2013 Daytona 500: 10 Things That Spun Our Wheels

After a race with constantly changing leaders and the media’s infatuation with Danica Patrick (even during the race), Jimmie Johnson and his number 48 car won the race.  Again, the superior driver Jimmie Johnson won and not Danica Patrick, the media darling, for this past Daytona 500 week.

Here’s are the top 10 things that spun Philly Fantasy Sports’ wheels about the 2013 Daytona 500:

  • Jimmie Johnson is the man.  He is the crowning achievement of Hendrick Motorsports as he has the patience and the skill to win races.  And this is his second Daytona 500 win. 
  • Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Sometimes being lucky is better than being good. 
  • Gen-6 Cars, Part I. They tend to overheat, as least the Toyota Camry’s.  Some of the drivers had substantial engine problems.
  • Gen-6 Cars, Part II. Bump-drafting doesn’t work well with these cars.   These Gen-6 cars tend to have a loose rear.  However, when paired up with patient (yet aggressive) drivers, their front aerodynamics are amazing as they can keep up to nearly 200 mph despite having damage, as Brad Keselowski’s number 2 Ford Fusion showed when paired up with Greg Biffle‘s number 16 Ford.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. He got second.  It’s a start…now we have to see if he can finish the Sprint Cup series as well as he started. Or not.
  • Car Manufacturers and Standings. Well, maybe it’s not a forecast of things to come or maybe it is…Ford Fusions and Chevrolet SS models dominated the top 10 in the Daytona 500.
  • Carl Edwards. Looks like the beginning of a LONG season…
  • Pre-Race Ceremony. The walkway was a bit over the top when introducing the drivers.  Then there’s 50 Cent and NASCAR…
  • Greg Biffle. Greg Biffle is so close yet so far yet again at Daytona International Speedway and more importantly, the Daytona 500.
  • Car of Tomorrow (CoT). One thing that you can say about the Car of Tomorrow is that is FAR more durable than Gen-6 cars, but that’s my first impression anyhow. The Gen-6 cars get chewed up in wrecks, even minor ones or when trading paint.

Now onto Pheonix International Speedway for the next race in the Sprint Cup series…

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The New NASCAR (Again): Danicky, Dale Jr., Daytona and Dolla Bills

NASCAR Gen-6 Showroom Models

With the Daytona 500 coming this celebratory weekend, the new new NASCAR has once again risen.  Unfortunately, stock car racing of old, even a couple of decades ago, has long passed.  It is no longer a motor sport but more about the money — and some soap melodrama, kind of like the WWE but less wrestling — sometimes more.

Starting off this TMZ-sponsored episode is Danicky.  Danicka Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. are now an item, and everybody in the media are already enamored about what they are going to do on the racetrack.  If they are professionals, they would race.  But since this is a B-lister soap opera, despite their racing and their relationship, they will remain in the back of the pack.  Neither of them are excellent NASCAR drivers.  They are sufficiently adequate to get to 25th position at best but not sufficiently competitive to get ahead of the pack consistently.  Danica Patrick will have occasional bouts of brilliance this season with top 10s, but a few bright spots does not make a great NASCAR driver like Jimmie Johnson, for example.  Commendably, Danica made the pole position for the 2013 Daytona 500 and the first female driver to do so, but that does not make a superior driver make.

The Daytona 500 is the start of NASCAR and the official test of the Gen 6 car. The Gen 6 car will supposedly bring stock back to stock car racing instead of relying on the spoiler-heavy Car of Tomorrow (CoT). It seems promising.  No more absurd rules on bump-drafting (hopefully) with the initiation of the Gen 6 car.  The Gen 6 car certainly has a lot more space for advertisements as even NASCAR.com commented.  Well, at least that lends to more sponsors at least for this season certainly. The huge grill is prominent on the Gen 6 cars no matter which is the manufacturer.  Let’s hope that improves engine performance rather than hinders it — particularly in cramped race tracks like Dover International Speedway or slower paced races like Bristol Motor Speedway.

Lastly, the topic of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the most popular NASCAR driver, still to this day.  He almost accomplished winning the Sprint Cup Series in the latter part of last season, but then karma again hit him later in the season as he fell down the rankings.  Perhaps the new Gen 6 car will bring him the Cup finally if he decides to push toward the end of the season rather than letting the other drivers run all over him.

 

2011 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway: Post-Race Analysis

With the Daytona International Speedway track repaved into three-wide, the frequent use of the two-car tandem and with Dale Earnhard Jr. relying on his backup car, and Junior starting in the back despite qualifying for the pole position,  this race should be one of the best NASCAR races of this season. Dale Earnhardt, “The Intimidator,” will be remembered on the third lap of this race in commemoration of his death a decade previous, and this driver has not been forgotten nor ever will be.  After all the drama, festivities and tailgating, it’s time to go racing, boys, and this was one heck of a race.

