By admin | February 14, 2010
By Richard Allen
As is so often the case, the Daytona 500 proved to be unpredictable and exciting.
The racing was great throughout most of the event. As a matter of fact, there were more different leaders in this race than there had been in any other Daytona 500. The competition was close, and although the race had crashes, there was never a ‘big one’ to occur that collected half the field. And best of all, there was a race to the checkered flag rather than a coast around under yellow to the finish.
As far as the unpredictable part goes, it’s likely that not too many people had eventual winner Jamie McMurray listed as their favorite to take the trophy going into the event. Even though he had won at Daytona before and had won a restrictor plate race last year in Talladega, most may have not counted him among the top choices simply because this was his first run with a new team.
And more, the track itself provided much of the drama during the race. Just after halfway a hole began to appear in the asphalt in turn 2. The race had to be red flagged for an hour and forty minutes while work crews applied a patch. Just about forty laps later, the hole appeared again. Once more, work crews applied a patch which this time held until the finish.
With a race as exciting as this one turned out to be, it is a shame something like a problem with the surface may have caused some people to tune away or even leave the facility. And as far as who was to blame for the situation, there is really no one at fault. The unusually cool, rainy weather this winter in central Florida contributed most to the wearing of the asphalt. (More on the possibility of repaving the track in a later piece.)
Over the off season NASCAR implemented a number of changes that needed to be made. Race start times have been made earlier and more consistent. Unfortunately, the trouble with the track erased the benefit of allowing everyone to be on their way home at a decent hour. But then again, look at how late the race would have finished had it not started until 3:30.
NASCAR opened up the restrictor plates and took away the no bump drafting rule they had instituted last year in Talladega. Also, NASCAR loosened the reins on their normally collared drivers. All of these measures contributed to an outstanding 500 miles of racing on Sunday. The race did turn into the wreck-fest many predicted, but instead, a highly competitive race was the result.
Another thing I personally was glad to see was the decision to allow the race to finish even though there was an accident behind the leaders on the last lap. That applies to both the new multiple green/white/checker policy as well as not throwing the caution at the end until the leaders had crossed the line. I have said for a long time that races should run to the finish if there is trouble on the track behind the leaders at the end. This was not an attempt to let Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to win. It was a right decision to let the race play out to the finish line.
And finally, the race did not disappoint in victory lane. McMurray was a winner who showed real emotion rather than a staged, soda slinging celebration. Tears of joy are a good thing. NASCAR needs more reality and less script and that was what happened in victory lane.
Now, there are a mere 35 more races to go in the Sprint Cup season. The real test as to whether the racing is really going to be better in 2010 begins next week. The competition is almost always good at Daytona because it’s a restrictor plate track and because, well…it’s Daytona. Hopefully, each week can provide what SpeedWeeks provided, without any potholes along the way.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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