Was This Season The Best Ever? Facts, Figures And History Suggest Yes

Bayne

Young Trevor Bayne, who surprisingly won the Daytona 500, was one of five new winners in the 2011 Sprint Cup season, which, along with the intense, hotly-contested battle for the championship between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, helped make the year the best, competitively, in NASCAR's long history.

NASCAR tells us that the 2011 Sprint Cup season was the most competitive in the series’ history.

Yeah, well, we’ve heard this before. As best I recall, when each past season was completed, the sanctioning body always proclaimed that it was the “best ever” or “one of the best ever” or “filled with highly competitive races” and provided us with random numbers to back up the claims.

Which is the kind of spin NASCAR should put on each season. But then, not anyone paid much attention, especially the cynical media.

However, this season, what NASCAR proclaims should be heeded because – at least in one man’s opinion – what transpired in 2011 may indeed have shaped the most competitive and unique year in the sport’s history.

There are a lot of statistics to support that, which will be listed later. But forget the numbers for now. To me it all boils down to a couple of irrefutable facts.

Tony Stewart won this year’s championship by a tiebreaker over Carl Stewart. Both finished the season with 2,403 points. Stewart was declared the titlist because he had five wins on the season to only one for Edwards.

It was the first time a championship had ever been decided by a tiebreaker – and, to a great extent, that satisfied the demand by many that a driver with the most wins should be champ.

And, as the season came to a close, Stewart and Edwards truly decided the matter between themselves. Over the final three races of the Chase they stood toe-to-toe like two bloodied heavyweight fighters. They exchanged punches and neither fell.

Stewart won at Martinsville and Edwards was second. Edwards finished second at Phoenix and Stewart was third. Stewart won at Homestead for his fifth win of the year and, in response, Edwards did the best he could – he led the most laps but finished second.

Neither driver gave away a title because of poor preparation, a mistake or an unfortunate on-track incident. It was simply man-against-man until the end.

I’d call that great season-ending competition for a championship, the type of which NASCAR and its fans rarely see. And, as said, the result was historical.

But NASCAR points out there was more to the year than just the final weeks of an intense championship season.

There was an average of 27.1 lead changes per race in 2011, the most in Cup competition. There was an average of 12.8 leaders per event, again a record since the series began in 1949.

Records were also set for margin of victory (1.321 seconds) and green-flag passes (131,989).

Eighteen different drivers won races in 2011, one short of the all-time record established in 2202.

But, to me, what is more significant here – and what further makes the 2011 season unique – is who those drivers were and the races they won.

At age 20, Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 and became the youngest driver ever to win a Sprint Cup race.

He won driving a Wood Brothers Ford, which returned the venerable team to victory lane and enhanced its reputation as one of the most successful on the superspeedways. It brought back memories of the glory days with David Pearson.

Regan Smith drove for Furniture Row Racing, a team considered as likely to win as a plow horse in the Kentucky Derby.

But Smith stunned everyone with his victory in the Southern 500 at Darlington. That he won was surprising enough but where he did was even more so.

Darlington is the oldest superspeedway in NASCAR and is considered its toughest and most demanding. To win there is one of the greatest accomplishments in stock car racing.

Smith did just that and now has his name listed alongside those of Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Earnhardt and Gordon.

Hard to imagine but true – the young, upstart Smith is part of NASCAR lore.

David Ragan proved to team owner Jack Roush, and to all of us, that his potential was indeed real when he won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July to earn the first victory of his career.

Thus, improbably, both Daytona races of 2011 featured first-time winners.

Paul Menard’s family is steeped in racing tradition, much of which includes Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

With Richard Childress Racing Menard won the Brickyard 400 in 2011 for his first career Sprint Cup victory – and at the track so much a part of his family’s competitive life.

As unlikely as the victory was it was more so emotionally and, let’s face it, historically. It was Hollywood stuff.

When Marcos Ambrose won at Watkins Glen to claim his first NASCAR victory it wasn’t all that surprising. It was thought all along that if the Australian should win it would be on a road course.

Nevertheless it was, to this point, the culmination of Ambrose’s NASCAR career.

He sacrificed much to make it happen, which included giving up residence in Tasmania to come to the United States, and endure uncertainty and all that comes with it.

The victory has enhanced his formidable reputation in his home country and did as much for NASCAR’s international presence.

