2011 Had Its ‘Top Moments,’ But History Was Also Made

 

Stewart

Tony Stewart's five victories in the Chase and his battle with Carl Edwards for the Sprint Cup championship were considered two of the most memorable moments of the 2011 season. The championship was unprecedented as Stewart and Edwards tied in points, but Stewart won because he had more wins.

Already multiple presentations on the “top moments” of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season have been published or broadcast and, quite frankly, I’m inclined to agree with most of them.

I certainly agree with many others that Jeff Gordon’s 85th career victory at Atlanta was memorable. Gordon, the four-time champion, won three times in 2011 and is now in sole possession of third place on NASCAR’s all-time victory list.

I won’t argue with those who listed Danica Patrick’s achievement as one of the season’s best moments. Patrick finished fourth at Las Vegas in March to set the record as not only the highest finish recorded by a female driver in Nationwide Series competition, but also as tops among all females in any NASCAR national series event.

Patrick broke the long-standing mark of fifth place set in 1949 by Sara Christian in Heidelberg, Pa.

As you know, many more memorable achievements have been mentioned and I daresay all of them deserve a place on anyone’s list.

But I think I’ll go a little further. In 2011, the accomplishments of many were more than “top moments.”

Because of who they are, what they achieved and where they achieved it, all made the 2011 season unique – and even historical.

Frankly, some things happened this past season that have never happened before in NASCAR’s history.

Patrick’s accomplishment is one of them.

But there are many more. And that’s part of the reason 2011 was a unique season.

Consider Tony Stewart. That he won five races in the Chase – his only five wins of the season, by the way – to come from ninth in points to a championship in just 10 races is worthy, by itself, as a “top moment.”

But what makes it more compelling, and history making, is that Stewart won a championship battle that was unlike any other in NASCAR’s existence.

At the end of the season’s final race at Homestead Stewart and rival Carl Edwards were tied for No. 1 in points at 2,403 apiece.

That was a first in NASCAR and it meant the champ would be crowed via the tiebreaker: the driver with the most wins. That hadn’t happened before, either.

That was Stewart with five – all of them, ironically, earned in the Chase. Edwards had only one victory for the season.

The unprecedented closeness of the championship fight was even more impressive, and unique, by its very nature.

Stewart and Edwards raged mortal combat. Unlike how it has been many times in the past, neither made a mistake to give the title to the other.

They stood toe-to-toe and slugged it out. They finished within one position of each other in three of the last four races – and never out of the top 10.

It was truly a scrap for a championship and not one decided by a twist of fate.

Smith

Regan Smith (left) and Trevor Bayne were two of the four first-time winners in 2011. The others were David Ragan and Paul Menard. These drivers not only won for the first time, they won four of NASCAR's most prestigious and popular races.

Yes, Stewart’s five victories are memorable. But the very character of the 2011 championship was unlike any other in NASCAR.

First-time winners always carve a niche for themselves in any season. So it was in 2011, but with a couple of notable exceptions.

Perhaps at no other time in NASCAR were there so many first-time winners. But what makes it all so much more unique is not that they won, but where they won.
I daresay few ever heard of Trevor Bayne, the young driver under contract with Jack Roush who was lent to the Wood Brothers for selected Cup races in 2011.

At age 20 years and one day, Bayne led the final six laps to win the Daytona 500 in only his second Cup start. It was the fourth 500 victory for the Woods team and the 600th for Ford.

Bayne isn’t the first surprise Daytona winner. But, unlike so often in the past, he didn’t win because circumstances turned in his favor. He won because he was competitive and raced like a veteran.

At Furniture Row Racing, Regan Smith was thought of as one of those guys competing with a second-tier team who was most likely to run at the rear of any race.

But, as improbable as it was, Smith, who had no wins, top-fives or top-10s in 104 starts, won the venerated Southern 500 at Darlington.

He led the final 11 laps and held off Edwards by 0.198-second to win.

Many considered Paul Menard as the weakest link in the four-car chain of teams at Richard Childress Racing. Feel free to disagree, of course.

But Menard proved, nicely, that he could win. He did so for the first time in his career in the Brickyard 500 at Indianapolis. He outgunned Gordon, a four-time Indy winner, to earn the victory.

Twenty-five-year-old David Ragan earned his way to a ride with Roush and was, essentially, “under development” for a successful Cup career.