Now to the post-race analysis:

  • Regan Smith pushed Kurt Busch for Busch’s lead in the first lap of the Great American Race.
  • Michael Waltrip incidently pushed Kyle Busch, and Busch slid out in lap 5.  Fortunately, for him and the rest of the field, he didn’t collide with anyone else.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s spotter could have possibly caused a collision after J.J. Yeley’s car brought out the caution flag in lap 11.  Typical Junior drama and karma, and it began again as he pushed into the head of the pack.
  • Kevin Harvick blew an engine in lap 22 and officially out of the race.  Bad luck for him after 152 races without a blown motor.
  • Michael Waltrip again pushed into David Reutimann and caused a train wreck on lap 29 into a 17-car train wreck.  Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Mark Martin, all Hendrick Motosports cars, were brought into the garage for repair of heavy damage to their cars.  Not good news for these Hendrick drivers or for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he was without his teammates for a major portion of the race.
  • Robert Richardson, Jr. spun out into lap 47, and he officially got his ticket into the garage.
  • Brian Vickers out on lap 56, and his engine had officially stalled.  Barely into lap 60, nearly one-third of the field had disappeared.
  • Some cars returned in lap 92 that were involved in earlier wrecks. Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson were some of the notable drivers to make their return.
  • Kurt Busch led lap 92 with Regan Smith in their two-car tandem again.
  • And yet another Richard Childress engine blew with Jeff Burton in the garage on lap 94.  Childress Racing didn’t have much luck this race, as with Hendrick Motorsports.  However, theirs was an engineering problem which should be resolved by next week’s race and not created by the big one caused by Michael Waltrip.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya spun out in lap 107 with no disaster on the track.  The two-car tandems still remained the theme up to this point of the race.  Interestingly, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have paired together — for a short time only.
  • Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have paired up in lap 110.  This pairing should be beneficial to both of these veterans, but it was short-lived.
  • Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard tandem have maintained the lead for five laps since lap 127.  Matt Kenseth, who had fallen a  lap down, crashed into the outer wall in lap 134.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya spun out and collided with Greg Biffle on lap 143.  And now the 11th caution flag had been dropped.  This race hasn’t been without excitement.
  • Regan Smith and Dale Earnhardt Jr. hook up in lap 147 and pushed Junior to the lead.  This is one potent combination since Regan Smith established himself in the lead pack after the big wreck of lap 29.
  • Travis Kavapil wrecked on lap 158 and brought out the 12th caution flag, a race record. The final push begun for the drivers and their respective pit crews.
  • Brad Keselowski crashed into the wall on lap 167, and the 13th yellow flag was brought out.
  • Kasey Kahne blew a tire out in lap 182, and Jamie McMurray had to resign himself  out of the race with an engine issue.  Now this race had its 14th yellow flag…
  • Soon enough, another caution flag…Regan Smith got turned by Kurt Busch caused by Tony Stewart on lap 196.
  • On lap 204, A.J. Allmendinger spun into Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman clipped Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and another caution flag. Junior was taken out of the race, as his karma followed again.

Trevor Bayne of Wood Brothers won the Daytona 500.  He had one of the faster cars on the field, but nobody expected this win in NASCAR or their fantasy cohorts.  Overall, a very entertaining race — with bookend wrecks, but the big one caused by Michael Waltrip changed the field early in lap 29.  The average speed of the Daytona 500 was 132 mp, with the top speed of 201 mph. Most of the cars raced from 170 to 200 mph.  Perhaps, like in the football season beforehand, this may be a season of surprises.  Certainly, NASCAR began with one. Now onto Phoenix…

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wrecks Car During Wednesday’s Practice and Loses Pole Position: Or Here Junior Nation Goes…Again

Dale Earnhardt Jr. who initially won the pole with his partner Jeff Gordon for the Dayton 500 this Sunday, but like Junior Nation and for long-time fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr.  has come to expect, something was bound to happen.  He wrecked while pushing Jimmie Johnson in the two-car tandem during yesterday’s practice for the Gatorade Duel today.  When Jimmie Johnson became loose as he slowed down to avoid the cars of Robby Gordon, David Gilliland and Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s qualifying car hit the inside of the retaining wall now he has to rely on his backup car.  Unfortunately, he will have to forfeit his pole position and resign himself to back to the pack for the Daytona 500.  This is classic Junior karma for the upcoming Great American Race.