The year indeed saw five new winners. But at no other time in NASCAR’s history did they win the races they did in a single season.

Let’s face it, while it’s true many thought Ambrose might break through on a road course, no one – and I mean no one – could predict that Bayne, Smith, Ragan and Menard won at three of NASCAR’s most storied tracks and in four of its most celebrated races.

The championship battle was intense, riveting and unprecedented. The new winners, and where they won, were historic. The numbers showed us competitive records were established.

The 2011 Sprint Cup season was unique and, to date, the best in NASCAR’s history.

Yeah, we have indeed heard that before. But this time it’s not hype. It is fact.

For A Time Rudd And Wallace Were Unmatched On Road Courses

When the Watkins Glen International road course in New York returned to NASCAR in 1986 it became one of two multi-turn tracks on the Winston Cup circuit.

The other was Riverside International Raceway in California, which had been around for decades, but had only two more years to live.

Prior to 1986, the Glen’s last presence in NASCAR was in 1965, when Marvin Panch won a race known as the Glen 151.8 in a Wood Brothers Ford.

Some observers were puzzled over why NASCAR would add another road course to its schedule, especially since oval tracks were dominant in stock car racing.

But the sanctioning body was just beginning a new phase of expansion – and it certainly didn’t hurt to add a venue located near some large Northeastern markets.

At the time, most of NASCAR’s regular competitors weren’t all that skilled on road courses and some didn’t care to be. So it was that only a handful of drivers did well at Riverside and, logically, were expected to do the same at the Glen.

Darrell Waltrip, for example, won four times in seven races at Riverside from 1979-81. Tim Richmond, Ricky Rudd and Terry Labonte combined to win six of the California track’s eight races from 1982-85.

So the reasoning was that these well-seasoned road course drivers would be the prime contenders for victory when Watkins Glen made its debut.

Turns out that, for a while anyway, that turned out to be accurate.

Unlike Riverside, Watkins Glen was awarded only one race on the Winston Cup schedule. The first was held on Aug. 10 and Richmond, driving for Hendrick Motorsports, was the winner.

He also won at Riverside in November, which was preceded by Waltrip’s victory there in June. So it seemed that when in came to road courses, it wasn’t difficult to predict a winner – it was going to be one of the “usual” guys.

But 1987 saw the beginning of an unusual streak at the Glen. Yep, races there were still won by drivers considered road course aces. The difference was that for four years, victory was accomplished by just two of them.

It reached the point where Rudd and Rusty Wallace were so dominant at Watkins Glen many began to wonder if anyone else would win on the seven-turn road course.

Wallace entered the ’87 season having won only on oval tracks. But on Aug. 10 at the Glen he was so dominant in Raymond Beadle’s Pontiac that, with a 22.2-second lead, he could still make a last-lap pit stop for gas and finish nearly 12 seconds ahead of Labonte.

Wallace went on to win at Riverside in November and then was victorious in the last race held there in June of 1988.

When the Bud at the Glen rolled around on August 14, Wallace had won three consecutive races on road courses.

He almost made it four in a row. He caught leader Rudd, then driving for Kenny Bernstein, on the last lap and popped him in the rear end, which caused both their cars to break sideways.

Rudd held on for the victory, his only one of the season.

In 1989, it was again Wallace’s turn. He won a late-race duel with Mark Martin and earned his fourth victory in the last six of NASCAR’s road-course races.

However, one of the two he didn’t win was the inaugural event in June at what was then known as Sears Point International Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

He lost to – you guessed it – Rudd, who won a furious, last-lap bumping battle.

By this time nearly everyone figured that when NASCAR went to either of its two road courses, the day was going to belong to either Rudd or Wallace – take your pick.

That opinion intensified in 1990. On June 10, Wallace won at Sonoma to take his fifth win in seven road-course races. He nudged Rudd out of the way (you could have guessed that) on the 60th of 74 laps and went on to beat Martin under caution. Rudd finished third.

Well, you can just imagine what happened at the next road course race. It was, of course, at the Glen on Aug. 12. Rudd, who had joined Hendrick’s operation, overcame an early spin and three flat tires to ultimately cruise to victory over Geoff Bodine.

Wallace was no factor. His engine blew after just 46 laps.

