Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 10, 2018, 9:39 a.m.
The Daytona 500 is never predictable. Every time anything changes, some of it is unexpected. The first opportunity for insight is Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash.
Pay close attention.
The good news is that racing on restrictor-plate tracks is wildly unpredictable. The odds suggest that someone who is adept at this specialized form of stock car racing will win. It is entirely possible, however, that an opportunity will present itself at just the right time, and a long shot will have enough sense to make the right move.
The bad news is that, almost every year, someone will do very well and then fade into obscurity.
In 2013, Danica Patrick won the 500 pole. In my judgment, it was the only Cup race she ever realistically could have won. Instead, she finished eighth. Late in the race, she led the line in the draft that contained the driver, Jimmie Johnson, who won. Had she maintained that place, ahead of Johnson, she might have won. She dropped down, leaving Johnson to roar into victory lane. Had she held that place, she might have held on.
We’ll never now. When the time came to win the race, Patrick made the wrong move. She was third entering the final lap. When the time came to determine the outcome, Patrick made the wrong moves.
Something similar will happen to someone on February 18.
First things first. The Clash is a short race. My advice is to study it. Watch for signs that conditions have changed.
Fords dominated the four plate races — two each at Daytona at Talladega — last year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won two of them. Everywhere else, with few exceptions, it was a Toyota year.
Chevrolet is now racing a variant of the Camaro. What difference will that make? Will the Camaro give the Chevys a competitive advantage? Will it level the, uh, racing track (as opposed to the playing field)? Will it hit the track running? Will it take a while to seize the advantage? Will there be an advantage?
Hell, I’m no engineer. I can’t analyze data and make conclusions. I’m not going to pretend I can. I’m just going to wait and see, and then I’m going to realize that Daytona won’t have much to do with what follows, and I’m going to wait and see when I watch the Atlanta race.
I’m not going to claim I’m someone I’m not. I’m also not going to succumb to hype and propaganda.
I’m going to let them race and see what happens. I developed some observational skills in two decades watching from close proximity. Now I’ll be sitting in my living room ad paying attention from afar.
Unlike many, I’ve got enough sense to realize my limitations.
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The new novel isn’t about racing. It’s about a group of people who unwittingly stumble into a far-flung criminal conspiracy involving business, law enforcement, politics, and the Russians. It would help if you’d nominate it for publication in Amazon’s KindleScout program. If you like what you see, do so here.