The Best Daytona 500 in a Whole Year

The dynamic duo of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus strikes again in the Daytona 500. (John Clark photo)

The dynamic duo of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus strikes again in the Daytona 500. (John Clark photo)

What I mainly am is frustrated.

Here it is, several hours after the Great American Race, and I’ve tried to think through what I saw on TV, and it still just ties me in knots.

I left the house and rode around, listening to SiriusXM’s postrace coverage, and I felt sympathy for Brad Gillie, who was anchoring the show from the Texas Motor Speedway media center while Claire B. Lang reported from Daytona Beach.

Gillie was trying to put a happy face on the Daytona 500 in the face of a passel of callers who were mostly displeased. Actually, I was amused at sort of an odd alternation of opinions. While I was listening, most everyone who either was there or watching on TV was raising hell, and the truckers who listened to the race on MRN were raising hell at all the callers who were raising hell.

That’s by and large, I think, because the truckers didn’t see it.

I’m an admirer of the skill MRN’s team puts into the broadcasts, but it’s a house organ. It’s the same way that the Atlanta Braves broadcast team puts a happy face on what the Braves do. The job is to sell tickets and promote the sport. MRN could broadcast the Little Bighorn and make it look like Custer won in a romp. An old saying of mine is, “Those lengths on radio are railroad cars.”

I heard a replay of the final moments, which went something like this:

“Earnhardt looks high, he looks low, Junior makes a charge! But Jimmie Johnson is going to hold on to win the 55th Daytona 500!”

I can’t say what Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s eyes were doing, but I didn’t see much of a run in what his car could do to catch Jimmie Johnson off the fourth turn of the final lap. In a race like this one, MRN had a huge edge over Fox because the Fox spin doctors were hampered by viewers who could see it.

Last week, I tweeted that I had seldom seen any race that wasn’t interesting. This one was, too. Every time the cars change, the racing changes at Daytona and Talladega in ways that are unexpected. Unfortunately, the unexpected this time was the preponderance not of pack but single-file racing. Not only could hardly anyone pass, but the pickings were so slim that hardly anyone tried. The tipoff that Johnson was going to win was the fact that he was able to advance the bottom line during the penultimate green-flag sequence. That was interesting. Maybe it would have been different and better had more of the plate-racing gurus – Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, et al. – been around to inject some boldness in the outcome.

I really expected the racing to be better in the 500 than the Sprint Unlimited, but the reverse ended up being true. It was as if what the drivers learned was that getting out of line was futile. It played into Danica Patrick’s hands because she was meticulous and careful, but even she got shuffled back several positions at the end.

All is not lost, though. I think the new Gen6 car will be a lot like its predecessor at Phoenix, New Hampshire, Pocono, Dover, the short tracks and the road courses. The car was designed with intermediate tracks in mind, and I think it’s too early to pass judgment until Las Vegas in two weeks. If the racing improves at those tracks, the balance will be positive because nearly 40 percent of the races are on those tracks. The new cars look cooler, but that will not be enough if the racing, on average, doesn’t get better.

All this week NASCAR officials will be in damage control, getting irritable at any suggestion that the Daytona 500 was a bad race, then they’ll prove it was by changing the rules package for the first Talladega race.

I’m damned glad I won’t have to put up with it.

The NASCAR line will be typically superfluous: At the end of the day, everything is a work in progress, and it is what it is. Oh, by the way, aren’t the emperor’s new clothes lovely? And the attendance, which we won’t report, is, oh, “way up.”

Me? I’m taking a break. I’ll try to interest you folks with other topics for the next little while.

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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13 Responses to The Best Daytona 500 in a Whole Year

  1. Bruce N says:

    Yup, spin , spin, spin as Rumplestiltskin hands over more straw to be turned into gold.
    I was in the minority , I guess, I was happy the way racing evolves over time, I never looked for the fast fix, sure Daytona needed the repave, the racing changed, but it was organic, not forced, like this racing is now. Fans demand gold all the time, I guess it’s their privilege for being King , however, you can expect to find straw every once in a while, if you rush the spinner. Lets just race, not manufacture a race, please?

