Quick Hits on Daytona and Atlanta
Someone recently asked why I don't write recaps of NASCAR Cup races. The answer is, I just never considered it. After all, there are countless professional outlets who do a great job of covering the schedule. As the conversation progressed, this person said they enjoy a lot of the tweets I share immediately after races; that they often touch on different angles or emotions.
So, I began to think I should give it a try. I'm not going to give you a blow by blow account of the race you watched, but what I will attempt to do is expand on thoughts that Twitter doesn't allow room for. I realize we're moving toward the third race of the season but it wouldn't feel right to try this with the Las Vegas race without quickly reviewing some points about Daytona and Atlanta, so here goes.
I believe I'm a rare breed of fan when it comes to restrictor plate races. Some people despise them and others like them, often because of the carnage. I enjoy them with the hope that there will be no major incidents. This year's Daytona 500 had some of both. It trended toward a clean race until the late stages. I enjoyed it up to that point. I also enjoyed seeing a lot of people proven wrong. The critics cried loudly all week that they "knew" it would be a boring race filled with single file driving. It was not, it was exciting and kept fans on their edge of their seats.
It was great to see a sold out crowd on a sunny Florida day where weather wasn't a negative factor. I loved seeing Matt DiBenedetto lead the most laps but it was a real shame he got taken out due to someone else's error. The tremendous amount of positive publicity generated by Corey LaJoie's Old Spice scheme was good to see. Even better was the fact that Old Spice enjoyed it enough to add the Atlanta race.
Like him or not, Denny Hamlin winning his second 500 gave the sport a great story considering the recent death of J.D. Gibbs, his influence in the team signing Hamlin and the fact that 11 was the number J.D. used. NASCAR also received some new looks from folks thanks to the presence and influence of Barstool Sports president David Portnoy.
There was anticipation about Atlanta in two regards. First were concerns about the weather. The days leading up to the race weren't the best and there a question of what Sunday would bring. Secondly, what kind of racing would we see with part of the new rules package in play.
The weather, of course, was not a factor. The racing was good but judging by social media, many either forgot the new package wouldn't be unveiled in its entirety until Vegas or they didn't know because there sure was a lot of screaming at the sky about it. Restarts were exciting and tire wear became an issue. I thought that was a great line to pay attention to but some must not have realized tires would wear down so quickly on an old surface.
Tires played an unfortunate role in B.J. McLeod's race. He was involved in a pit road crash with Ryan Preece. Without knowing McLeod had a tire going down, the FOX booth was highly critical of him. On cue, the social media "experts" followed that lead. To his credit, Mike Joy took back his criticism on Monday but not surprisingly, the keyboard racers didn't care.
For the second week in a row the winner's story was a good one. Brad Keselowski was battling sickness that weekend to the point that he skipped the Xfinity Race on Saturday. To see him win while still sick was a good story but him carrying the American flag after the race was an even better one.
The biggest negative was Martin Truex, Jr's reaction to being raced by the lapped car of Ricky Stenhouse. Fairly or not, Stenhouse has taken a lot of heat from fans so Martin's comments added fuel to that fire. Here's the bottom line: If NASCAR thinks a lapped car needs to move over, they'll throw the flag for that. Otherwise, if your car is as strong as Truex claimed his was, pass the guy! Whether he knows it or not, Truex is beginning to sound more and more like a prima donna. It's hard to believe we have a former series champion complaining about someone racing him hard.
That's how I saw the first two. Now it's on to Las Vegas. If I can tolerate the gambling clichés and references by the broadcast crews, I'll share thoughts on this race early next week. Do you want to take that bet?