Today’s Question: In the wake of several big name teams not making the Top 35 (Jamie McMurray – No. 26, Kyle Petty – No. 45) is it fair to allow owner points to be transferred DURING the season so these drivers get themselves a guaranteed spot — while their teammates are assured entry with a past champion’s provisional?
Had one of those moments on Friday when you suddenly remember something that happened 20 or 30 years ago, and connect it with what was just said. Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds were talking about the fact that chrome wheels aren’t allowed in NASCAR competition, with DW explaining that his brother’s wheels had a powder coating and weren’t really chrome. He added the next day that Michael planned to use gold wheels for the 50th anniversary Daytona 500.
Truth be told, this weekend was the closest Jarrett’s been to the front since sliding behind the wheel of Michael Waltrip’s Toyota team; and while it wasn’t the finish the driver may have wanted, it brought the satisfaction that his fans were looking for. It was a top-20 finish, on the lead lap, with the car coming home in one piece; that’s a scenario producing the type of dignified emotion seen far too little this season when it comes to discussing this veteran. It’s called respectability.
With only one race remaining before the start of the 2007 Chase for the Nextel Cup, the race for 12th place has all been but decided, with Kevin Harvick needing to only finish 32nd or better to solidify his place in the Championship dash. While the Daytona 500 winner will start the race a whopping 670 points out of first place, he will end it no more than 50 points out of the top spot, courtesy of NASCAR’s new seeding system, awarding 10 bonus points for a win to each driver in the top 12. Which raises a legitimate question: What exactly does a 700-point deficit convey anything remotely related to the term “champion?” Is this what it has come to? “The race for 12th?”
Clifton Marlin’s career began almost by accident. His brother Jack campaigned a car at Hohenwald Speedway in Tennessee, but didn’t show up one night for one reason or another. Coo Coo volunteered to drive and finished third in his first race on dirt. While he credited a lot of it to beginners’ luck, a good car, and the competition giving him plenty of room; he had another colorful explanation for it. He figured that being a farmer and having an intimate relationship with the earth helped him get around on it faster in a racecar as well.
Waltrip won his first race in 1975 at Nashville, Tenn. and he won again later that year at the Richmond Fairgrounds. This was back during the “big car” era. With all the aerodynamics of a sofa on tap and no power steering, the control truly was in the driver’s hands. During this time when he started racing, he would tally 27 wins. Some of those wins came as an owner AND a driver. All of them came against four of the top seven drivers in the all-time wins column.
As the 2007 season enters its final 16-week stretch, Marlin has recently found himself stretching for any help he can get – his career sidetracked by way of the unemployment line, courtesy beleaguered car owner Bobby Ginn. After releasing Marlin and fellow veteran Joe Nemechek this week due to team restructuring, Ginn made it clear that lack of sponsorship – both men were running without full-time support – proved the biggest motivation behind making changes to his team. Fans have been merciless in their criticisms ever since; for all I can tell, Ginn’s about as popular in NASCAR-land right now as Kyle Busch with Hendrick Motorsports.
Robert Yates Racing, and the team’s talented young driver Davey Allison made their official debut at the 1989 Daytona 500. Things got off to an inauspicious start. Davey was running well when Geoff Bodine got into his rear bumper and sent the 28 car spinning. The car rolled but came down on all four wheels, and Allison limped off to the pits, where the crew was able to repair the car well enough to get him back out there for points. Allison finished 25th in that years 500. After the race Davey had some harsh words for Geoff and a short scuffle broke out. It was just the beginning of a lot of frustration for what amounted to a new team going through some teething pains. There were some bright spots, like a sixth at Rockingham and a 2nd at Darlington, but there were also an uncharacteristic amount of engine failures that season, as Yates tried to adjust to his dual role as team owner and engine man, both of which are full-time jobs.
Michael Waltrip raced his way into this weekend’s Daytona 500, an event a majority of fans I have spoken to think he should have been suspended from. Of course there’s a matter of that $100,000 fine. Let’s put that in perspective. Last year Carl Edwards finished dead last in the Daytona 500 and the No. 99 team got around $270,000 for their efforts. If I’m doing the math correctly even if Waltrip has a terrible day this Sunday that’s a gross profit around $170,000.
For Dale Earnhardt fans, the 1986 Daytona 500 is one of the “big ones that got away.” Earnhardt had a strong week, but the bad luck at Daytona he shared with Darrell Waltrip and Buddy Baker reared its ugly head again. After the way he had dominated the ’85 Daytona 500, Bill Elliott was a heavy favorite that year. He didn’t disappoint anyone on pole day either, claiming the pole for the race at over 205 mph for the second year in a row. “Hoo-Ray” hollered the Elliott fans.
The 1981 Daytona 500 marked the debut of the so called “little” cars, with a 110-inch wheelbase as opposed to the 115 inches on the old reliable Monte Carlos and Cutlasses most teams had been running for years. The teams and drivers approached that year’s event with a large degree of trepidation.
“Benny Parsons is not only the person I owe my NASCAR career to but he was a true friend to me from the day we met. I will always appreciate his friendship and what he did for me. Knowing he’s not going to be there to come up and ask me how things are going when I walk into the garage at Daytona is probably the hardest thing to accept.”