He took a huge step in that direction when he won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July. Before he gained his first career victory, the best Ragan had finished was third, three times.

Five first-time winners – including Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen – would make any season memorable. But 2011 was a bit more so.

Four drivers who won – Bayne, Smith, Ragan and Menard – did so at three of NASCAR’s most prestigious venues and in four of its most distinguished and popular races, the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, the Coke Zero 400 and the Brickyard 400.

I can heartily assure you that it’s never happened before in NASCAR.

It’s a first in a season I thought had more than its share of them.

Which means that while we all got the chance to see more “top moments” in NASCAR, we also had the opportunity to witness history being made.

That does not happen very often.

In Racing Even The Best Can Hit The Skids – And Do

Every professional athlete and team goes through a period in which he, she or it is unproductive and does not perform at a once-high level.

This sort of thing is known as a “slump.” We’ve all heard of it and many of us have experienced our own personal agony when our favorite athlete or team goes through one.

Some “slumps” last much longer than others. Chicago Cubs fans have been suffering for years.

On the other hand, some athletes and teams are so successful for so long that for them to experience any adversity for any length of time is highly unusual.

It’s seldom expected – if ever. Teams like the New York Yankees and the New England Patriots seem to display excellence year after year.

Maybe, but that doesn’t mean they always will. Sooner or later, for any number of reasons, their bleak competitive days will come. Ask Tiger Woods.

Certainly this is all true in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. Over the years there have been countless drivers and teams that have enjoyed success for many seasons. Yet they, too, have fallen into adversity from time to time.

It’s happened to the best of drivers – Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt – heck, just about all of them.

Well, OK, maybe Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team haven’t fallen into anything adversarial for the last several years. But, as hard as this may be to believe, they will – in time.

To me the definition of a “slump” in NASCAR is up for interpretation.

There are drivers and teams that have reasonably good season records. In fact, they are the envy of others that would be pleased if they could match their performance level.

However, they are still “slumping” because they are not performing at their usual high level; they are not meeting the expectations of their peers, the fans and the media.

Their established reputations indicate that they should be better than they are – whatever that may be.

This season, a couple of organizations come to mind, neither of which is at the expected performance level.

Stewart Haas Racing is, of course, identified by one of its drivers and its co-owner, Tony Stewart.

Stewart is a two-time Cup champion. He first won the title in 2002 while with Joe Gibbs Racing and earned his second in 2005, when he ranked No. 1 in points going into the Chase and then won five of seven races.

He has won a race in every season since 1999, his first with Gibbs. He won six in 2000 and five each in 2005-06. He’s been out of the top 10 in points only once, in ’06, when he was 11th.

The 2011 season could go down as Stewart’s worst. He clings to 10th-place in points, which would get him into the Chase, but has yet to win.

Through 24 races this year, Stewart has only two top-five and nine top-10 finishes. He has an average start of 18.8 and an average finish of 15.0.

For Stewart fans – and those accustomed to seeing him race with much higher proficiency – his performance at Bristol last week was disheartening.

He was never higher than 28th place and finished three laps down, not because his Chevrolet had problems, it was just too slow.

Stewart’s grip on 10th place in the points is tenuous, so much so that it’s likely he’s going to have to rely on a victory or misfortune for others to make the Chase.

There are two races remaining before the Chase begins and, make no mistake, Stewart can win either one of them, or both.

He won’t if he has another race like Bristol.

Let’s be clear about one thing – the Chase is not the end of the season. It’s the start of another.

NASCAR’s “playoff” consists of 10 races, which will be the number of opportunities Stewart will have to avoid the first winless season of his career.

By the way, Stewart knows all of this – no need to mention it to him. He’s not afraid to make changes should he deem them necessary. And to be a driver/owner always increases responsibility, which sometimes can be a competitive distraction.

I don’t think any fan has to be told the quality of Richard Childress Racing, a multi-car team that has consistently been one of NASCAR’s finest organizations.

Last year, RCR was in contention for the championship as all three of its teams made the Chase. Driver Kevin Harvick led the standings for most of the season, although he lapsed at year’s end.

He did win three times. Teammate Clint Bowyer won twice. Harvick finished third in points, Bowyer 10th and Jeff Burton, the only winless RCR driver in 2010, 12th.

