Hold on a minute, NASCAR fans.
Admittely, the Daytona 500 was a snoozer, but it’s way too early to cast judgement on the new Gen-6 race car in the Sprint Cup Series.
There was a lack of passing, but most of that was another issue entirely. Unfortunately, the strategy for most drivers at Daytona and Talladega seems to be ride around for the majority of the race and make a charge at the end.
Some drivers even seem unwilling to make the charge at the end, hoping to come out of the race with a good finish and looking at the big picture.
News flash — It is the Daytona 500, the single biggest race of the year, the self-proclaimed “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing.”
The way some drivers approached this year’s 500 was shameful according to the comments posted by many race fans.
At some point, NASCAR may have to seriously consider revamping its point system altogether and giving bonus points for leading a certain number of laps during a race.
Not just the standard one bonus point for leading a lap and another point for leading the most laps. It may get to a point where you get a bonus point for every three laps you lead at a superspeedway, every five laps you lead at an intermediate track and every 10 laps you lead at a short track.
It might be the only incentive to keep drivers in the lead pack from racing single-file until the end of the race.
All that said, there does seem to be more work needed on the Gen-6 car as far as passing on the plate tracks. It was definitely harder to pass throughout the week from the Sprint Unlimited to the Budweiser Duels to the Daytona 500, or as some fans have disparagingly referred to it as the “Danica 500.”
Danica Patrick winning the pole, leading a lap in the race and racing to an eighth-place finish added up to a huge story. Certainly the television networks want to capitalize on the moment, but I truly felt Fox went overboard on the Danica storyline.
That’s not to take away from any of her accomplishments which included becoming the 13th driver to lead a lap at both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, putting her in such company as Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Bobby Allison, Johnny Rutherford and Tim Richmond.
Every sport promotes its stars, sometimes to the point of nausea whether it’s the NFL with Brady and Manning, the NBA with Kobe and LeBron, or golf with Tiger and Phil.
NASCAR has been accused of it as well with Dale Jr., but I never remember anything to the extent of Sunday’s race.
I understand that Danica brings in a huge crossover audience and it was a historic day. As pointed out before, she exceeded the expectations of many.
Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap in a NASCAR race under green and deserves all the accolades heaped upon her. She had a very fast car, stayed in the lead pack all day, and never fell outside the top 10 other than caution periods.
However, the biggest storyline was still that Jimmie Johnson, won his second Daytona 500, adding another chapter to a career which has produced 61 Sprint Cup wins and five championships.
As for the Gen-6 car, this week will be a better test at Phoenix, but the greater tests with come at Las Vegas and the other intermediate tracks. The racing at Bristol is still a big unknown, the first race with the new car on a short track, one which produced a wild race last August.
The biggest storyline from a news standpoint coming out of Daytona is fan safety after a crash at the end of Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.
Kyle Larson’s car was destroyed in the accident and the debris injured 28 spectators.
The odds are against anything so severe happening at Bristol Motor Speedway, although debris from a car in a 2005 Hooters Pro Cup race did result in the injuries of two fans.
There is always a risk in auto racing for all involved, including the fans. Three years ago, a spectator was struck and killed by a tire at the Phoenix NHRA drag race, and three people were killed in 1999 when tire debris launched into the grandstands during an Indy Car crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
According to a study by the Charlotte Observer, there were 46 spectator deaths at motorsports events from 1990-2010, although none happened at NASCAR events.
There have been several safety measures over the years from tire tethers and improved catchfences, but racing cars at speeds in excess of 100 mph and in some cases, 200 and 300 mph will always create dangerous situations.
The THOR United States Mega Series gets underway this weekend at Muddy Creek Raceway in Blountville.
One of the biggest events of the year at the motocross track, it’s expected to attract riders from almost every state east of the Mississippi River. It is one of the elite AMA Pro-Am events and pays points to expert riders before they can get their pro license.
Action begins on Friday with racing through Sunday.