Another Daytona 500 has come and gone…another two weeks of anticipation and waiting for what we call the biggest race of the season…the Great American Race, and now it’s over, Denny Hamlin wins with a last lap pass, and Joe Gibbs Racing shows that it’s probably going to be a plate track powerhouse this season.
So I understand that some folks out there aren’t the biggest fans of the racing we saw on Sunday at the 58th running of the Daytona 500. That’s understandable. You have fans that love plate racing, some could take it or leave it, some tolerate it, some do not like it, and some just flat out detest it. With a mixture like that, it’s not hard to understand the old line that you can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Completely understandable.
Or is it?
Well, come on kids, think about it. It was the Daytona 500! It was the culmination of the first real NASCAR Race Weekend we have had since November of last year. I for one missed it, but I always do over the off-season. True, at the end of each season I am ready for a bit of a break, which I get, but I’m sure I don’t need THAT much of a break. I could do with a month…maybe 6 weeks, but with the schedule we have now, when February rolls around and the NFL season has been put to bed, I’m ready to go racing.
I was actually a little disappointed in the lack of coverage, at least of what I saw during my six hours of viewing, of the completion and finished product that is “Daytona Rising.” I know it was addressed, but I feel like it could have been more. I do wish they would stop calling it a stadium, though. Bristol is a stadium. Bowman Gray actually IS a stadium. Whatever they want to do I guess is okay…it’s just words.
The “Racing Product,” as it has become known, I thought was decent. Sure, there were long periods of one car out front for a while, but there was plenty of jockeying for position in the subsequent ranks. Don’t believe me? Didn’t see it? If you recorded the race and still have the playback available, watch the race at X2 or X3 speed, and watch how often the cars in the top-o’-the-screen display change position. Sometimes it was like watching popcorn pop…but hey, that’s just my opinion and we all know about those.
Can we stop with the grid walk? It’s not really entertaining and serves no real purpose.
During the race I flashed back to “Star Wars: A New Hope.” I know, strange segue, but hang with me. If you’re familiar with the original holy trilogy, you’ll appreciate this, if not, hang tight and we’ll return right after these messages.
In the movie, there is a point where in order to get Princess Leia to tell the Empire where the hidden Rebel base is located, they threaten to destroy her home planet of Alderaan. (Her birth planet was Mustafar, but I suppose that’s like arguing whether Jeff Gordon’s home state is California or Indiana.) Anyway, she tells them where the base is. Well, not really…she lies and gives them the wrong location of Dantooine. The Empire decides, “Ehhh…what the heck…blow it up anyway.” So the Death Star moves into position and the guys with the funny hats pull down those levers that make the “boooooooo” noise, and green lasers come out of the Death Star and converge on each other and create one great big green laser, which shoots across the galaxy and destroys everything Princess Leia knew as a child. Now, back on the Millennium Falcon, which I have heard can make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, Obi-Wan Kenobi, so strong with the Force, almost fell down and had to sit, weakened by a major loss. He was training our young hero, Luke Skywalker, on the ways of the force when he was interrupted by this tragedy. Luke, feeling something was amiss with his mentor, asked what was wrong. Old Obi-Wan, so concerned, responded with this about the destruction of Alderaan:
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force,” he said. “As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”
How odd was it that during this year’s Daytona 500, I felt exactly the same way. And it was right about at this point…
If you were watching the broadcast on TV, you may have seen the fellow bashing his Dale Jr. hat into the seatback in front of him. Careful, buddy…those are new seats. Why shouldn’t Earnhardt Jr. fans be disappointed, or even upset? The Son of Seven Time has proven that he is a force to deal with on the plate tracks, and he showed that this event was no different as he won his qualifying race earlier in the week. Fear not, Earnhardt fans. Your favorite driver is in a place he may have never been before; and that’s comfortable in the car with a crew chief that gets him and much as he gets his crew chief.
It was good to see Brian Vickers back in the race this week, even if it was for one race and the outcome was not really what was desired.
And then there’s Chase Elliott. History maker, pole sitter, lap leader…crown wearer? Shoe filler? NASCAR fans have done again what they always do, and that is bestow upon a young driver the mantle of “The Next (Insert Great Driver Name Here.” Let me fill us all in on a little secret. He’s not the next Dale Earnhardt, he’s not the next Bill Elliott, and he’s not the next Jeff Gordon, Richard Petty, Cole Whitt or Ryan Preece. Who he really is, is the first Chase Elliott. Can we let him be that before we turn him into someone else?
Kids, those are my thoughts on this year’s 500. You may like it, you may not, but for me, I thought the Daytona 500 was…exactly what it is supposed to be, and that is a nice warm welcome back into a new season of NASCAR racing. It felt like a nice hug from an old friend.