Now that Speedweeks at Daytona are over, it is time to look back and reflect upon what we have seen, and what we have been provided for our viewing pleasure by NASCAR’s media partners for Speedweeks (FOX, SPEED and ESPN2). Before I begin, I should state this. Speedweeks is supposed to be the most important time of the year in NASCAR, at least for the television partners. This is because the races at Daytona during Speedweeks are the biggest events of the year for each series that races. This includes the ARCA Re/Max Series that had their season opener back on February 7, in addition to NASCAR’s three national series. As a result, telecasts of said races should be held to a greater standard. It is to this standard that I have to critique the broadcasts.
Matt Kenseth entered Daytona winless in his last 36 starts. That winless streak is now history. Kenseth passed Elliott Sadler in turn 3 on lap 145 for the lead under threatening skies. Half a lap after the pass, the yellow came out for a crash involving the No. 98 of Paul Menard and the No. 31 of Jeff Burton. During the caution, the heavens opened up, and the race never restarted. After less than 15 minutes, NASCAR called the race at 6:48 p.m. with 152 laps (380 miles) completed. Kenseth was thus declared the winner of the 51st Daytona 500.
With 2009 offering one last chance to shape the story of the decade, more outlandish stories beg to be written. Jimmie Johnson will be looking to set a record never thought possible, especially under the Chase playoff format – four consecutive Sprint Cup titles. To do it, he’ll need to fend off perhaps the strongest field of challengers he’s ever had, with Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Kyle Busch the trendy picks to break his streak. In the background looms one of the better rookie battles of the decade in Joey Logano vs. Scott Speed: NASCAR’s handpicked future messiah against the quirkiest newcomer it’s had in years.
Well, we’re through pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 and the Budweiser Shootout. As your TV critic, it is my duty to look everything over and pass some judgment on it; and starting this week and throughout all of 2009, I plan on doing just that. With the departure of the Daly Planet from the NASCAR scene last week, this column remains one of a select few that touches on television’s role with NASCAR – and I’ll do my best to meet that challenge head on. As I grow into this role, I hope to be what LeAnne Schreiber is for ESPN, someone that people can come to about their issues with TV coverage and get them addressed (although Schreiber is also on the verge of leaving her post). Of course, my duties are limited to covering just NASCAR TV programming… but I hope to have the same type of effect.
On Sunday, Martin Truex Jr., with a lap of 47.872 seconds (188.001 mph), claimed the pole for the 51st running of the Daytona 500, which rolls off on February 15. Truex’s margin over second-place Mark Martin was only 47 thousandths of a second. These two drivers are locked into their starting spots for the Daytona 500. After the nearly three-hour qualifying session ended, Truex was all smiles.
Sometimes, history can, in fact, repeat itself. In a scenario very similar to the one that allowed Kevin Harvick to win the Daytona 500 back in 2007, a lane opened up on the high side at the end of the backstretch on the final lap. Harvick took advantage of the hole, took the lead away from Jamie McMurray on the last lap, and then benefitted from a crash that froze the field to claim victory in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout. However, it was not that easy. Harvick hit the wall early on in the race and lost the draft, but was saved by the second caution, when David Reutimann and David Stremme crashed.
After a long offseason – seemingly made even longer due to SPEED Channel’s near complete lack of offseason motorsports programming (which is another rant for another day), we’re coming up to the beginning of the season. Now, most of what viewers will see this year in NASCAR telecasts will be similar, if not the same as in past years. However, there will be a few changes.
Today’s Season Preview Topic: Jimmie Johnson is attempting to do something that’s never been done in the history of NASCAR: four straight championships. What will they need to do to get over the hump – and is it possible?
Today’s Season Preview Topic: Last season, the 12 drivers that made the Chase were from just four teams (Hendrick, Gibbs, Childress and Roush). What other team has the best chance to break through and stop their Chase dominance, or are the advantages of the Big Four just too much?
Today’s Season Preview Topic: At 50 years old, Mark Martin is attempting the unthinkable: a return to full-time racing in the Cup Series. With good equipment underneath him (Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets), is he capable of putting together a run at the Chase (and if he gets there, the championship)? Or is it too little, too late for this sport’s version of Dan Marino?