It was the first win of the season for Rudd and the three-car Hendrick organization, which was very surprising considering that the team’s driver lineup included Waltrip and Ken Schrader.

The victory was Rudd’s third in five road-course races.

Rudd and Wallace won all six of NASCAR’s road-course events conducted from 1987-1990 at either the Glen or Sonoma.

They won four of the first five races at Watkins Glen after its return to NASCAR in 1986.

Together they fashioned a truly remarkable competitive streak and established themselves as the premier road racers in NASCAR.

Then something strange happened. After 1990, neither Rudd nor Wallace won again at the Glen.

Each won only one more time at what became known as Infineon Raceway – Wallace in 1996 (his only road-course victory with team owner Roger Penske) – and Rudd in 2002 while with Robert Yates.

A new generation of drivers became NASCAR’s road-course aces, prominent among them Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

Wallace retired after the 2005 season. Rudd followed two years later. History records both as two of NASCAR’s best drivers.

That was never more evident than on road courses during the latter 1980s, when both proved to be invincible.

Bayne’s Words Reflect Wisdom Beyond Age

CONCORD, N.C. – After the press conference he held at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday, I have reached a couple of conclusions about Trevor Bayne.

He is mature well beyond his years. And he expresses a unique, and refreshing, perspective on life and all the good and bad therein.

Bayne made his first appearance in front of the media since he was sidelined from competition due to a mysterious, and as yet undiagnosed, illness.

The last time he competed in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race was at Talladega on April 17.

Afterward he began to suffer symptoms of inflammation, double vision, weariness and nausea, among others. It was thought he might have had a major reaction to an insect bite.

His employers at Roush Fenway Racing removed him from competition and, over a period of several weeks, had him thoroughly checked out by doctors and even sent, twice, to the prestigious Mayo Clinic.

Bayne, the surprising and popular winner of the Daytona 500 in the Wood Brothers Racing Ford, was eligible for the NASCAR All-Star Race, but was held back. It disappointed him.

Nor will he race in the Coca-Cola 600. His seat has been given to Roush teammate Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., a friend.

Bayne’s next start will be in the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland on June 4 and then he’ll return to the Wood Brothers at Michigan on June 18.

“I’ve been feeling fine for over a week now,” Bayne said. “Last weekend I took off as a caution and they made me take off this week as a caution.

“They have been way over the top, cautious on everything. This weekend I would have been fine to run, but I think we want to just make sure.”

Bayne is just 20 years old and was a virtual unknown until his Daytona 500 victory. Since that time he has become vastly familiar to racing fans, young and old alike.

In the weeks after his victory, Bayne set out on a whirlwind tour of media and personal appearances. Because of his celebrity, youth and good looks he became a hit among the ‘tweeners.”

I don’t believe anyone can say newly found celebrity status has changed Bayne, a level-headed type who believes faith and charity far surpass social status.

We have heard of many celebrities whose only interests and thoughts are about themselves – mind you, certainly not all of them.

And not Bayne. When he made his opening remarks at the press conference, he didn’t talk about himself. Rather, he expressed gratitude to others and appreciation for being allowed to do what he loves.

“It’s been a real eye opener of how supportive everyone in our sport is,” Bayne said. “I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned through all of this.

“Carl Edwards flew up and saw me in Minnesota (location of the Mayo clinic) and Tony Stewart was using his plane to fly my family back and forth. Jack (Roush) was sending me back and forth on his plane and Michael McDowell was with me for five days.

“Another thing that has been put into perspective for me is how blessed we are to be race car drivers. We get wrapped up sometimes and go through the motions, but when you have to sit there for four or five weeks and watch races, you realize how cool it is that you get to be the one driving it.”

At the Mayo Clinic, Bayne underwent virtually every test imaginable, including an MRI and spinal taps.

“Spinal taps at midnight aren’t exactly what you are looking forward to, but they happen,” Bayne said.

At one point, Bayne said, he had 16 needles in his body at once, along with shock pads and “things I didn’t even know existed.”

But in the end, doctors could not pinpoint the cause of his illness.

“It’s not terminal or anything like that,” Bayne said. “I head somebody say cancer or leukemia but those aren’t words I heard in the hospital. They ruled out all those things.

“I am hoping it was a temporary inflammation that caused it all and it has been going away, as they said from day one. It should be a four-week deal and then go away.”