  2. Dev says:

    It doesn’t help that all the fans that were watching at home, had to deal with a RaceView they paid $80 for that hasn’t worked for 2 weeks straight.

  3. Riterchick says:

    My stars, you hit it on the head. My beloved and I left at lap 74 and we will never go back to Daytona again. We used to attend at least four races a year, usually more. Ever since the COT, the races have disappointed us incrementally.

    Why do the cars have to be the same? This isn’t IROC. . . .

  4. “All this week NASCAR officials will be in damage control, getting irritable at any suggestion that the Daytona 500 was a bad race, then they’ll prove it was by changing the rules package for the first Talladega race.”

    Perfect. As songwriter and guitar picker extraordinaire Verlon Thompson tells the story “Its all been said before.”

  5. Thomas Gronstal says:

    I do think it’s worth being patient with these cars on the plate tracks. This follow the leader stuff until the last twenty laps didn’t just start yesterday. They’ve been doing that for a while now. If these cars are no good in the draft, then how was Junior able to pull off a second place finish? Part of the problem is the cars are new and the drivers are not quite sure what they can do with them yet. Two lines worked when you had two full lines. When enough drivers were patient enough to commit to an inside line it came around. If you give them time to adjust to the new cars, they will. All the two-car tandem was good for was a demolision derby at the end. The track’s just not wide enough for that and you saw the results not only in Saturday’s Nationwide race, but also Talledega last fall. But people are only interested in shootouts. They don’t seem to appreciate strategy or endurance. Just give em action or they won’t watch. That’s why they think baseball’s boring and they hate strong defensive football and basketball. And because NASCAR tends to be knee-jerk and cater to them, I suppose you’re right, Monte. Rule changes for Talledega.

  6. Mike Ray says:

    Great article and sadly true.I’m Pro-Nascar and have been for 45 years.They will keep tweeking on the new car and it will get better.I agree with you it was follow the leader lets give it some more time.Praying for the fans from Saturday’s show!Thank you.

  7. Judy B says:

    Agree 100%. My problem with the 500 was not the cars but the wimps driving them. I found it somewhat amusing to note that the only driver who tried to drive with balls toward the end was the only driver who didn’t come pre-equipped with them. I was hoping Danica’s run as well as her post-race booth visit with ESPN & the fact that she is one of only 13 drivers to lead laps in BOTH 500s would shut down at least some of the haters but they, as NASCAR, have their own spin.

    I’m sure if anyone in “Jr. Nation” reads this, I’ll get bashed. If any one of them could explain why he looked & spoke satisfied with sitting in 2nd, I’ll take the bashing. Where is the passion & the drive? He, Keselowski & Biffle all talk the good talk about it being the most important race to win yet not one of them even attempted to make a move in the last couple of laps. Two coronated “badasses” (an over-used & often misused term if there ever was one) & neither tried a thing.

    I was left wondering if not only the announcers were watching the same race I was but also some of the drivers. I love MRN but yesterday’s race is one reason I try very hard to not “see” a race only thru others’ eyes.

  8. Peter Romano says:

    The Daytona 500 seems like one of those races where at the start you wish you were there and then at the finish you are really happy you weren’t.

  9. Caroline Cooper says:

    Race was decent. TV coverage poor. More passing would be better but it is what it is.

  10. Judy B says:

    Perfect assessment! 🙂

  11. Monte says:

    Dear Judy, “y’all” is plural. “You” works, even in the South. The only people I ever hear say “y’all” as singular are non-Southerners.

  12. Judy B says:

    Must be a dialect thing cause folks I know use “y’all” as singular & “all y’all” as plural.

  13. Monte says:

    I can’t speak for any area other than my own, but where I come from, people who say “y’all” as singular are non-southerners trying to be southern.

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