great place. As you know by now, the Daytona 500 ended with this horrifying crash.
Frightening to watch. There are few times in the years that I’ve watched racing on television that I’ve seen so much fire from a crash.
Yes, I know that it’s the last lap of the Daytona 500. Regardless, this is a scary incident. FOX Sports used restraint and didn’t show any replays until everyone was out of their cars. The various advances in safety over the past 20 years have gone a long way. However, the crash seemed to be an afterthought solely because it was at the finish of the Daytona 500.
There was no real reference to the fact that Brad Keselowski actually got into the catchfence after getting hit by Kyle Busch. I don’t know how badly the catchfence was damaged in the crash, but since it was the last lap, they could take their time fixing it. The track keeps a substantial supply of replacement pieces on hand at all times to repair fencing. A lot of it is staged on the inside of turn 2.
When NASCAR made the call that Michael McDowell won, FOX used a combination of their ghost cam and computer graphics to show where McDowell was in reference to his immediate opposition (Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, etc.). In the past, this would have been done using the replay and a shot of the caution lights synced up together. The regular replays were such that it was difficult to tell when the caution lights came on.
Also of note, Mike Joy stated something along the lines of the victory taking his infamous Texas crash off the highlight reels for McDowell. This is the same thing that Joy said in 2010 when McDowell raced Prism Motorsports’ unsponsored No. 55 Toyota that started and parked for most of the season into each race after qualifying 50th.
There’s no real comment there. It’s just something I found amusing. I didn’t even realize that McDowell has had as many starts in Cup as he has. I don’t believe anyone else has taken this many races to score their first career win other than Michael Waltrip. As McDowell said in his FOX interview with Jamie Little, it really has been a grind. Remember that the Texas crash was nearly 13 years ago now. Since then, he’s had to start-and-park a fair amount and drove for smaller organizations. His talent has always been there. Admittedly, I hadn’t given that much thought about him in the lead up to the race. He had run competitively at Daytona in the past, scoring a top 10 for Phil Parsons Racing at one point.
As for Front Row, they have shocked in the past. In 2013, I successfully picked David Ragan to win at Talladega as part of an older feature we used to have here at Frontstretch called Mirror Driving. That ended up being the one and only one-two finish in the history of Front Row Motorsports.
The race itself ended up being rather anticlimactic. Why? Mostly because a quarter of the field was eliminated in the lap 14 wreck.
Many of the drivers in the race Sunday still had memories of last year’s Busch Clash, where you basically had next to no one left at the end of 187.5 miles. Obviously, you don’t want that in any race, let alone the biggest one of the year. As a result, people were a lot more careful from there to the finish. Not good when this is the main showcase race of the entire year. I fear that the entire season will be hurt because of Sunday’s rain.
Sunday was also the Cup points race debut for Clint Bowyer in the booth. Obviously, having to deal with one of the longest single-day rain delays in Cup history is not how you want to start your career. In Bowyer’s case, he’s rather antsy. Overall, I thought he did well for his first 500-mile race. He brought up some decent points during the broadcast, kept himself on task and was still able to inject his personality into the broadcast when he could.
I found Jeff Gordon to be a little annoying at times. For instance, he referenced Bubba Wallace as “Bubba Wallace Jr.” multiple times during the race. I was late to noticing this, but I caught it at least twice. Other viewers said that he had done it at least four times prior to that.
Former NASCAR and IMSA racer Bill Lester noticed this and tweeted about during the race.
— Bill Lester (@Bill_Lester) February 15, 2021
I cannot find the exact tweet where he said it, but Wallace has indicated as far back as 2018 that this irritates him. Gordon would do well to stop that going forwards. When fans on Twitter are making drinking games based on how much you screwed this up, that’s bad. Don’t do that.
It’s somewhat similar to how a bunch of people refer to Ryan Truex as “Ryan Truex Jr.” Ryan Truex is not a junior at all. Martin Truex Jr. is a junior (Ryan and Martin Jr.’s father, Martin, raced in the Busch North Series) and I suppose everyone just got used to throwing a junior in there whenever they refer to a Truex.