It’s now gone away long enough for Bayne to return to racing less than a week after the Coca-Cola 600. Hopefully he’s missed his last races of the season because of any mysterious malady.

Bayne was, career-wise, as high as any racer could be after his Daytona win. Then he had to sit out for several weeks through no fault of his own.

Under those circumstances, it could be understood if any competitor said, “Why me?”

Bayne never said that. Instead, he philosophized and reasoned that what has happened has, in fact, helped him be a better man.

“This year is just helping me figure out what I’m made of,” Bayne said. “If you can handle the biggest high you can have and then the lowest bottom, the rest of the year should be easy from here.

“I didn’t want to go from the top to the bottom but luckily I do have my faith and that’s what defines me. If I was defined by anything else I’d be in trouble right now.

“I just am thankful for the ups and downs and everything that has helped me find out what I’m made of and who is there to support me.”

Credit maturity, faith or both – Trevor Bayne expresses wisdom far beyond his age.

 

Kenseth Put A Different Style To Good Use

A few ruminations after the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:

** Matt Kenseth turned in what I thought was a very un-Kenseth like performance in the 500-mile race on the 1.5-mile Texas track.

No, it wasn’t that he won the race; rather, it was the style with which he did it.

I’ll admit I am one of many who have compared Kenseth’s driving style to that of David Pearson, winner of 105 races and now a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Pearson seemed to always save his car until the final portion of a race and then pounce with a rush to the front and the checkered flag.

He was sly and cunning. Both traits contributed to his nickname, “The Silver Fox.”

During his years with the Wood Brothers, Pearson was particularly effective in the late stages of a race. He might have been a calculating, deliberate driver, but many observers felt he was simply keeping his Woods Mercury reigned in until the time was right.

When Pearson bolted into the lead many of us figured he’d simply unleashed the power his car had all along.

“Looks like the Woods made that magic chassis change,” we’d say with eyebrows raised.

From all appearances over the years, Kenseth has seemed as deliberate as Pearson.

Not so at Texas. The Roush Fenway Racing driver dominated the field, leading 169 of 334 laps en route to an easy victory – the 19th of his career – in which he finished 8.34 seconds ahead of Clint Bowyer.

Kenseth looked more like the ultra-aggressive Cale Yarborough than Pearson.

There was, he said, a reason for that.

“We had such good track position all night we never really got behind which was a huge advantage for us,” Kenseth said. “I think it would have been a lot tougher for us to come from behind.

“More times than not the fastest car wins the race and that’s what happened tonight. We knew that if we kept the car up front it would be hard for anybody to beat us.”

So that’s exactly what Kenseth did – and he did it so well the anticipated first night race at Texas was a yawner.

It was, to say the least, a very timely victory for Kenseth. It snapped a 76-race losing streak. He hadn’t won since February of 2009, when he won at Auto Club Speedway, which came on the heels of his Daytona 500 victory.

Kenseth is now third in the point standings.

 

** Kenseth’s victory capped an excellent race for Roush Fenway. All four of its drivers finished among the top 10.

Kenseth won, of course, while Carl Edwards was third. Greg Biffle took fourth and David Ragan finished seventh – which rebuked the notion that his pole victory was a fluke.

It was a good weekend at Texas for Ford. The night before Kenseth’s victory, Edwards won the Nationwide Series race, which gave Mustang its first victory ever in a NASCAR-sanctioned race.

Speaking of Edwards, he had uncomfortable race due to a stomach ailment. After the race he said it might have been caused by something his mother cooked and he ate.

“I felt little bad this morning,” Edwards said. “I felt better once the race started but then got a little sick again for a minute.

“But a good run like I had makes you feel great.”

Edwards fits the competitive mold of a stock car driver. I’ve never known one to seek relief because he felt sick. He had to be VERY sick.

 

** A few drivers who have received notice for surprisingly good performances in 2011 gained even more notoriety, I think, after Texas.

Paul Menard, whom many have said has found competitiveness at Richard Childress Racing, finished fifth.

Richard Petty Motorsports’ Marcos Ambrose finished sixth and many have already said he’s getting the hang of it all.

And, again, there’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. With ninth place he compiled yet another top-10 finish and moved up to sixth place in points.

