Rain on the Firecracker 400 ~ No Surprise
I bid you welcome gentle readers and our usual warm greeting goes out to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR on this warm but iffy day in the hills of North Georgia. For the few that live under rocks somewhere, the last race was sort of just that… the last Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Tradition? We don’t need no steenkin’ tradition! I do believe that’s pretty much what they told us when ripping the Southern 500 out of Darlington and following the direction of “Go West!” It took them YEARS to figure out that it belonged right where it started… and that the track in Fontana never needed a second race, and a good case could be made for the first one as well.
Apparently this is more about the track in Indy… the big one, not the Lucas Oil short track across town. Racing on that track has become the biggest Riches to Rags story in the history of stock car racing. Sure, there was a lot of hype surrounding the track, which dates back to 1909. We’ve seen and read all about the racing history in which the track is steeped. Thousands of books have been written about the Indianapolis 500 and the pomp and circumstance that accompany it yearly. It only took us about half of the 25 years we’ve gone there to figure out that none of that is OUR history! It’s all about Open Wheel racing, and the truth, cold and hard as it might be, is that the huge platter-flat track produces horrible results when confronted by cars that weigh better than a ton-and-a-half.
Anyway, that’s where our noble warriors will race come next 4th of July, while Daytona moves to late August and becomes the final race of the “Regular season.” (You all know I hate that term. A season, to me, is 36 races, and he who gets the most points wins!) It’s scorching hot in both places and on both dates. I seriously doubt holding the Indy race on the Independence Day holiday… or closest weekend to it, will encourage any noticeable swell in track attendance, and will do nothing to entice folks at home to tune in for some of the worst racing on any circuit. It’s no one’s fault. The track is just too dang flat for the behemoths we race to corner well… or at all in some cases.
It’s only Tuesday as I begin to set thoughts on the computer screen, and already the racing news has presented untold articles and mentions of the ending… or lack of one in the last Daytona Firecracker. We have a new winner in the Cup Series and he drives for a first-year team. According to too many of you, that isn’t supposed to happen. Well, it did and I thought it was very special. I’ve watched Justin Haley race in the lesser series, and at a couple of road courses. He’s a dedicated youngster and a darn good driver. If indeed someone must shoulder blame for the strange ending to the race, pile it all on NASCAR. They have broad shoulders and can handle all you bring. Weather had been iffy at best, the entire race. NASCAR should have considered the summer weather patterns on the Florida Peninsula before moving the Firecracker from a reasonable morning start at 10:00 or 11:00 AM to a night race.
Big Bill knew what he was doing. His descendants, not so much.
The Firecracker started life as a 250-mile race in 1959, but a few years later, in 1963 it went to 400-miles. It ran on the 4th of July through 1987, then fell prey to the long-weekend wishes of the spoiled fans. The move to Saturday night was inspired in 1998, when forest fires precluded anyone going to Florida in July. The race was postponed and ran on Saturday night, October 17, 1998. It was the first race under the lights at Daytona. No rain fell… because it was October! In July, rain is almost a guarantee from mid-afternoon to late evening.
NASCAR fans are never at a loss for words, especially when there is anything they think it’s fair to complain about. Admittedly, the latter part of the race was strange at best, but it really wasn’t NASCAR’s fault and it certainly wasn’t Justin Haley’s fault… or his crew chief’s either. Here’s what went down…
Austin Dillon was in the lead, which was being threatened by Clint Bowyer in a faster car. We’ve all seen that movie a thousand times or more. Two vehicles cannot occupy the same space, especially when traveling at speeds of circa 200 miles per hour. Bowyer moves to pass on the low side. Dillon says he’ll have none of that; drives directly to the bottom lane and across, through or over Bowyer’s car in the bargain. Being that it’s Daytona, two cars seldom if ever wreck alone, so predictably, we had the “Big One.” It took some time to clean up the mess and remove the carcasses from the track, so after 15 miles of pace-car speed, at lap 126 NASCAR gave the “One to go” signal.
Leader Kurt Busch and others hit the pits, but not everyone followed them. The first in line then became Justin Haley, whose crew chief took a gamble on threatening weather and won. Well before the next lap, there was a lightning strike that could be seen from the track and on TV. It was real, and NASCAR has crystal clear ways to handle lightning in the area… stemming from the death of a fan at Pocono some years ago. They failed to clear the track and grandstands in a “timely fashion” and paid mega-bucks to the survivors of the person killed, even though at the time he was standing right at his car in the parking lot. Most sports have a policy of stopping play at the appearance of lightning… because people of sound thinking know that it can and often does kill folks. After a conversation with someone at the Weather Service, I learned there is no set time for a sporting event to wait after a strike. Some wait 10, 15 or 30 minutes before returning to play. NASCAR dictates the 30-minute wait, so we at home were treated to reruns of the pre-race stuff we’d seen earlier. With the 30 minutes almost done, there is another flash of lightning. On the heels of that most unwelcome sight, the heavens opened and the rain came down. The 2.5-mile track was lost almost at once and the decision was made to call the race 33 laps short of full distance.
Apparently many folks weren’t too happy about all that. Certainly Kurt Busch was understandably upset, having been told the race was restarting, only to emerge from the pits with a full tank of gas and nowhere to go. It was back to the pits and there the race ended. Your winner was and is Justin Haley. For anyone worried about your stupid playoffs, Justin is not eligible for Cup points, so keep pulling for your guy, but for goodness sake, don’t hold it against the youngster. The leader at race’s end is the winner. He and his Spire Motorsports team were legally entered in the race and whatever finishing position they might attain goes in the record books as official. That position just happened to be first. I don’t think you can make any sort of convincing argument why Justin should NOT be the winner… and messing up your Fantasy picks doesn’t qualify as a reason!
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout and I found another collection of hits from the 1950s. Someone was nice enough to add the titles and artists, which didn’t come with it in the beginning. He got most, and I filled in what he missed. There’s some really good stuff on this one, and a couple of clunkers, I guess to keep folks on their toes. Please enjoy at your leisure…
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!