Given the past racing history of Junior, this isn’t a bad spot altogether in light of these circumstances.  Even during his days before Tony Eury, Jr. or Steve Letarte, he always found a way to come from back of the pack into the top 10 or 15 usually.  Unfortunately, most of the time, he simply could not win the race either through his driving style, being involved in a crash or something else altogether prevented him from getting the checkered flag.

The change to Steve Letarte has benefited Dale Earnhardt Jr. already by giving him one of the faster cars, if not the fastest, in the upcoming race.  If he can somehow catch up with either Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon by mid-race at least, Hendrick Motorsports could be leading some of the way for the Daytona 500.

The 2011 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway: Post-Race Analysis

This race is the appetizer before the Great American Race, the Daytona 500, next Sunday.  This also gives the Sprint Cup drivers and teams to adjust to the newly paved Daytona International Speedway from engines, drafting partners and fuel changes.  Lastly, it gives NASCAR fans a relatively brief race to watch although it will progress late through the night.

This race still doesn’t compare to the festivities and the drama surrounding the Daytona 500 next week. Now to the post-race analysis:

  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had the pole in the beginning but dropped again to 3rd.  It’s not as bad as some of actual Sprint Cup races where he fell  into the middle of the pack and could not recover beyond 15th or so.
  • Pairings of cars helps picks up speed, particularly against an aggressive pack of drivers behind you.
  • Jeff Burton got 1st place and Matt Kenseth got 4th on the first 25 laps of this race.  Both are X-factors when the season officially begins next week.
  • On lap 29 of the Shootout, Regan Smith initially collided with Carl Edwards.  Edwards then clipped Dale Earnhardt Jr. rear bumper and started a whole spillover including Juan Pablo Montoya, Joey Logano and others.  I think this looks like the forecast for the Dayton 500.
  • Two-car drafting works most of the time, but when it doesn’t work, it causes severe wrecks.
  • Jimmie Johnson is still the man of the Sprint Cup Series.  He led the race at 3/4ths of the race at lap 50.
  • Jeff Gordon stuck around 5th or so in the early part of the second segment.  It appeared he was biding his time for his final move in the last few laps of the Shootout, but it didn’t come to fruition.

Kurt Busch won the Budweiser Shootout, partially from Denny Hamlin‘s drive through the boundary line for the lead.  The dual car tandems were the theme of this race, and the average speed of this race seemed to swing from 195 mph to 205 mph.

The Great American Race is on next Sunday, and it will be interesting to see how the adjustments made this week will affect the Daytona 500.

Daytona 500 Early Pre-Race Thoughts: Let’s Go Testing, Boys!

The Daytona 500 starts Sunday, February 20th, in two weeks on the newly paved track and new rules and points system.  The Great American Race will start a week after the Budweiser Shootout on the same track the week.  The Shootout will give most racers a chance to adjust to the track in real-time racing conditions as well as earn some pocket cash into the upcoming Sprint Cup season of NASCAR.

It will be interesting to note the engine and chassis adjustments due to testing on the new Daytona track, even if minor from the previous year. I am also curious on the issue of the strategies of the teams and individual drivers.  With the three-wide track, there should be lots of drafting — side drafting and normal drafting and which cars will choose to favor the dirty approach or the clean approach for their cars.  Lastly, I will be interested to see how sponsors of drivers will be limited or changed by which series these drivers chose to accrue points in.

Testing occurred more than a month ago, where several drivers, including Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya among others tested and compared their old engine setups.  Additionally, some tested the consumption of the new ethanol-blended fuel in their cars, and they tested the new Goodyear tires as well. Most drivers acknowledged the track grips better and the cars generally went faster than before on the new Daytona track.  Majority of them compared it to Talladega Superspeedway, and fortunately for them, there aren’t any giant potholes to contend with on this racetrack — yet.

The change in the points system will make the tallying of the better drivers easier.  Jamie McMurray, last year’s winner, and Jimmie Johnson, last year’s Championship winner, don’t find the new points system much concern.

Interestingly, four drivers will enter the Daytona 500 due to point swaps during the 2010 season.  Paul Menard, Trevor Bayne, Steve Wallace and Grand-Am driver Andy Lally will be participants.  Offseason point swaps occurs when the ownership group  of one organization moves into ownership with another team. These will be particularly interesting factors in this race.

Lastly, with crew chief Chad Knaus making adjustments to the crews of Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Gordon as necessary for Hendrick Motorsports, this could be a particularly interesting affair this upcoming season.  Which driver will benefit the most will most likely depend on their performance, and given past seasons, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon appear to be the immediate beneficiaries.