NASCAR Hoorahs And Wazzups: The Daytona 500 Edition
By Dave Grayson
The ending to the 55th annual running of the Daytona 500 turned out to be pretty exciting. It just took 180 laps to get to that point. We watched a five time champion become a two time Daytona 500 champion and then watched him wreck his car during the post race victory burn out. Oh yeah, Danica was there and her presence loomed larger than usual during Speedweeks.
HOORAH. Jimmie Johnson led a total of 17 laps on the way to his second Daytona 500 win. The event marked the five time champion’s 61st career win and his 12th, consecutive, year in the Sprint Cup Series with at least one win per season. Johnson also became only the tenth driver to win multiple Daytona 500′s. It was also team owner Rick Hendrick’s seventh Daytona 500 win. Johnson won the race on his 400th career series start and joined a very elite club in the process. Only six drivers have won a NASCAR race on their 400th start. The others are Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dave Marcis and Dale Earnhardt.
HOORAH. In the final laps of the Daytona 500, Johnson got a huge assist from Hendrick Motorsports team mate Dale Earnhardt Jr who pushed him to the front of the pack. Earnhardt finished in the runner up position for the third time in the last four races.
WAZZUP. After the race, Johnson decided he would love a photo of him doing a victory donut through the Daytona logo painted on the grass adjacent to the speedway’s tri oval area. Unfortunately that intent, in the driver’s own words, ”didn’t go as planned” and the car sustained some very noticeable damage to the front end.
WAZZUP. After watching Johnson carefully drive his damaged race car to victory lane, the NASCAR conspiracy theorists immediately ran amuck and insisted that Johnson intentionally damaged the car to cover up some shenanigans, (a polite word for cheating), installed by crew chief Chad Knaus. As we all know by now, the car passed post race inspection and, at last report, the winning #48 team is still laughing at the theorists. By the way, to all NASCAR conspiracy theorists: “love you guys-mean it!”
HOORAH. Speaking of the master of shenanigans, Chad Knaus finally got to celebrate the fact that he’s now a Daytona 500 winning crew chief. The team won the race back in 2006, but Knaus wasn’t present because he was serving a NASCAR mandated suspension for shenanigans.
HOORAH. On the topic of celebrating, the official word is Johnson’s #48 team has quite a party in the Daytona infield prompting the driver to later say: “we had a lot of fun in the infield, I think the security guys knew we were here.”
HOORAH. Danica Patrick. Even her harshest critics had to be impressed with this driver’s performance during Daytona Speedweeks. In a mere matter of days she became the first female driver to win a pole position for the Daytona 500 and the first to lead a green flag lap in the race. Her eighth place finish made her the highest finishing female in Daytona 500 history as well as the first female to score a top ten finish. She was also the highest finishing rookie driver.
HOORAH. Country music superstar, and Danica Patrick’s good friend, sent a post race “Twitter” message that read: “I’m so proud of my girl Danica Patrick, she’s such a bad ass.”
WAZZUP. A lot of NASCAR observers never really expected Patrick to perform that well in this race. During the SPEED Channel’s post race program “NASCAR Victory Lane,” Kyle Petty said he was going to have to eat crow over Danica Patrick because he felt she would not be a factor in this race. The same applies to yours truly who expressed the same sentiment and even put it in writing. HMMM, I wonder if they have crow on the menu at Denny’s Restaurants.
HOORAH. Prior to the Daytona 500, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway issued a press release that said they would discount race tickets, for their March 10th Sprint Cup race, one dollar for every lap Danica Patrick led at Daytona. She led five laps so that means fans going to Las Vegas just saved themselves a Lincoln fiver. Hey, in this economy you take your discounts anyway you can get them.
WAZZUP. Coach Joe Gibbs looked very uncomfortable on pit road, during the Daytona 500, for a very good reason. JGR driver Matt Kenseth looked like a strong potential race winner in his Toyota and led a race high 86 laps before a strong vibration in the car led to the presence of white smoke coming from the drive line area. The only good news here was the fact that Kenseth led lap 100, the half way point of the race, and received a $200,000 bonus. That’s how he earned $544,306 for a 37th place finish. Prior to this incident the Gibbs Toyotas were running one-two-three. Two laps later after Kenseth’s exit from the race, Kyle Busch drove his Gibbs Toyota to the garage with a blown engine and had to settle for a 34th place finish. The third Gibbs driver, Denny Hamlin, led 33 laps of the race and brought his car home to a 14th place finish but was reported to be understandably worried about his engine.
WAZZUP. If there was any one individual who couldn’t wait to leave Daytona and go home it had to be driver Carl Edwards. During a month at Daytona Beach, from pre season practice sessions to the Daytona 500, Edwards became a victim in five different crashes in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford. The team’s hauler drivers recorded a lot of extra miles transporting wrecked cars to their North Carolina shop and then transporting repaired cars back to Daytona.
In some final thoughts: HOORAH to the debut of NASCAR’s Gen-6 race car in an official Sprint Cup points paying event. Overall the cars looked good on the track and the drivers seemed to adapt to them rather well. How cool was it to again see NASCAR stock cars that resembled automobiles from a dealer’s show room as well as the cars parked in America’s driveways?
HOORAH. The Fox Gyro Cam was awesome. This in car camera gave us a bird’s eye view of what it’s like to drive a Sprint Cup car. This was especially true when the drivers were negotiating Daytona’s 31 degree banked turns. It was like we were riding in the back seat of the race cars.
HOORAH. While making a public appearance on behalf of his sponsor, Budweiser, Kevin Harvick took a ride on a beer wagon, pulled by the famed Budweiser Clydesdale horses, to deliver race tickets to military veterans.
HOORAH. Thank you Mother Nature for not raining on the Daytona 500. Between the weather forecast and those rain loaded clouds, we’re lucky there wasn’t a rain delay.
HOORAH. The Daytona 500 was completely free and clear of the often annoying start and park procedure. Joe Nemechek’s Toyota finished last in the final rundown, due to engine woes, but not before he ran a competitive 42 laps in the race. To show you how lucrative a Daytona 500 really is: Nemechek won $264,354 for his 43d place finish.
WAZZUP. I’ve been wondering all day how to word this: the first 180 laps of this year’s Daytona 500 was, shall we say, a little on the tedious side. Granted, there were two multi car situations that made us jump off of the couch and yell at our televisions, but that was about it for action.
HOORAH. The final 20 laps of this race was worth the wait.