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.
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.
Had the rains not come, AJ Allmendinger had a shot at taking it all. In the end, he had to settle for third, but that’s a long way from a year ago, when Allmendinger watched the race on television after failing to qualify. The driver called ‘Dinger by his friends has been impressive in a fill-in role since being released from Team Red Bull late in 2008. Unfortunately, the No. 44 only has funding for a handful of races this year, so we may never see what this driver is capable of.
Few drivers in NASCAR history are as calm and measured when the cameras are on as Jimmie Johnson is. So Lowe’s, of course, couldn’t be happier with him, and you can’t blame them, especially given the headaches their biggest competitor had with their outspoken driver once. But Jimmie’s demeanor may also be part of NASCAR’s ratings problem.
Just as the Daytona 500 brings stock car racing roaring back to life, it also marks the beginning of the 2009 season for hundreds of thousands of fantasy racers across the country. And just as every driver in the 500 field needs a strong finish this Sunday to kick off their campaigns, every fantasy racer wants to get a jump on their competition the first weekend of the season. Picking a restrictor-plate race is never easy – but Frontstretch’s own Bryan Davis Keith and Mike Neff are nonetheless going to bump-draft you to the front of your respective leagues.
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.
Welcome to the first 2009 edition of Running Their Mouth! Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members and the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.
Kevin Harvick assumed the lead milliseconds before the caution flag flew, signaling the end of the race. With the convoluted new format and dearth of attendance and excitement Saturday night, is it time to just call this Shootout silliness off?
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, we couldn’t stop talking about the massive Silly Season upheaval due to Dale Jr.’s imminent departure from DEI. The moment word came down, there was… Chaos! Insanity! Panic in the streets! Entire wardrobes had to be replaced, cars underwent new paint jobs and shrubberies were chopped down. At the family dining table, arguments ensued over lost sponsorships, car numbers and blown engines. It wasn’t pretty… but it was passionate.
Junior started strong, but couldn’t close the deal. In the first 10 races of the year, he had seven top-10 finishes, and only one performance worse than 15th; a 40th at Fontana following a crash with Casey Mears on a wet track that nobody should have been racing on in the first place. He was Hendrick’s best driver all spring; but once summer heated up, the No. 88 began to tail off. Between his win at Michigan and the start of the Chase, there were just two top 10s, but no finish worse than 24th. Then, the real collapse came when points counted the most.