RCR was expected to challenge Johnson and Hendrick for this season’s title.

It still can, but it’s all up to one driver – Harvick. He’s the only Childress competitor who is assured a place in the Chase. He is fifth in points and has three wins, all achieved before the halfway point of the season.

Otherwise, the RCR situation is unexpectedly dismal. Bowyer is 12th in points with no wins, three top-fives and nine top-10s on the season. He has a chance to make the Chase but it’s about as good as that proverbial snowball’s in that hot place.

Paul Menard, the newcomer at RCR, enjoyed a popular victory in the Brickyard 400 and for a time was a “wildcard” candidate for the Chase.

He still is, but given he is 20th in points and thus the last driver eligible, he’s going to have to win a second race – and stay in the top 20 – to make it.

Burton, meanwhile, has had a very atypical season. He is winless, has just one finish among the top 10 and ranks 24th in points, with no chance to make the Chase.

Where RCR was once considered a title threat based on its performance in 2010, its hopes are now pinned on only one of its teams – not three or even four as many expected.

There are other teams that certainly could be described as in “slumps” or underachieving. There’s no doubt about that.

And there are many organizations that would relish being among the top 10, as are Stewart and Childress.

That, however, really doesn’t seem good enough for either Stewart-Haas or RCR. It’s not what was anticipated of either.

But achieving victory should restore much of their luster. And there are 12 opportunities to do just that.

Menard Wins, Stewart Woos Danica


Paul Menard struggled to be taken seriously for years. He’s done it by winning The Brickyard 400. Tony Stewart was courting Danica Patrick this past Daytona. She looks headed to race in several Sprint Cup races for him in 2012.

Menard’s Indy Victory Adds To Season’s Competitiveness

The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has established itself as one of the most unique in many years for a couple of reasons:

It has provided a decidedly unexpected high number of surprising, first-time winners. In so doing it has suggested that, perhaps, competition on the circuit has reached a level of equality it hasn’t had in years – or, as some might argue, ever.

When Paul Menard won the Brickyard 400 (the sports books took a beating), he not only won for the first time in the 167 races of his career, he also became the fourth inaugural victor of the season and the 14th different winner in 20 races.

This year’s first-time winners include Trevor Bayne in the Daytona 500, Regan Smith in the Southern 500, David Ragan in Daytona’s Coke Zero 400 at now Menard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Have you noticed that these guys have not only won races, they have also been victorious in some of NASCAR’s biggest and most prestigious events?

Which, by the way, is something absolutely no one could have predicted. That adds to the season’s singularity and, to be honest, it’s made things entertaining for everyone. Most of us like surprises.

The record for most winners in a single season was tied at 19 in 2001, during which 36 races were run, the same amount for 2011.

Logic dictates that the odds are good the record will be broken given that there are 16 races yet to be run. The current season is not much past halfway over.

Unless the trend that has been established so far is disrupted we can anticipate more winners – and the odds are good none will be that much of a surprise.

After all, there are those who have won multiple times in their careers, some of whom have won championships, and yet haven’t been victorious this year.

They include Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Burton, Jamie MacMurray and others. Would anyone be truly surprised if any, or all, of them had won by now?

The point is they still have plenty of time to do so and increase the number of different winners.

Even if this season’s doesn’t provide a record it has, for some observers, indicated NASCAR is presently enjoying something for which it always sought – equal competition; the ability for virtually any driver to win a race.

Today that appears to be more truth than hype. The numbers prove it.

While this is certainly not the only reason for this, it assuredly is a major one: The so-called new car, its technology and accompanying NASCAR legislation, have been established to the point where dominance by one team over all others is unlikely.

Several crew chiefs have expressed this opinion. They have said that it might have taken a while, but the majority of teams now understand the nuances of the car. NASCAR’s cessation of repeated rule changes has helped.

Given that the car is singular, with just minor differences among manufacturers’ models (front ends and engine packages come to mind), and the same sternly enforced rules apply across the board, crew chiefs say there’s only so much teams can do.

They can push the envelope as much as they dare but creativity is long gone. NASCAR’s punishments have assured that.

If a team can utilize creativity only to a certain point it often cannot gain a sizable advantage over another. That, many suggest, is what we have now.

Make no mistake. Equal competition does not mean teams are now equal per se. That’s not the case by any means.

