Don’t Pin All Your Hopes on Daytona

In an incredible coincidence, the Daytona 500 winner, Jimmie Johnson, actually went on to win the championship. (HHP/Brian Lawdermilk photo for Chevrolet)
In an incredible coincidence, the Daytona 500 winner, Jimmie Johnson, actually went on to win the championship. (HHP/Brian Lawdermilk photo for Chevrolet)

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Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, January 7, 2014, 5:31 p.m.

I’m going to make a few random observations about NASCAR, the reason being that, at this point of the year, I don’t have many opinions that are fully formed.

The baseball stats guru Bill James once said that if then-Red Sox manager John McNamara ever wrote a book on strategy, it would be called Let Them Play and See What Happens.

Is it finally Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s year? It's not the way to bet.(John Clark photo)
Is it finally Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s year? It’s not the way to bet.(John Clark photo)

We could argue all night about whether or not Jimmie Johnson is going win yet another Sprint Cup championship, or whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. can win one, or whether Tony Stewart can come back from injury, or Brad Keselowski get back in the Chase, or Kyle Busch can defeat himself, or Jack Roush can get his team back up to speed, or a plethora of other potential happenings, but we really don’t know.

Let Them Race and See What Happens.

I’m not making any predictions. It’s premature. My former colleagues are getting busy. Some are going to testing in Daytona Beach. Most all will be at the upcoming media tour. At this time a year ago, I was informing the sanctioners of such activities that I no longer had any practical reason to attend. I guess I haven’t missed it since a year ago, so, since I just thought of it, I guess I’ll start missing it a little now.

But just a little.

Herewith are my trivial, unformed and uninformed thoughts:

Will Danica Patrick impress again at Daytona? Will it have anything to do with anything else?  (John Clark photo)
Will Danica Patrick impress again at Daytona? Will it have anything to do with anything else? (John Clark photo)

No worries about Daytona. The lead-up will be most sanguine. Danica Patrick will be written about, once again, as if she is a contender, but all will be sweetness and light for virtually everyone else, too. This year I’m expecting a white sale on long features celebrating the underappreciated majesty of Johnson. They’ve probably been written in the past less than 100,000 times.

NASCAR itself will be lavishly praised, not having besmirched the clean slate with any wildly improbable screw-ups … yet.

Everyone will go to the beach at the height of their powers, having bolstered their forces over the winter. The form may vary, but I expect Speedweeks will provide a progression of exciting races. It’s hard to run a race there that isn’t interesting, at least. Some will, as always, grouse that “it’s not real racing.” That’s why NASCAR excels at it.

It’s the only time of the season when all is truly optimistic. Something may dampen it. Yes, I remember that horrible day in 2001. It’s unlikely that such a disaster will occur again, but so was it then. There may be gruesome crashes, but as long as everyone walks away, the effect will be positive, not negative. A few hands will be figuratively wrung, but that’s about it.

David Ragan probably won't win the Daytona 500, but it's my preference. (John Clark photo)
David Ragan probably won’t win the Daytona 500, but it’s my preference. (John Clark photo)

Part of what makes Daytona so invigorating is that, practically every year, a team performs spectacularly and is never heard from again. It may even be the winner, as in Trevor Bayne’s case in 2011. It may even be Danica Patrick doing well, as it was last year.

Ultimately, the Daytona 500 will have no more to do with this, or any season, than an exhibition between the Boston Red Sox and Boston College presages the outcome of the World Series.

If the Daytona 500 winner wins the Sprint Cup championship, as he did last year, it will be a coincidence, not a portent of things to come.

Back at home, I’ll hope for the best, but I’ve been around too long to expect it.

I’m not making any predictions, but I’ll be rooting for David Ragan.

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8 thoughts on “Don’t Pin All Your Hopes on Daytona”

  1. Daytona is always a happy time for me, but the year that did me in was 1994 when Neil Bonnett was killed in practice. We left for Daytona two days after his accident but the joy in the trip was gone.

  2. To me, these few words say more about what NASCAR has become than anything I’ve read recently.

    “it’s not real racing.” That’s why NASCAR excels at it.

    I’m not a big fan of the transition from sport to show.

  3. I was driving to Daytona Beach when I heard the news. I had to pull off I-95. I can’t believe it was 20 years ago.

  4. Well, the answer to your question is self-evident, though you exaggerate quite a bit when you claim it’s in every “submission.” It’s not a “submission” because it’s my blog and I don’t have to submit it. One reason I mention it is, in regard to NASCAR, I’m aware that some are reading me for the first time and I want to make it clear that I am not at the track, mainly because many others who aren’t at the track fail to make that clear. Another reason, lately, is that it was exactly one year ago, on Jan. 4, that my job was eliminated and that made me think about it again.
    As it is simply my blog, I write about what occurs to me, and I think this is the case with most blogs that are not “submitted.”
    I appreciate that you read me, at least enough to think I write about losing my job in every blog, but if it annoys you so profoundly, you can, just as obviously, stop reading it.
    I’m going to write what I want and trust that if I think it’s interesting, others will, too.
    I have no idea what will please you, so I am left only to please myself.
    It’s fascinating to me how many people seem to want me to write only what they like, and I have no way of knowing.

  5. Great answer to Bob. Since I gave up all my race papers except National Dragster about 3 years ago and it could go any time, I had no idea about your situation. I used to love your honest truths about the SHOW that used to be racing – NASCAR. Today it’s unbearable to watch. The attandance bears that out also. The races suck,the anouncers suck more,especially Waltrips both, Larry Mac,and so on. Just mouth pices for the man. Since you told the truth about the SHOW,and exposed it for what it really is,do you ever think the punk in Daytona had anything to do with your job situation. Glad I found you again and will continue to read your blog. I need a return of Pit Bull!!!!

  6. Thanks for the kind words. I’m not too bitter about not covering, or at least I don’t think so, though Bob may disagreee. I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. It’s a struggle to make a living writing novels, but it’s what I wanted to do and I think I’m gradually getting better at it. I’m a little surprised I don’t miss NASCAR much.

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