The Daytona 500 is the first NASCAR anything I have seen all season. I missed the Clash because we were in the midst of a 52 hour power outage thanks to hurricane force winds that showed up with one of the many rain storms this area has received over the past several months. I always miss at least one of the duels because of work and this time I missed both duels. I don’t usually watch qualifying or practices for work reasons as well.
So settling in to take in the Daytona 500 was my first experience as a driver-less race fan as far back as I can remember. You may have noticed I have purposely not made a sweeping declaration of whom I will be supporting because I feel that will have to come organically and naturally as it did back when I picked up being a Tony Stewart fan way back when I did. Since no one applied to by my favorite driver I am forced to adopt a wait and see attitude driver wise. I have a certain pool of drivers that I pull for but we will see who ends up being a stand out. As for the race itself- I have decided I want to discuss certain components of the race before I give my thoughts on the race as a whole.
Missing Drivers and Semantics
The retirements of both Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were discussed extensively during speed weeks, pre-race coverage and even during the national broadcast. Who wasn’t mentioned at all that I heard were the names Casey Mears or Greg Biffle. I guess we are left to assume they have moved on. I guess it’s no surprise that Casey Mears was replaced by Ty Dillon- I mean he hasn’t had a performance year in several seasons. And while Greg Biffle hasn’t had a good season lately either fans of both drivers deserved at least some sort of acknowledgement of them not being in their cars.
And while we are on the topic of drivers who have gone by the wayside since last season, can we talk about semantics for a second? I have heard this phrase more than I care “Clint Bowyer in the 14 for Tony Stewart.” Chris Meyers even said it during the national broadcast. Using that terminology makes it sound like Clint is just filling in temporarily- much like Mark Martin, Brian Vickers, and Ty Dillon did during Tony’s broken leg and then broken back injuries. That is so not the case. The 14 is now Clint Bowyer’s ride. It shouldn’t be referred to as anything other than Clint Bowyer in the 14. I didn’t hear anybody say “Ty Dillon in for Casey Mears” for instance during the broadcast.
Race Segment Format/Subsequent Points Format
This perhaps the biggest change in the Monster Cup series this year. Each race will now contain three segments (length of segments varies by race). At the end of each race segment the top ten cars get points and the winning car gets a championship point. The segments are separated by a caution period where drivers have the option of pitting or not. When I first heard about this segment thing my knee jerk reaction was to thing that they were turning NASCAR into a circus. I then considered the idea that it might help the super speedway races at least (remember I don’t like super speedway racing).
After seeing the segment formats now I honestly don’t see how it enhances the racing product. NASCAR and the commentators keep shoving down our throats how great this format is but I honestly just don’t see it. To me it seems to make an already long race longer. I don’t see the racing action being any better yet. And don’t even get me started on the points. I don’t understand these points and championship points. Do the championship points also count as regular season points? I am confuddled about that. I am sure I will figure it out eventually but keeping track of points shouldn’t be this complicated on a fan level.
The Five Minute Fix Rule
This to me is perhaps even more of an issue than the format issue. In a nutshell- this season if a driver is in a wreck and they can drive the car back to pit road, the team gets five minutes to attempt to fix the car on pit road. New parts can not be used- just tools and tapes I guess. Within the five minutes drivers must get out on track and be able to maintain whatever minimum speed for that particular race is. If the car is not fixed within five minutes or the car can not maintain minimum speed that car is no longer allowed to race.
Because of this rule there were only 25 cars on the track at the end of the 500 (of which 17 were on the lead lap and 11 were in the lead pack). I really really hate this rule. Why? Because if a driver is in a wreck of any consequence, that driver’s day is pretty much done. That driver no longer has the ability to get back out on the track and try to better points positions. As a fan- it would really stink to have your driver have to pull behind the wall and then have to sit their the rest of the race knowing your driver is out. You will no longer have the hope that your driver’s crew might get that car back out and that your driver might pick up a point or two. There is nothing more boring than being at a track surrounded by people cheering for their driver when you know your driver is done. Honestly- if my driver was knocked out of the race it would make me want to beat horrific race traffic and leave if there is no hope of my driver not coming back out on the track. I really don’t know what NASCAR is thinking with this rule.
My thought is that they instituted this rule to try to keep them from driving too aggressively in the segments. We see how that worked out in the 500 with Jamie McMurray didn’t we? It’s an asinine rule.
I will say one good thing about this rule though- and that is that if a driver goes behind the wall after a wreck that they have to go to infield care center as part of their new improved concussion protocol. THIS is a good idea. Previously drivers only had to go to infield care center if their car was no longer able to be driven. I think that this part is a good idea. The rest of the rule? Is bull hockey.Take the drivers out of the car and make them go to the care center while the crews work on the cars. If they are not considered concussed they should be allowed to get back on the track.
Overall Thoughts on the Daytona 500
Eh. I have never been a big fan of super speedway racing anyway as to me the risk to equipment and possible injury to me outweighs the overall racing product in my opinion. I guess I am just more of a short track girl. I much prefer to see cars mixing it up and rubbing over a car getting slightly out of line and ending up taking 16 cars out of contention with him or her. I have always felt this way about super speedway racing- just look back in the BadGroove archives for any of the races at Talladega or Daytona. I drone on about it incessantly. To me the race segment format did nothing to enhance the racing at the track. Racing at Daytona and Talladega is more luck than skill and that to me isn’t racing. I really think that they should make them exhibitions if you must keep them.
As for not having a “horse in the race” I guess it made it so I paid more attention to the overall race than concentrating on one team. I don’t necessarily think that this is a good thing or a bad thing- it’s just a different way of watching for me. I didn’t listen to any team radios- just watched the race and paid attention on twitter for the things that I couldn’t find out on the national broadcast. It was just a different more mellow experience for me I guess.
One thing I found humorous about the national broadcast is when Jamie McMurray seemed to be the cause of a couple of the “big ones” that happened towards the middle of the race, Jeff Gordon mentioned how aggressive Jamie McMurray was racing. I found that humorous because during his last couple of seasons he had taken exception to McMurray’s driving style.
I also found it interesting how at the beginning of the broadcast they mentioned the cars that had to go to the back of the pack because they were starting in back up cars but didn’t mention that there were cars that also went to the back of the pack because of failing post qualifying race inspection- namely Martin Truex Jr. This was a big issue with the 78 throughout last season- I see nothing changes there. Also I was surprised that Kasey Kahne wasn’t dinged for being late to driver introductions (as in he didn’t show up) but they apparently excused him because he had trouble getting through the crowd (hmm maybe he should have planned for that methinks).
I have to say that I was absolutely DELIGHTED that Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500. That is the team’s first Daytona 500 win and their first win in a Ford- so good for them. You could tell Kurt was delighted as were his owners Tony and Gene. Way to go Stewart-Haas- it’s a good boost for the start to the 2017 season.
Drivers Who Impressed Me: Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch
Drivers Who Disappointed Me: Jamie McMurray
Oh and am I the only one who think that the new CARS movie looks awesome?
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