There are still the haves and have-nots, separated by sponsorship money and the equipment and in-shop talent, among many other things, it brings.

But it does suggest that this season is more equally competitive than others passed.

Bayne won with a part-time team that relies on assistance from a major organization. Smith was victorious (and has done well for a good part of the season) with a one-car outfit that is based in Denver, Colo.

Were either considered likely candidates for victory? Hardly.

Ragan is indeed part of a NASCAR powerhouse organization but, let’s face it, he was considered the weak link in a chain of formidable, winning competitors.

It’s the same thing for Menard. Funny thing, but both drivers have won while some of their teammates have not.

Again, this is not to suggest the car, and all that comes with it, is the only reason for this. Give credit where it’s due. Ragan and Menard have proven they have the talent to make the most of what they have.

In years past many drivers never had such an opportunity. A handful of teams with major sponsorship – and sometimes a sizable disparity among car models – allowed them to dominate others.

This was particularly true during the 1970s, the first full decade of NASCAR’s modern era. The number of different winners over those 10 years never reached double digits.

Hard as it may be to believe there were only five different winners in 1975.

That’s because you could count the number of teams expected to win on one hand. Equality never approached existence.

That began to change in the ‘80s when new, ambitious owners with sponsorship entered NASCAR. It carried through the following decade. There were multiple seasons with anywhere from 11-14 different winners.

Today it has risen to a new level. That is, certainly for NASCAR, a good thing.

 

** I’ve heard it said over the years that the only reason Menard has established a NASCAR career is that he can always bring major sponsorship via his father John.

His dad, incidentally, has been an integral part of motorsports for decades and his rewards, at least those publicized, haven’t been many. He spent 35 years competing at Indy before his son, appropriately, brought him the laurels.

It is true he’s had the financial means to support his son – and gain exposure for the family business over the years – and what, pray tell, is wrong with that?

It’s been long established in motorsports that fathers who have been a part of it in some form nearly always nurture the sons who follow them. They have done so by whatever means available to them.

These fathers have had names like Petty, Allison, Earnhardt, Andretti, Keselowski, Menard, Ragan – and far too many others to mention here.

Their reward has been to see their progeny succeed.

If you saw John Menard’s reaction to his son’s victory, you know it is a great reward, indeed.

 

** Menard’s victory means that he’s presently in the No. 2 position to earn one of the two “wildcard” entries into the Chase.

The top 10 will make it along with two drivers who have won the most races and still rank between 11th and 20th in points after Richmond, six races from now.

Denny Hamlin, who fell a position to 11th after his 27th-place run at Indy, has a victory.

Menard is 14th in points and, of course, has a victory. Ragan, once the only victorious driver among the top 20, is now 16th in points, just seven behind Menard and 41 in arrears to Hamlin.

Meanwhile, Tony Stewart, who had his good moments at Indy, rose from a tie for 10th with Hamlin to ninth in points.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who also ran well at Indy for a time, finished 16th – his sixth consecutive finish out of the top 10 – and is now on the fence at 10th in points.

With time passing away some drivers clearly have work to do. Gotta admit it will be interesting to see how it all evolves.

The Points System Has Provided Intrigue, With More To Come

Maybe I’m wrong and you may disagree, but if nothing else, NASCAR’S new points system has, to date, made the season intriguing.

As I understand it, the modified system awards a winner 43 points. He gets three more points for winning and another for leading a lap, which means a minimum of 47 laps.

If the winner leads the most laps that means another bonus point. The total is now 48, the most any driver can earn in a single race.

The most points the second-place finisher can get is 44 points, 42 for second, one for leading and one for leading the most laps.

Putting bonus points aside – NASCAR wanted to maintain the race winner reward – the system is pretty basic. There’s only a one-point difference between each position, from the base of 43 for first place to just one for last place.

The unique change NASCAR made for this season, in addition to rewarding consistency of performance, was to allow the top 10 after 26 races to qualify for the chase. Spots 11 and 12 would go to the drivers who have compiled the most victories and rank among the top 20.

OK, that’s enough. I’ve dwelled long enough on something you already know.

But what I find interesting about the new points system is that it has kept things fairly undecided as we enter the final six races before the Chase.

While there are a few drivers who seem safe when it comes to the Chase, there are others whose status is very much uncertain.

