Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rating the Daytona 500: 3 Stars ***

It’s finally over. The Daytona 500 that would never start turned into the Daytona 500 that refused to end. There was rain, there was fire and there was racing, but the whole extravaganza only gets a 3 Star Rating.

Nearly 36 hours after it was scheduled to begin, the Great American Race ended with Matt Kenseth celebrating in Victory Lane. Too bad it took so long to get there, but my oh my there was some crazy action in between.

The race was good, but the circumstances that surrounded the race also made it an endurance test for not only the drivers, but also the fans.

This was Kenseth’s second Daytona 500 win, but that was about the only part of the race that was not a historical first. Basically everything else associated with the race was something nobody had ever seen before.

First, rain forced NASCAR officials to push the race back to Monday. That had never happened in the 54-year history of the race. That turned this year’s 500 into Monday Night NASCAR after rain continued throughout the morning and afternoon Monday.

Second, Juan Pablo Montoya had one of the wildest freak accidents in the history of the sport. As he drove down the backstretch under caution to catch back up with the field, something in the back of the car broke and he slid up into a safety truck with a jet dryer full of 200 gallons of fuel. That spells disaster.

Thankfully, and miraculously, nobody was hurt in the accident, but both Montoya’s car and the safety truck burst into a fire ball upon impact. The fuel then spilled out of the jet engine and a raging fire ensued.

Also miraculously, safety workers were able to get the fire under control and had the whole mess cleaned up in slightly more than two hours.

After all of that, there was still some racing left, and for the most part it was good racing.

The pack racing returned this year and made for a great Speedweeks. Even if all of the other crazy stuff had not have happened, this would have been an exciting race. The drivers drove in a tight pack all night, there were the typical big restrictor-plate wrecks and another close finish.

Overall, the Daytona 500 was a success, which is amazing. Any lesser event would’ve disintegrated into a never-ending marathon that people wished was already over.

Don’t get me wrong, this was certainly a marathon. But, the action was great on the track and most of the seats at the track were full. The number of fans who stuck around to watch the race, even as it moved into the early hours of Monday morning, was amazing. Most tracks can barely fill half of its seats for a postponed race, but the Daytona International Speedway still had the electricity that can only be found at the Daytona 500.

Also, congratulations to Kenseth. This win puts him on an exclusive list with only eight other drivers who won multiple Daytona 500’s. He had one of the strongest cars all week and certainly deserved the win.

Now the Sprint Cup Series can finally pack up and head out to a place where it likely won’t have to worry about rain. The tough part will be getting the logistics worked out to get all of the equipment out to Phoenix International Raceway. Everybody will be at Phoenix on Friday; it will just be more stressful than normal to get there.

Another benefit to the delayed Daytona 500 is now only three days stand between now and the next time Cup cars are on the racetrack.

Hopefully fans got as much out of Speedweeks as they wanted. Whether or not they liked the race, they will at least have great stories to tell about this year’s wild Daytona 500 experience.

Have a great week, everybody.


  1. With all the flack that Biffle took over abandoning Kenseth in the Duels on Thursday, I have to wonder if Matt sent Biff a copy of Top Gun. All I could think of last night/this morning while Jr was waiting for Biff to make a move was "I'm not leaving my wingman." While I can see Matt as Iceman, Biff just doesn't strike me as the Maverick type.

  2. I thought the race itself was awful. Never saw so few passes for the lead in the modern era. Everybody just stayed in line. The fire has distracted everybody from the competition itself. Final position mostly about luck with wrecks. More pro wrestling than a sport.

  3. SpeedBeagle - Haha, yeah that was an interesting way the final lap played out. The finish looked like the Daytona 500's of the '90s.