Despite the race finishing after midnight, there was still quite a bit of post-race coverage to go around. Viewers heard from the top five finishers, in addition to a number of the notable drivers involved in the big crash on the final lap (Keselowski, Logano, Kyle Busch).
Prior to the race, there was an incredible amount of programming to be had. It’s the main reason that I’m so tired as I write this because I watched all 13.5 hours.
Clint Bowyer took a try at doing an interview with Kyle Busch. However, Bowyer admits to being somewhat clueless in regards to how to interview people. Makes me wonder how much training he got in that aspect of the job. So, the two of them went horseback riding at Bowyer’s farm and talked about Ben Beshore taking over on the pit box this year and Brexton’s racing ambitions. While yes, seemingly anything Bowyer does is done in a genuine fashion, you can tell that he’s still very green. I believe that he’ll improve that aspect of his job as the year progresses just from getting reps.
Sunday was also Kyle Larson’s return to the NASCAR Cup Series after being suspended last year for using the N-word during a sim race. Emmanuel Acho, a regular on FOX Sports 1’s Speak for Yourself went one-on-one with Larson and really didn’t hold back on him.
The main idea of the piece here was the following: Why should you get a second chance, and have you learned from this?
Do I believe Larson’s learned from this whole mess? For the first month-ish, he didn’t. He even talked about it himself here. He was basically upset that he got caught and claimed ignorance based on the people that he hung out with, both in the United States and overseas. That said, he says that people generally don’t share those views that work in NASCAR. He was fully prepared to turn his back on the sport after he got suspended.
Since then, he’s worked to change that notion. A lot of what he’s done was done privately. We really don’t know the extent of what Larson’s done to atone for this, but it seems like it’s rather substantial. Yes, he did the sensitivity training and completing that got him eligible to compete in dirt races in May.
Ignorance is a bad thing. Larson just didn’t realize how ignorant he was. He’s a grown man. He should know that just because certain people do certain things doesn’t mean that it’s OK for you to do it. Now, he realizes that he can’t be ignorant anymore. Yes, he got a second chance. This isn’t permanent. If he screws up again, that can be taken away faster than the fruit cup in High Anxiety.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here: This was big news last year. You know it’s serious when my mother, who knows next to nothing about racing other than the fact that I like it, started asking me questions about Larson when this went down.
The long delay was not spent doing much in the way of interviews. This is mainly because of the fact that a lightning strike originally caused the red flag. That means a full stop, and you just can’t do anything in that situation for good reason. Viewers eventually got some interviews with drivers, both live in person and via Skype.
Viewers also got highlighted coverage of the Busch Clash and the Bluegreen Vacations Duels, along with repeats of The Golden Hour: Making of Days of Thunder and Radioactive: Best of Daytona. Over the past few days, I’ve probably seen both shows three times.
Do I think the start time was chiefly responsible for this? Possibly. Had they started at noon, this race would have darn near been over by the rain the lightning showed up. The earliest they could have gone was 1 p.m. when the FOX timeslot started. They would have gotten well past halfway under those circumstances. Earlier this week, our own Bryan Nolen and Adam Cheek discussed this topic in an edition of Stock Car Scoop. Even with this mess, I don’t see FOX making changes because they like the idea of a lead-in to prime time programming. That said, the prime time programming, including the premiere of Cherries Wild!, all got pre-empted Sunday.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, NASCAR returns to Daytona for a full weekend of action on the road course. Even though it doesn’t really look like it, O’Reilly Auto Parts is technically sponsoring all three races this weekend. BrakeBest Select and Super Start Batteries are house products sold more or less exclusively at O’Reilly Auto Parts locations. In addition to the action in Daytona, the Trans-Am season is scheduled to start at Sebring International Raceway. TV listings can be found in the Television tab.
For next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday, we’re going to have a look at the road races from Daytona. But that’s not all of the critiques you’re going to get this week. The Frontstretch Newsletter will be jam-packed with critiques covering the rest of the week from Daytona. The E:60 special, Intimidator: The Lasting Legacy of Dale Earnhardt, will also be covered in a future Critic’s Annex, likely next week.
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About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.