Monday, February 21, 2011
Sprint Cup 2011: Race 1 -- The Daytona 500, One Strange Ride
First, pass the barbeque sauce, salt and pepper, a certain blog writer needs to eat his words who sized up the 2011 Daytona 500, thusly:
Sizing up the field and trying to project favorites to win the race couldn’t be more daunting when even the best performers so far might respond differently with a further choked down engines, but so far the Childress cars and Kurt Busch in the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge easily mistaken for Kevin Harvick’s car since he drove those colors last year are the most impressive. We can also infer that Fords and Toyotas are not likely to win. The Hendricks gang can never be ruled out.
First, Fords finished 1, 2, 3 followed by a Toyota. Paul Menard, the newcomer to the Childress team was their only driver in the top 10 finishing 9th though Regan Smith in 7th was racing with Childress equipment. Kurt Busch, who’d been the king of Daytona so far in Sprint Cup activities leading up to the race did finish 5th and was right in the action going for the win at the end. Brother Kyle Busch was also in the top 10 finishing 8th. As for not ruling out Hendrick cars, three out of four were destroyed with Mark Martin sneaking in 10th.
Were it not for such an improbable and ironic conclusion, the 2011 Daytona 500 could have race fans left confused and frustrated. In a race that saw a record number of both cautions and lead changes for the historic February event, adjusting car performance to cope with the much needed new pavement for the long and demanding tri-oval, wreck after wreck saw many top competitors knocked off the track including “the big one” coming early after only 29 laps affecting 14 cars removing defending champ, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon from competition. They’d patch up their cars and run for points.
Charlotte Observer writer, Jim Utter, remarked that this year’s Daytona 500 was a little like Bristol. Who’d think to compare two of the most radically different tracks, but look at what happened. The pattern of racing saw the field bunching up two by two much like all of the wild animal kingdom gathering up to set sail on Noah’s arc, but unlike Biblical lore, they were not pairing up for safety and survival, they were more like lemmings leaping into a mighty blender. Pairs of cars were literally bumper to bumper zooming at over 190 mph. The visuals alone could be quite discomforting as multiple two sets could be racing three and even four wide. One cannot say the track had a defined groove. Cars had to swap leads within their partnerships so as the rear car would not overheat, a problem to begin with, but accelerated by NASCAR limiting the cooling ability of the cars specifically to force drivers to slow down and not build momentum which had taken cars over 200 mph, the danger threshold, in practice.
How can fans not be excited by the results? Seeing the historic #21 once again taking the checkered flag for the “legendary” Wood Brothers gaining their fifth Daytona 500 win as an organization with winners like Tiny Lund, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, and A.J. Foyt, put young Trevor Bayne in the company of some of the greatest names in motorsports. Alas in more recent times, the Wood Brothers have fallen on hard times fighting just to stay alive was glory enough bur, the driver, Trevor Bayne, who had just turned twenty years old was racing in only his second Sprint Cup race having not achieved a victory in either the Nationwide or Camping World Truck series. Bayne was not even running for Sprint Cup points or rookie of the year as the Wood Brothers had only planned on a part time schedule of sixteen not even half of the year’s races.
In post race interviews, Bayne showed tremendous poise, intelligence, and a quick wit signaling that a bright career could be ahead.
Reality shows that first time winners who win the Daytona 500 as their first race can fade into obscurity just as likely as they’d ascend toward NASCAR’s elite, but never has success struck so rapidly. Michael Waltrip entered in XXXX races before his ill-fated Daytona 500 win in 2001.
Of restrictor plate aces and big competitors, it was a very tough day Tony Stewart did okay but faded at the end finishing 13th. Clint Bowyer, the second best Childress effort came in 17th followed by last year’s winner Jaime McMurray. No other major competitors finished on the lead lap and it just gets uglier. Denny Hamlin came in 21st , one lap down; former 500 winner, Ryan Newman, finished 22nd, two laps down; Dale Earnhardt Jr. who looked competitive all day long wrecked late finishing six laps down in 24th place. The champ, Jimmie Johnson, caught in “the big one” finished 27th, 19 laps down following by teammate, Jeff Gordon in 28th where laps out no longer matter. Matt Kenseth, a recent 500 winner reached 34th followed by teammate, Greg Biffle in 35th, then Childress driver, Jeff Burton. While it would not be surprising to see Joe Nemechek in 39th, he didn’t park his ride, he wrecked but still finished above two time winner, Michael Waltrip in 40th. Even before the big one, a fellow many thought might win, Kevin Harvick, landed in 42nd, next to last, after just 22 laps with a blown engine.
POS / CAR# / DRIVER / MFG / LAPS
1 - 21 , Trevor Bayne , Ford ( 208 )
2 - 99 , Carl Edwards , Ford ( 208 )
3 - 34 , David Gilliland , Ford ( 208 )
4 - 47 , Bobby Labonte , Toyota ( 208 )
5 - 22 , Kurt Busch , Dodge ( 208 )
6 - 42 , Juan Montoya , Chevrolet ( 208 )
7 - 78 , Regan Smith , Chevrolet ( 208 )
8 - 18 , Kyle Busch , Toyota ( 208 )
9 - 27 , Paul Menard , Chevrolet ( 208 )
10 - 5 , Mark Martin , Chevrolet ( 208 )
11 - 43 , A.J. Allmendinger , Ford ( 208 )
12 - 9 , Bill Elliott , Chevrolet ( 208 )
13 - 14 , Tony Stewart , Chevrolet ( 208 )
14 - 6 , David Ragan , Ford ( 208 )
15 - 32 , Terry Labonte , Ford ( 208 )
16 - 7 , Robby Gordon , Dodge ( 208 )
17 - 33 , Clint Bowyer , Chevrolet ( 208 )
18 - 1 , Jamie McMurray , Chevrolet ( 208 )
19 - 56 , Martin Truex Jr. , Toyota ( 208 )
20 - 77 , Steve Wallace , Toyota ( 208 )
21 - 11 , Denny Hamlin , Toyota ( 207 )
22 - 39 , Ryan Newman , Chevrolet ( 206 )
23 - 20 , Joey Logano , Toyota ( 206 )
24 - 88 , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Chevrolet ( 202 )
25 - 4 , Kasey Kahne , Toyota ( 199 )
26 - 36 , Dave Blaney , Chevrolet ( 198 )
27 - 48 , Jimmie Johnson , Chevrolet ( 189 )
28 - 24 , Jeff Gordon , Chevrolet ( 173 )
29 - 2 , Brad Keselowski , Dodge ( 166 )
30 - 0 , David Reutimann , Toyota ( 164 )
31 - 83 , Brian Vickers , Toyota ( 160 )
32 - 38 , Travis Kvapil , Ford ( 153 )
33 - 71 , Andy Lally * , Chevrolet ( 149 )
34 - 17 , Matt Kenseth , Ford ( 133 )
35 - 16 , Greg Biffle , Ford ( 126 )
36 - 31 , Jeff Burton , Chevrolet ( 92 )
37 - 9 , Marcos Ambrose , Ford ( 82 )
38 - 37 , Robert Richardson Jr. , Ford ( 45 )
39 - 87 , Joe Nemechek , Toyota ( 29 )
40 - 115 , Michael Waltrip , Toyota ( 28 )
41 - 192 , Brian Keselowski * , Dodge ( 28 )
42 - 29 , Kevin Harvick , Chevrolet ( 22 )
43 - 46 , J.J. Yeley , Chevrolet ( 10 )