By admin | December 9, 2012
By Richard Allen
It’s not hard to believe that the most remembered moment of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season came from the Daytona 500. After all, it’s the biggest race on the schedule, with the biggest build up and the biggest paycheck. What is hard to believe is that the most memorable moments of that race centered around an event that had nothing to do with the actually racing on the track.
During a caution period just after the halfway mark of the race, Juan Pablo Montoya roared down the back stretch of the giant 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway as he attempted to catch up with the field after having stayed on pit road for an extended period of time while his crew made repairs to his already damaged Chevrolet. Suddenly, the car veered out of control and slid sideways into a jet dryer that had been brought onto the track by NASCAR officials to blow away debris from the racing surface.
The result of the crash between the race-car and the jet engine was a very predictable explosion and fire. Fortunately, neither Montoya nor the driver of the truck pulling the jet engine was hurt. However, the same could not be said for the #42 race-car, the jet dryer or the track itself.
The explosion and fire were made more spectacular due to the fact that the incident took place in the dark of night. For the first time in its history, dating back to 1959, the Daytona 500 had been postponed from its originally scheduled date to the following day by weather. With rain still looming in the area early on Monday, NASCAR eventually decided to run the race in prime time that evening.
The resulting red flag due to the burning inferno at the entrance of turn three gave rise to another oddity the 2012 version of “The Great American Race” would come to be known for. Driver Brad Keselowski, for whatever reason, had brought his cell phone with him inside his racecar. And as the cars sat idle on the backstretch after having been forced to stop because of the dangers involved with the burning jet engine, the driver began to tweet pictures and messages to his Twitter followers.
With a national television audience watching, Keselowski essentially became the story as his messages made it onto the Fox television broadcast. Needless to say, @Keselowski became a Twitter hero and his number of followers soared during the unexpected down time.
Prior to the start of the event, much coverage had been dedicated to the fact that heavily publicized female driver Danica Patrick would be making her first ever start in the Daytona 500. Unfortunately for her and several other stars, including Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, the night would end very early as a crash damaged their cars just after the completion of the race’s first lap.
In the end, Matt Kenseth went on to win the race after the jet dryer and the damaged track were taken care of. A race with as much as had happened as this one could not end without some degree of controversy. And that proved to be the case in Daytona.
Kenseth’s teammate, Greg Biffle, did not make enough of an effort to get around the leader according to some fans. In particular, supporters of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who was running 3rd behind the two Fords, were riled by what they perceived as a “team orders” finish by the Roush Fenway Racing pilots.
Junior eventually got around Biffle for 2nd but was unable to catch Kenseth on the final lap.
It speaks volumes about the racing that would occur later in the season when the most memorable moments of the year took place during the first race on the schedule and those memorable moments involved a burning jet engine and a driver using his cell phone during a red flag period.
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