And Carl Edwards, the points leader, by no means has a lock on the top spot. He’s just seven points ahead of five-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

Among the top 10 every driver except one has a victory. Kevin Harvick, fourth in points and eight behind Edwards, has three victories, as does Kyle Busch, who is fifth in points, 13 in arrears.

Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon have two wins each – and are ranked sixth and seventh in points, respectively.

I would think all four drivers are pretty much guaranteed spots in the Chase.

I’d say the same for Edwards, Johnson, Kurt Busch (third in points), Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, who each have a victory and are among the top 10.

OK, here’s where the situation becomes a bit tense for some drivers.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ranks ninth in points largely because he’s been in a competitive swoon. He was once as high as third in the standings.

But he does not have a victory. Which means two things if he wants to make the Chase: He has to hang on to the top 10 over the next six races, or, at the very least, earn a victory, something he hasn’t done since 2008.

Tony Stewart faces a similar situation. He’s tied with Hamlin for 10th in points, but unlike Hamlin, he doesn’t have a victory.

So if the Chase started immediately, Hamlin is in and Stewart is out.

But it doesn’t start immediately so Stewart has a chance to secure his place. Most likely he would prefer to do it with a victory. He hasn’t had a winless season in a career that dates back to 1999.

Other notables, such as Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle, pretty much have to rely on winning to make the Chase.

Bowyer is 12th in points, Kahne 14th and Biffle 15th. They are 110 points or more behind the leader. Bowyer is 28 points out of 10th place. He can certainly make up the difference but the odds are quickly stacking against him.

It’s the same for Kahne and Biffle, who are each 47 points out of the hunt.

For these three guys, a victory would be the tonic. The last time Bowyer went winless happened in 2009. He won two races last year.

Kahne has had two consecutive winless seasons. Between 2003-10, Biffle had only one year without a victory, 2009.

I don’t think there’s much doubt any of them can win this year. The question is can they do it in time to help them make the Chase?

They are not alone. It’s going to take a win for several others who rank 11-20th in points to make NASCAR’s “playoff.”

They include A.J. Allmendinger, Juan Pablo Montoya, Joey Logano, Paul Menard and Mark Martin.

Fact is there’s only one driver out of the top 10 who is assured a position in the Chase – for the time being, anyway.

That’s David Ragan, who won at Daytona on July 2 to earn the first victory of his career. He’s presently 13th in points.

He’s 46 points out of 10th place. That’s not insurmountable, just as it is for Bowyer, Kahne and Biffle, and I’m sure that, like the others, gaining positions is what he’d like to do.

But he’s the only one with the luxury of a victory.

As it stands right now, the only other driver who has a shot at the Chase is Brad Keselowski. He has a victory but, in 23rd place, ranks out of the top 20.

He’s going to have to scrap his way in. He’s 25 points behind 20th-place Martin, again certainly not an insurmountable margin. He has six races to do it.

The next half-dozen races are worthy of our attention. For some drivers it’s obviously going to take victory to make all the difference.

Can they win? Certainly. The 2011 season has already produced 13 different winners, including three who won for the first time.

Since NASCAR’s modern era began in 1972, the all-time record for most winners in a single season is 19 and the record for most first-time winners was five twice, in 2001 and 2002.

We’re on a pace to have 25 winners this year, including six who won for this first time in their careers.

I don’t know if that will happen, but the point is this season’s variety of winners would indicate that anything could happen over the next six events – and thus alter the starting field for the Chase.

The 500 Was A Woods Revival, And Other Observations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A few observations about the Daytona 500:

— Wood Brothers Racing will not go away.

I suspect many of you felt the same as I from time to time – the NASCAR organization which has been in existence for over six decades was something like a worn-out thoroughbred whose glory was long past and then put out to pasture.

What the thoroughbred had accomplished would never be forgotten, to be sure, but its future would be humble until the end of its days.

It seems that the future for the Woods might well be anything but humble.

In one of the most improbable Daytona 500 finishes ever, if not the most improbable, the Woods won for the fifth time with a kid named Trevor Bayne as their driver. He made only the second Sprint Cup start of his career.

A kid who turned 20 just one day before the race, who wears a retainer and can’t drink victory lane champagne for another year, and who got the ride with the Woods for reasons too many to list here, wins NASCAR’s most prestigious race.

