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Monday, February 20, 2012

Bud Shootout did not disappoint

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Kurt Busch, ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Not only did the Bud Shootout not disappoint, but it probably breathed new life into NASCAR's 2012 season.

For anyone who didn't watch the Bud Shootout, you really missed something. Hurry over to NASCAR.com and catch the highlights, or watch the video of the entire race. It is well worth your time.

The race was certainly a nail biter from start to finish.

For me, the most memorable part involved two incredible saves by Kyle Busch. Ordinarily what occurred on the track would have resulted in the "big one," except that Busch saved it; not once, but twice. He did an incredible job and has certainly earned my respect for his driving ability.

Sparks flew as his car was literally sideways, seemingly taking on a life of its own, as it hurled itself back and forth between the racing surface and the apron. Then, as it was completely sideways, what seemed impossible, Busch saved it and got it headed in the right direction. He didn't even lose too many spots as he fought his way back up to draft with Tony Stewart. That same kind of driving allowed him to finish the race just inches ahead of Stewart. It was amazing--almost as amazing as how Stewart won five of the ten final  races that secured him the 2011 Championship title.

The wrecks were nothing short of spectacular. Personally my heart was in my throat. I admit being more than a little nervous as the cameras panned in on the cars wobbling perilously close to one another at such breakneck speeds. Those camera angles illustrate just how challenging it would be to drive a race car.

Needless to say Saturday night saw plenty of on-track wrecking action,. It was scary to watch Kevin Harvick's flaming race car unable to stop because he had no brakes. The worst though was when Jeff Gordon's car, was lifted by several others, causing it to do a pirouette several times only to land upside down on its roof. Thankfully Gordon was okay. And so were all the other drivers involved in one melee or another. There was not one "big one" but several. This was only 75 miles with 25 drivers. I shudder to think of what will happen on Sunday with 43 drivers in 500 miles. I can just about guarantee it will be a wreckfest.

Some of the wrecks were due to the changes made by NASCAR this year, with the hope of putting an end to the much maligned tandem racing. Both fans and drivers alike felt the two-car draft racing was boring. Saturday night, the tandem racing was minimized in favor of pack racing, which was their intent.

In accomplishing their goal however, another problem surfaced. In changing the size of the spoiler, the side fin, and other rule changes, caused it to be really easy to turn a car in front around simply by touching the left bumper. It was evident not just during the race but in practice when Tony Stewart got into Kurt Busch.

One other change this year, is that drivers are no longer able to communicate with one another on the track. Previously, if a driver changed his line, he could warn the driver behind him. He could also communicate if a driver is slow in front. That is no longer the case and it seems to have added to the chaos.

The racing season has begun and we now look forward to the biggest race of the year--the Daytona 500--now just days away. I'm a little on edge, but excited just the same.

Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle will start on the front row. The remaining field will be set by the Duels races on Thursday. Those two races promise to be exciting as well. It is all in preparation for Sunday, the day we have all been waiting for, probably since the last Great American Race.