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Monday, February 24, 2014

Rain dampened Daytona 500

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Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wins at Daytona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have to give NASCAR credit for hanging in there to run the race on the day it was meant to be, despite the long rain delay. Of course it was a disappointment that the skies refused to clear for so many hours. The race was a tad disappointing for many reasons, though the rain was likely the least of them.

NASCAR just can't help but interfere in racing

I started my Sunday with a bitter taste in my mouth, left over from the Nationwide race. It was a pretty good race until NASCAR's interference.

I refer to the tandem drafting penalty leveled against James Buescher that all but destroyed his momentum as he slowly made his way down pit road. With all the pre-season noise NASCAR made about fairness in assessing penalties and procedures they would follow, that all but went out the window in this judgmental call. they apparently can't help but stick their two-cents worth in the middle of things, refusing to allow racing to follow a natural progression, whereby drivers will do whatever they can to advance. What is wrong with tandem racing anyway? So much has been done to equal the playing field, despite the forgotten goal that THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A RACE! I think NASCAR set a bad precedent by singling out Buescher in a field where he was far from the only driver whose bump draft resulted in a push.

Commentators explained NASCAR's "rule" by saying there had to be light between the two cars. Yet in the next breath they talked about how expertly Kyle Busch was bump drafting because he let up at the last second. Oh please. He was pushing too. Lots of them were pushing. NASCAR has once again, inserted themselves into the actual race, where they don't belong.

Congratulations to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

I'd be much happier about his win if I didn't have to hear about it for two years before it happened.

While I enjoyed watching the genuine joy Dale exhibited at the conclusion of the Daytona 500, I only wish that everyone around him would stop droning on and on about him. It would be nice if his winning this race would end the gushing over him, but I fear it will only be heightened. And that is a shame. Not only do I understand that Dale Jr. has inherited the exposure he receives, but even HE seems to be sick to death of it. I'm not sure that NASCAR needs a poster child--especially one that isn't comfortable in that position.

This race just didn't measure up for me personally

It will be difficult for any race to measure up to what I consider the ideal. I've mentioned this before. To me, there was no better moment than the end to the 2008 Daytona 500 when Ryan Newman crossed the finish line in his #12 Alltel Dodge, giving Roger Penske his first Daytona 500 win. That was a benchmark that will forever be tough to eclipse.

Last night's race was a far cry from that moment, as Newman got wrecked by his own teammate. It was far from the finish I wanted to see.

This was the Daytona 500 though. And, it is always a crap shoot. At least Ryan finished the race. And, his car was fast.

The finish was epic for Earnhardt, and therefore for his fans, of which there are a gazillion, which deems the race a success. As far as Ryan is concerned, I remain hopeful. I like some of the things I've seen. Even though my high anticipation took a slight hit, there was plenty to be proud of in watching Ryan interact with his new team. I do expect good things. There is speed; there is good communication. I like how Richard Childress is a hands-on owner, attending every race and talking to the team on the radio. I liked the interaction between Newman and his team. I have high hopes.

So, all-in-all, I am pleased that the 2014 season has begun. It seems like a very long off-season, as it usually does. But that is behind us. Looking forward, I expect to watch some really good racing in the coming days.
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