Sunday, July 3, 2011

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

The third restrictor-plate race of the season served up another wild night at Daytona as NASCAR celebrated the Fourth of July with a race that deserves a 5 Star Rating.

David Ragan drove another very good race at Daytona and this time he finally closed the deal. Ragan has always been a good restrictor-plate driver, but something has always kept him from winning. Saturday night, however, he and Matt Kenseth were set up perfectly to drive off to the win on the final restart.

After a green-flag run of 105 laps that included two green-flag pit stops, everybody went back to their Sonoma ways with a take-no-prisoners style of racing. First, Jeff Gordon made an incredible save after getting turned sideways in Turn 3. In a rebound that can only happen at a plate track, he came back in just two green-flag laps to finish sixth.

The debate about the two-car draft style of racing will be debated as much as whether or not there should be more road courses on the schedule, but this style continues to evolve. Each time the Sprint Cup Series visits either Talladega or Daytona, the racing changes. It might not be much, but the little difference the drivers learn each race will take restrictor-plate racing into an unknown future.

Yes, there was still a bunch of two-car drafting Saturday night, but there were glimpses of the old style of drafting, as well. Kyle Busch and Joey Logano were able to keep up with the lead pack all night, but they were never constantly pushing each other. Drivers still have to be pushing each other if they want to make passes, but it looks like drivers won’t lose the draft if they don’t have somebody constantly on their rear bumper.

That doesn’t mean a driver without a partner can contend. He will still drop like a rock to the back of the field and eventually get lapped, but there might be some room for the more traditional drafting than everybody first thought, and that will only become more pronounced as both surfaces at Talladega and Daytona start to age.

So, after a wonderful holiday weekend, next week the series makes its first-ever stop at Kentucky Motor Speedway. This track is 1.5 miles long, but don’t expect the same, relatively boring racing some other 1.5-mile tracks often produce. Something about this track usually produces pretty good racing, as well as surprise winners. That would certainly fit the 2011 season. Happy Fourth of July, everybody!


  1. You are blind or clueless. Which is it?

  2. Anonymous - Click on "5 Star Rating" to find the rating system and see which category describes this race the best.

  3. While I won't be as harsh as Anon was, I would still give this race 3.5, 4 stars, at most. Thanks for the link to your rating system.

    I felt that the racing was borderline boring during the mid-section. Green flag pit stops, and the new style drafting create a LOT of lead changes.... not actual competitive passes on the track.

  4. Gene - Maybe part of the problem is we know what to expect, and therefore tend to tune out most of the race until the end when things get crazy. This is one of the extremely few races we've ever seen where more than half of the field led a lap, and they weren't under caution. There was intrigue for me throughout, whereas Kurt Busch led all of last week during similar long green-flag runs.

  5. Jr. Earnhardt and I agree that this tandem draft racing isn't what NASCAR racing is supposed to be, but that being said it sure leads to interesting race scenarios and hairy wrecks and finishes!

    Remember last year at Bristol when Bad Brad Keselowski used the race track's public address system to call Kyle Busch an ass? So here we are one year later and look who's hooked up in a tandem draft... You got it, Bad Brad and Kyle... I was waiting for Harvick and Kyle to hook-up but then I had to think again... LOL!

    I'm sorry I wasn't able to watch the end of the race live. Watching on tape and knowing the outcome sure cuts down on the intrigue... How about a 4 jmayer?

  6. If that was a 5 star race then the scale must be up to 100. Why not just put all the car numbers in a hat and draw the winner. The race ended up being just as big a crap-shoot and you could have saved the owners a dungload of money.

  7. 5 Stars? Watching qulifying is about as exciting as watching this race...all so they can wreck the whole field in the last 10 laps? This racing is a joke. Easily ranks in the bottom 5 races of the season in terms of entertainment. I give it 2 stars at best.

    Nascar needs to let them run 15-20 MPH faster so they can't stay hooked up in the corners...that will lead to some more exciting racing.

  8. Five stars, bull crap! No stars!

    Tandem racing is a Chinese fire drill, a pot luck crap shoot, a typical NASCAR committee product which is ruining true racing.

    Get rid of the restrictor plates and knock down the banking at Talledega.

    Return to traditional NASCAR racing1

  9. Apparently you are not a race fan or you would know this was no race but a 2X2 show.
    How can that be called racing?

  10. Hey Mayer -- I'd go with 4 stars. Still not sure about this two car tandem stuff. I like that it creates weird bedfellows and listening to all the driver strategies trying to find a partner over the radio but I dont like that they cannot control their own destiny. However the restrictor plates this year have produced some surprise winners and close finishes so some good some bad.

    Sonoma was still better! LOL ;)