Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rating the Coke Zero 400: 5 Stars *****

The final ride on Daytona International Speedway’s pavement proved to be a wild one. After a race that involved a 19-car “Big One,” only 17 cars on the lead lap at the finish and 47 lead changes, the Fourth of July celebration at Daytona gets a 5 Star Rating.

Congratulations to Kevin Harvick and the #29 team. Harvick made a wise decision to stay with Richard Childress Racing after this season. Last year was one of the worst the team has ever had, but lessons were learned and many of the negatives from a year ago have turned into positives this season.

For the third time this season, a race ended with at least 45 lead changes. Each restrictor-plate race this year has been fantastic in its own way. NASCAR certainly made the correct changes when they opened things back up before the season started. There are those that say plate racing is not “real” racing. To them, I say show me a track other than Daytona or Talladega that consistently provides as much action year in and year out. Something interesting almost always happens at those tracks each time the series visits, and people talk about what happened for a couple weeks following the race. This time the talk revolves around the huge wreck.

Many things factored into why this race was such a wreckfest. First, the track needs to be repaved. There is no question about it. I know a track like that is fun for the drivers, but it was only going to get worse and something had to be done sooner or later. Second, the spoiler was back on the cars at Daytona. This may have had more of an effect at this race than at Talladega because the car needs to handle well to be successful at Daytona, especially at the July race. An unstable track with a spoiler that makes the cars looser is a tough combination to control, but the drivers did a great job until it came time to get in position to have a chance to win the race.

This race was a satisfying way to say goodbye to the old pavement. Daytona will produce great racing no matter what type of pavement it has. It is just a special place. However, Speedweeks next February could be amazing. The rule package this year at Talladega made for one of the best races ever, and Daytona is much narrower than the track in Alabama. There will not only be tons of passing, but there will be a lot of pushing and shoving because there is not much space to work with. This season has been very good, and the future seems just as bright, if not brighter.

Next week is on to Chicagoland Speedway; a track that has a race because of its location. Several tracks have lost a race, or lost everything, to Chicago, Kansas and California. That doesn’t make much sense. I’m sure next week’s race will be fine, but it would be surprising to see a memorable race at that track. Jeff Gordon taking out Matt Kenseth in 2006 is the only moment that stands out in the nine years it has been on the schedule.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a terrific holiday weekend. If the second half of the season comes anywhere close to the interest level of the first half, 2010 will go down as a pivotal year in NASCAR history.


  1. Hey jmayer!

    You didn't mention the enlarged restrictor plate. Without qualifying due to the weather it's hard to judge the impact of the largest plate opening since plate racing began. I guess NASCAR figures the safer COT cars allow for 40-50 more horsepower.

    What's your take on the Montoya/Kyle Busch wreck? I recorded the race and have examined what happened several times. The 18 was running on used tires and drifted toward the 42 as Kyle drove past but there was still close to a car width between the two when all of a sudden the 42 literally swerved into the 18. It was great timing too as the 18 ended up in the wall and the 42 continued on its way... Is the side draft really that strong? The 42 was running on new tires. It sure looked like a purposeful move on Montoya's part.

    Thanks jmayer!

  2. JM, it was a very unusual race, to say the least. You had at least three drivers in the top 10 that normally are not top 10 drivers (Sorenson, Bliss, and Speed). Chicagoland is a snoozefest; I may take a break as I was invited to a reception and dinner.

  3. It was an exciting race, most def. Long, but exciting.

    A few drivers commented that they did not want the track to be repaved. Said they liked the added degrees of difficulty with the slip sliding.

  4. 5 star race for sure - very exciting and plenty of side by side action. Only thing would have been better is if it hadnt had that rain delay.

    I personally loved seeing Steve Park out there again! Kurt being the local whipping boy not so much but otherwise very entertaining.

    Chicagoland not so much...

  5. Dwindy1 - I don't know. To me it looked like Montoya held his line and Kyle Busch came up on him. But, I wouldn't put it past Montoya to take KB out after he has been wrecked several times this year himself. Plus, Kyle said in his interview he didn't wreck himself. Maybe he was implying Montoya wrecked him. Chicago could be a good place for those two to settle that score.

    jon_464 - Unusual is a good word for it. It is always great to see different people up front at these races, and it will be even more like that with the new asphalt. Enjoy your weekend.

    Gene - Sounds to me like Daytona has good racing no matter what the pavement is like. The last two races, although they were both delayed, were very exciting, and I expect no less come the 500 next year.

    klvalus - I was kind of surprised by how much side-by-side racing there was. I thought the track would be too difficult to run like that. The Steve Park story is great for sure, and I hope he stays around for a bit.