The Hemi Chryslers had dominated the 1964 Daytona Speedweeks, but it was a very different picture when the 1965 event rolled around. The big Hemis had been outlawed, and Chrysler was boycotting NASCAR racing.
Last November, about the time that NASCAR’s “Silly Season” was officially declared to start, my personal life went into a “Silly Season” all its own, the seriousness of which, well… if you compared side by side pictures of Todd Bodine and myself, let’s just say that Todd appears to have a full head of hair.
The inaugural Daytona 500 of 1959 had been a huge success with blistering speeds and nary a caution to mar the proceedings, so as the Grand National circuit prepared for their second visit to Bill France’s high-banked monument to speed in 1960, everyone was hoping for more of the same. Instead, the second version of the Great American Race brought with it a bit of a reality check.
I have a split personality. No, don’t call the men in white coats. Neither one of us is violent. But I have noticed that sometimes, the race fan and journalist in me puts me at odds with the driver fan in me. Some race fans don’t have this problem as they are simply driver fans to the point where if their guy is winning or losing, nothing else matters. Not the rules, not the lack of parity in the sport, and certainly not tradition or facts.
Dale Earnhardt seemed destined to finally win the race that had eluded him through his entire career after dominating the event, leading 155 of 200 laps. However, a broken piece of transmission bellhousing from Ricky Rudd’s No. 5 Levi-Garrett Chevrolet ended that notion. Earnhardt ran over the debris entering turn 3 at about 195 mph, and cut down a right rear tire. The black No. 3 GM Goodwrench Lumina wobbled up the racetrack and slowed, clearing the way for relative unknown Derrike Cope from Spanaway, Wash. to capture his first career victory in NASCAR’s biggest race.
Well race fans, it’s that time again. The offseason is coming to an end very quickly, and we are close to going back to racing. But before we do let’s talk about what to expect from the Craftsman Truck Series this season.
This Week’s Question: This year, 36 of the 43 spots in the Daytona 500 will be already “locked in,” due to owner points and the past champion’s provisional held by Dale Jarrett. Is it fair that so many cars are guaranteed spots in the field, or should the vast majority of drivers and teams have to qualify their way into the Great American Race?
There it sat, two-and-a-half miles of fresh black top shimmering in the midwinter Florida sun, with banked corners higher than the tallest buildings in the towns some of the drivers racing on it had grown up in. For a group used to running on short dirt and asphalt ovals, the awe must have been tempered with a bit of fear as well. As Jimmy Thompson, a driver of that era, put it, “There have been other tracks that separated the men from the boys. This is the track that’s going to separate the brave from the weak when the boys are gone.”
I don’t think there’s a grand conspiracy to give Toyota an advantage. Watching how Toyota has succeeded early in every racing venue they’ve put themselves in, it shouldn’t be a surprise. I am a little surprised at how the non-CoT cars performed at Daytona, but a couple of things there: One, it is a plate track, and two, well, it’s Toyota.
The offseason can be a dreadful time for the racing fan. Unless you like German touring cars, motocross or snowmobile racing, there has never been a fix for the racing fan during the cold of Winter. Sure there’s the Chili bowl and the Ice bowl. But those are isolated races. For the race fan that has a desire to see door to door racing on a nearly weekly basis, there has never been that kind of fix in the winter. Enter Arena racing.