Meanwhile, others find themselves, again surprisingly, struggling. They include Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano.

 

Bayne May Become NASCAR’s Next “Pied Piper”

Trevor Bayne could be just the tonic NASCAR needs.

And, believe me, the sanctioning body is thinking the same thing.

Bayne’s victory in the Daytona 500 was stunning and heartwarming. He won in only his second Sprint Cup start and became, at 20, the second-youngest driver ever to win on NASCAR’s premier circuit.

His victory captured nationwide media attention and was accomplished in front of a much larger television audience than saw last year’s 500.

All of this, certainly, is good for NASCAR. But perhaps Bayne can do more.

One thing NASCAR needs to do is recapture the youth market. As I understand it, the sport’s appeal in the 18-34 demographic has slipped.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in marketing, but I don’t think it takes one to figure out that should NASCAR successfully cultivate young fans, it has the opportunity keep them for life. That’s the goal of every professional sport.

Bayne could be just the right man for the job.

Yes, Joey Logano has already laid the groundwork. He was 19 when he won at New Hampshire in 2009 and remains the youngest driver to win a Cup race.

His presence in NASCAR, with Joe Gibbs Racing, is now well-established and I have to think he’s admired and followed by younger fans. Certainly he has been a magnet for them – and that’s helped NASCAR.

Logano is already a star and could well become much more in the future. I have to think he appeals to young people. But when compared to Bayne, at least for now, there is a big difference:

Bayne unexpectedly won the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s most prestigious race, earned vast media attention and thus gained quick, wide notoriety. That is the big difference at this point.

At 20, Bayne, like Logano, is a catalyst to snare the market NASCAR wants. I suspect it wouldn’t be hard for young people to identify with Bayne as they may have with Logano. Bayne is personable, unassuming, innocent, good looking and a young man of faith. He’s the latest new and fresh addition to the NASCAR world.

And he’s already attracted a wealth of positive attention for stock car racing with his Daytona 500 victory.

He’s all about racing. It’s all he’s wanted to do. We’ve already read stories about how he was racing go-karts at age five and moved alone from his home in Knoxville, Tenn., to Mooresville, N.C., at age 15 to pursue a career.

His father Rocky traveled to Mooresville often to be with his son, who had a job driving for a lower-tier circuit for Dale Earnhardt Inc. His crew chief drove him to work and back until Bayne got his driver’s license.

Bayne quit school but got his GED diploma online.

Seems to me that all of this is a positive example of how a young person’s dedication, and the family sacrifice, is the way to reach his or her goals.

And Bayne, like Logano, personifies it. Coupled with Bayne’s other attributes – and a Daytona 500 victory – NASCAR has a near-perfect link to the youth market.

I think others realize that. I wouldn’t be surprised if, because of what he’s done, Bayne may receive endorsement offers from companies that provide products targeted for young people. It could happen.

Obviously, all would work best for NASCAR if Bayne’s Cup career is sustained and he, at the least, has the opportunity to experience more success.

Bayne elected to run for the Nationwide Series championship because he was scheduled to run in only 17 Cup races, with Wood Brothers Racing, to which he was loaned out by Roush Fenway Racing.

However, we already know that NASCAR, which has declared a driver can only run for one title in its top three series, has told Bayne he can change his mind and compete for the Cup title. He still gets no points for this 500 victory, but the win itself will count toward a run for The Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Which means the Woods are going to have to compete on the full Cup schedule, something the team hasn’t done since 2008, for Bayne to have any chance at a top 20 spot in points before the Chase cutoff.

It’s the Woods goal to run a full schedule. But that will require sponsorship, more than has been given them from Ford, which, along with technology from Roush Fenway, has helped the team raise the bar.

It will also require cooperation from Roush Fenway, which has signed Bayne to a Nationwide deal but has yet to acquire sponsorship.

If the Woods did get funding for a full ride for Bayne I doubt Roush Fenway would stand in the way – at least for this season.

Wood Brothers co-owner Eddie Wood said a couple of days ago that he’s already received text messages from potential sponsors and he’ll likely get more.

I think it would be ideal if Bayne and the Woods got the opportunity to make a run at the Chase. Not only would it allow them the chance for more success, it would also grant Bayne more exposure.

And more exposure would certainly benefit NASCAR in its quest for a market it covets – and needs.

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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