New Way Of Racing Produces Improbable Daytona 500

Charlotte, NC (February 21, 2011) – “If I tried to put it into words, I
wouldn’t be doing it any justice, that’s for sure.”

Trevor Bayne, the winner of Sunday’s Daytona 500, struggled to find the
right words to describe one of the most incredible, insane and improbable
events in the history of Daytona International Speedway.

Bayne’s win was just the cherry on top of a Sunday that featured a
mind-boggling, warp-speed, tandem-style dance on the all-new Daytona racing
surface. Thanks to the ultra-sticky, super-smooth ribbon of asphalt, drivers
could actually run with their foot on the floor in nose-to-tail formation
lap after lap – two- and three-wide much of the time.
You’re kidding me, right?

Suddenly, we had new ways of passing and fresh tactics never seen at Daytona
before. New terminology like ‘disengaging’ were suddenly NASCAR speak.
Listening to Kyle Busch ‘coach’ Joey Logano in Saturday’s Nationwide race as
to how to more efficiently make the ‘swap’ from leading to pushing was

Crazy racing, slingshotting at wicked closing rates, swapping positions lap
after lap. This was a brave new world – we’ve never seen anything like this

Having several radios in your car to communicate with the competition and
even more incredibly – to get guidance from their spotter – was also a
NASCAR first Sunday and broke new ground as to how teams may
communicate/race from this event forward.

Then, of course, the racing gods also put the fates in play scrambling the
field with a pair of Daytona ‘Big Ones.’ In the first multi-car incident,
the Hendrick Motorsports cars of race favorites Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin
and Jeff Gordon tangoed to a crushing halt together in the Daytona turn four
sod while the second melee with just a handful of laps remaining wiped out
Daytona 500 dreams for Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman.

That left an improbable cast of characters with a chance to make Daytona
history and Bayne – who turned 20 the day before – accommodated by becoming
the event’s youngest winner ever.

Meanwhile, Bayne’s car had a ‘throwback’ style paint job on it with decal
saluting the team’s most illustrious driver, David Pearson. The last time
the Wood Brothers won at Daytona – 1976 with Pearson at the controls. Bayne
later said it was Pearson who gave him the best pre-race advice when he told
him to “keep his nose clean.”

Scary coincidence? Racing Karma? A NASCAR conspiracy to grab the attention
of both the coveted 18-25 youth market and 50-plus ARRP fans with a single
swing of marketing genius?

C’mon, even they aren’t this good. This couldn’t have been a fix.

The odds of Bayne winning the biggest race of the year – in just his second
Sprint Cup Series start – with a team that hadn’t won a 500 in 35 years were
so astronomical that even Vegas didn’t post that action.

In the end, Sunday’s 500 even bookended the lore of the 1979 event – the
last time Daytona International Speedway was repaved. The first-ever
flag-to-flag live television coverage of that race brought NASCAR into the
American lexicon of sports. The racing was fast, furious and the finish
featured an improbable ending with Richard Petty in Victory Lane and the
Allisions – Donnie and Bobby – duking it out with Cale Yarborough in wild
fist fight back in the Turn 3 dirt. All, right there in your living room.
Sunday’s Daytona 500 had it all – except for the fight – and will go down as
one for the ages. Just about any age.

Never Again
In case you’re thinking will this summer’s race at Daytona will produce the
same kind of racing we saw Sunday in the 500, the answer is no. It will be
much hotter in July and the new track surface won’t have as much grip. It
will be much more difficult for car to touch and not spin out. Also, the
hot Florida sun will start to cure the track so it won’t have as much grip
this summer and even less next year for the 500. As they say in the garage,
the new pavement will never again have this much ‘goody’ in it. Throw in
that by the time we get back to Daytona in July, NASCAR will most assuredly
change the rules – maybe yet another restrictor plate or a new nose that
doesn’t match up as well. They’ll have some technical revision that will
change the racing dynamics. After all, it is NASCAR, right? 10-4?
It will also be interesting to see if and how quickly NASCAR addresses the
multiple radio and competitor conversations we saw at Daytona Sunday. Will
teams be able to do this again at Phoenix this week? Why not? To our
knowledge, there is no rule against it. It rode at Daytona, or was that a
one shot deal? Is the genie out of box here?

In our opinion, it is. Sunday’s radio situation opens up a couple of issues
for NASCAR. First, drivers and teams choreographing moves with competitors
over the radio is sure to come under fire with more credibility insinuations
by members of the uninitiated mainstream sports media world. There’s enough
of that already. Also, we’re all for safety, but frankly, as a longtime
NASCAR spotter, I’m not sure how safe this kind of deal is. It’s ingenious
what happened on the radio Sunday, but did this work? Switching spotters and
tracking your vehicle off the other in front or one in tow is crazy. This
has to be looked at pretty hard. FYI – I’m glad I’m retired from spotting.
I’d be damned if I’d be giving my driver over to another spotter on the
final lap of the Daytona 500.

Hopefully, NASCAR will reign in this radio issue quickly.

Up Next
Phoenix for the Cup, Nationwide and Truck divisions this Friday, Saturday
and Sunday. Super and Pro Short Track stockers in Alabama at ‘OPP’ (South
Alabama Speedway) for ‘The Rattler’ Saturday and Sunday. Enjoy.

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