By admin | February 18, 2009
By Richard Allen
The Daytona 500 is in the history books and Matt Kenseth was the winner. So, what did learn from the ‘Great American Race’?
The Daytona 500 is the biggest race on the schedule, but that schedule includes 35 other races. Very few of those other races have any relation to this past Sunday’s event.
Daytona International Speedway is a 2.5 mile behemoth. Only one other track, Talladega, rivals it in size. Because of the size of those two tracks and the excessive speeds that could be generated on each, cars are required to use horsepower robbing restrictor plates. Only four races all season are contested with restrictor plates, so little can be gained from what happened in the season’s first race.
A driver who does well in this race has no guarantee of success throughout the rest of 2009. As an example, Ryan Newman won the Daytona 500 last year and went on to record only one other Top 5 finish. He missed out on the Chase for the Championship playoff and eventually left his team at the end of the season.
From a competition standpoint, Kenseth is not necessarily assured of future race wins, a championship or any other success at all.
Another thing to consider in regard to this race is that everyone wants to compete in it, and thus, will make every effort to do so. As a result well over 50 cars attempted to qualify for the ‘Super Bowl of stock car racing’. With the lagging economy and the drop off in sponsorships, many believe there will be several races run this year with less than a full field of 43 cars.
Just because so many showed up in Daytona does not mean those concerns were unfounded. Special efforts, risks and sacrifices will be made to get into this race that will not be made to make races in Pocono, New Hampshire or other less prestigious events.
Daytona also boasted a full grandstand. Again, the economy will not allow this to be the norm throughout 2009. Even for the biggest race of the year tickets had to be discounted to record a sell out.
Strange as it may seem, little can be gained from the Daytona 500 that can be applied to the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, despite the fact that it is the most important race in the sport.
The Daytona 500 is a huge event in the world of stock car racing but this race stands very much apart from every other race in NASCAR. The reality of the situation is that drivers, teams, and everyone else involved in racing comes out of this event thinking, “The Daytona 500 is over, now what do we do?”
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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