I came into the bud shootout just like another red blooded race
fan, angry and a little bit confused. Why would you take a race
that has honored the pole winners since its inception and turn
it into what exactly? Taking the top-6 cars from each
manufacturer seemed pointless. On the Chevy and Ford side you’d
get super competitive drivers from Roush, RCR, and Hendrick. The
Dodge and Toyota side looked laughable. The reason for this
insanity? Budweiser wanted to differentiate itself from the Pole
award which was taken over by competitor Coors Light as the
beginning of last season. Daytona, scared to death about losing
its Budweiser sponsor money agreed to the ridiculous idea of the
Then Green flag dropped and all that went away. The shootout was
riveting. It was 75 laps of nonstop short track ‘esc action that
saw a record number of lead changes and cautions. Once again
“Happy “ Harvick brought the #29 Chevy to Victory lane at
Daytona. Harvick survived 8 cautions, and damage from his own
brush with the wall to squirt by Jamie McMurray in the final
turn before Caution came for a multi car another wreck.
If this is any indication of things to go, we will have a great
race Sunday as well as great racing at the remaining plate
races. The COT is far from broken in. It will take several
seasons for teams to get the same handle on it that they had on
the old style car. However, one place where the COT is a perfect
fit is plate racing. The car’s boxy body punches a bigger hole
in the air creating better drafting, and the matching bumpers
let drivers hammer on each other on the straight-aways without
fear spinning the guy in front of you. That may be a downside at
a place like Martinsville or Bristol, but at Daytona and
Talladega its key to a great show.
Adding to the COT effect, the two plate tracks each have their
own unique style. The old rough surface at Daytona has replaced
Darlington as the tour’s most beloved beat up track. When asked
if Daytona should be repaved, runner-up McMurray said heck no.
No where else can you see cars slam into each other and bump up
and down at 200 mph like they do in ‘Tona. At Talladega we have
the direct opposite, a newly paved track that provides just as
exciting non-stop 3 wide (sometimes 4 wide) action. So while the
COT may yet to win us over on the short tracks and
intermediates, there will still be at least 4 races this year
that we know will keep us awake.
Winner Kevin Harvick also credited NASCAR for eliminating
testing, saying that the lack of testing helped create an
atmosphere of increased enthusiasm in the garage. Crew members
are fresh, not having been overworked during pre-season thunder,
and drivers are even more excited as it’s been even longer since
they’ve been in a race. Harvick even went as far as to suggest
canceling testing permanently.
In other news, Martin Truex Jr. got his second career cup series
pole, and will start the 500 on the front row alongside 50 year
old Mark Martin. Bill Elliot, Tony Stewart, and Travis Kvapil
locked into the show via qualifying. Terry Labonte will get the
Past champions provisional if needed.
NASCAR is finally back, and I’m excited as I’ve ever been for
the 500, and for at least one day a week we can put our troubles
on the back burner and relax to the sound of 35000 horses
fighting for the win.
-Greg "theshackle" Berkowitz