And he did it with a team that, as mentioned, seemed to be a shadow of itself. Because of a lack of sponsorship that forced it to make the most of the dollars it had, it has run only a limited schedule for the past two seasons.

I had a conversation with Len Wood, who, along with brother Eddie, now runs the team formed by their father Glen and his brother Leonard, and he said, among other things, that the goal was to enter 17 races this year with Bayne if sponsorship could be found.

I admit a part of me thought this was, at best, a very lofty goal.

Now, however, given Bayne’s Daytona 500 victory it might well happen – or even more. There’s a fair amount of logic to invest money in a venerated team with an obviously talented young, and personable, driver whose future seems bright.

The victory was no fluke. Bayne had been impressive throughout Speed Weeks. He was Jeff Gordon’s ally of choice in a Gatorade Duel race – and performed admirably – until Bayne was taken out by an accident.

Word quickly spread through the garage area that Bayne had the chops to compete in the 500’s new style of racing.

It evolved that he was the leader on the second of two green-white-flag restarts and, with a push from veteran Bobby Labonte, was able to prove he was just as able as the guy out in front as he was the one who gave the shove.

It was the fifth Daytona 500 victory for the Woods. But it was easily the most unexpected since Tiny Lund’s win in 1963 when he substituted for the injured Marvin Panch. Their other winners are A.J. Foyt, Cale Yarborough and David Pearson.

They were all superstars. Trevor Bayne isn’t – yet. But then, his victory might prove to be the most rewarding ever, in more ways than one, for the Wood Brothers, who aren’t out to pasture yet.

— Speaking of improbable, accolades are due to drivers whom most of us thought wouldn’t be factors in the Daytona 500.

They include David Ragan, who might have won the race had he not been penalized for moving out of position before he reached the start-finish line during the first green-white-checkered flag restart, and Labonte, who finished fourth in his first start with JTG/Daugherty Racing, a team he feels will put him back into prominence.

David Gilliland, the Cinderella kid of a few years ago when he beat the big guys in a Nationwide Series race that directly led to a Sprint Cup job, would up third after a crackup.

Regan Smith, another driver who turned heads for his ability to negotiate the two-car Daytona draft, finished seventh, again after a mishap. In his debut with Richard Childress Racing, Paul Menard finished ninth after a couple of his teammates were sidelined by engine failure.

Yes, I know several of the top contenders left the race because of incidents not of their making. But, as they say, that’s racing. This sort of thing has happened before and will happen again.

— I admit there was plenty of drama and excitement in the Daytona 500. I think it was good stuff for racing fans and, especially, television.

The new “June bug” style of drafting is appreciated by some and loathed by others. By now you know some of the scenarios it can create.

For example, there’s potential overheating (and thus engine failure), the fact that the driver pushing can’t see a thing and is at the mercy of the one in front of him, and spotters, and that the cars, rubbing front and rear bumpers, are so close that if the one in front checks up for any reason, all hell can break loose.

I have difficulties with a couple of things.

At Daytona, drivers no longer communicated solely with their crew chiefs or spotters, as it used to be. They do so with just about everyone on the track.

It’s done so they can, among other things, create favorable drafting situations. A driver can ask another if they can hook up. If turned down he can ask another.

Even in a two-car draft drivers can tell each other what they should do, such as the time to make the “swap” so the one doing the pushing can pass to gain fresh air.

Maybe I’m wrong but it appears to me that to be able to work with a rival whom you are supposed to beat is out of sorts in a sport where it is every man for himself and to work solely with his team.

Yes, I know teams have communicated for years. But it was done crew chief to crew chief, or spotter to spotter, and then transmitted to the driver.

Drivers simply didn’t talk to each other, much less reveal what each should do.

I can only surmise that this year’s Daytona 500 made it that way.

— There were a record 74 lead changes in the Daytona 500. It will go in the books.

But, I ask you, if a driver who is leading makes the “swap” with the guy behind him and he’s the one who crosses the finish line first, did he really take the lead?

Seems to me he was GIVEN the lead. He didn’t TAKE it. We saw a lot of that in Daytona.

I know it seems trivial. But to me there’s a difference between being given something rather than earning it.

Those are just a few of my thoughts. Yours, by all means, are most certainly welcome.

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