Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rating the Budweiser Shootout: 5 Stars *****

Speedweeks got off to a smashing start Thursday during Budweiser Shootout practice as six teams had to go back to the hauler and bring out the backup car for Saturday night’s Shootout. Yes, it is not much of a surprise that there was a wreck during a practice at Speedweeks, but this time the eventual winner of the race had his primary car torn to pieces and he wasn’t even in the state. All of this was just part of a great weekend for stock car racing in Daytona and earns a 5 Star Rating right out of the gate.

Congratulations to Kevin Harvick, the #29 team and the entire Richard Childress Racing organization. After a tough 2009, RCR needed to have a strong start to their 2010 campaign. While this does not guarantee success throughout the rest of the season, winning the first race of the year is better than the alternative. If Harvick continues to have a good season, it will make things very interesting come July when teams that are obviously out of the Chase hunt start getting their stuff organized for a run at the Chase next year. Already there has been more than enough discussion about Harvick and Kasey Kahne’s potential free agency at the end of the year. Isn’t it ironic that they finished first and second in the Shootout Saturday night? Maybe, just maybe, a big-time driver will resign with the team for which they are currently driving. But that is a topic for another day.

NASCAR’s decision to move qualifying to Saturday instead of Sunday was a great move regardless if the Super Bowl was on Sunday. This made Saturday one of the best racing days of the year, that is, if you didn’t have prior commitments to attend to, in which case Saturday was heartbreaking because you missed nearly 12 hours of racing coverage. First, we were introduced to every driver that will be attempting to race in the Daytona 500 this year. Qualifying is a great time to set the scene for any race weekend because there is time to discuss each driver and what is currently going on with that team. Heading into Thursday’s Duel races, we already know what each driver has to do and what their agenda will be, whether they need to squeak in through the backdoor on Thursday, or if they are set to go and only have to worry about where they will line up on the grid Sunday.

Next, and this really couldn’t be considered a racing blog if her name wasn’t mentioned at least once this week, Danica Patrick made her big debut in the ARCA series. Overall she was rather impressive. The beginning of the race started off very slow as there were numerous wrecks and two cars flipped over. Then, on lap 56 the moment everyone had been waiting for finally happened as Patrick spun through the grass but was able to keep the car from hitting anything and was able to continue, albeit in 24th. However, from that point on she steadily moved up through the field and was right there with the leaders and crossed the line sixth, prompting the decision to go ahead and run the Nationwide race this coming Saturday – as the folks at ESPN party like the Saints just won the Super Bowl.

Finally, the Bud Shootout produced some very good racing throughout the night. Things started off pretty calmly as Carl Edwards led the entire first segment and had a surprisingly dominant car early. There were a few tremors during the first part of the event with Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton and Michael Waltrip (twice) spinning to bring out a caution. Then, with only two laps to go, the inevitable big one happened as Greg Biffle spun at the front of the pack and collected seven other drivers, including his two teammates. But, the driver who had probably the most consistent race ended up winning the race. Harvick was never very far back in the field and gave himself an opportunity to be there at the end. He is starting to put together a pretty good record at Daytona.

So next week is The Great American Race. It doesn’t get any better than this. Generally I like Talladega’s smooth surface because it seems to create larger packs of racing, but on nearly every lap of the Shootout there was somebody who was incredibly loose and had to make a heck of a save. If there is racing like that for 200 laps Sunday, we will be in for a treat. Have a great week!


  1. Wow, starting off with a 5 star rating - you know what that means Mayer - only down from here! LOL

    Great to see someone other than HMS running up front and based on the Shootout practices and race I think the 500 is going to be dicey with the other drivers learning the closing speeds/draft.

    Not happy with my drivers performances - the poor fab guys at Penske had a lot of work thrown out the window thanks to JPM and MM.

    Danica who?? Never heard of her...

  2. Great stuff, JM. Five stars? How many if it hadn't ended under caution? LOL

    It was a very racy, race. The 500 should be very interesting with 43 cars on the track.

  3. klvalus - Well they do head off to California next week. lol. It was nice to see different players at the front. I was worried after the 500 practices and qualifying that Hendrick might have the field covered all week.

    Gene - I know the caution was a bit of a bummer, it's times like those that I wish they still let them race back to the line.

  4. Nice thorough write-up as always. I have to only give it four stars because it ended under yellow. It was great race and almost had a great finish.

    Auto Club Speedway isn't going to be too happy about Danica debuting on Saturday. That's been their ad campaign for months.

  5. Gonger - That happens all to often, unfortunately. But sounds like NASCAR is looking into allowing multiple attempts at a green/white/checkered finish. I remember when those first started and some truck races would never end. I believe that's why it was limited to one attempt in the first place.