What an amazing race on Saturday! These guys went all out and provided a true exhibition show for the fans. I would guess there was over a million dollars in equipment damaged in what turned out to be more of a demolition derby at times then a race. Some things surprised me, some things did not. Let’s get into it…
Pack Racing. Unsurprisingly, NASCAR did their job and changed the rules to eliminate the wildly unpopular two car racing we came to know so well last season. Pack Racing brought more excitement throughout the entire race. I have to say the end of the Daytona and Talladega races were very exciting last season, but the overall races were very boring because of the tandem racing. This year in the Bud Shootout we had excitement during the race and at the end as well with a dramatic victory by Kyle Busch. There were certain dangers involved with these rule changes that brought us Pack Racing as well. The most obvious being that guys were not back into the rush hour style of racing that produces big wrecks involving multiple cars. Another that some fans may not realize is the elimination of the radio communication between drivers during the race. Last year, they were able to talk to each other over a radio which allowed them to tell each other to back off of the bumper or move up or down a lane with each other to avoid wrecks. This was obviously the cause of some of the carnage on Saturday because the drivers were constantly getting in to each other in situations like that. I was most surprised at Jeff Gordon getting in to Kyle Busch’s bumper on the left side in the corner. Jeff has been around a long time and should know better than that. I hope these guys race a bit more carefully when it matters in the 500 to avoid this. Tony Stewart says it best for those wondering which type of racing is best at Daytona, “My point is, this is better than having to sit there and stare at the back of a spoiler for 500 miles and not be able to see where you’re going half the race.”
Daytona Top Dogs. The Sports Dump 5 didn’t have a great night for predictions for the Shootout with each of our drivers wrecking, although Jumbo (Charlie) had the only driver still running at the finish. I noticed that Chevy had a strong effort on Saturday. Stewart, Harvick, McMurray and all the Hendrick guys looked great out there at times. Obviously wrecks are going to play a factor in who is there at the end (unless you are Kyle Busch), but look for these Daytona favorites to be there if they can avoid the “Big One.” Toyota was strong also with Kyle Busch overcoming the odds of two near spins to win and of course the man always good at Super Speedways, Clint Bowyer, also having a strong run at times despite his early spin as well. A driver to watch could be Joey Logano as he also had a good run before getting caught up in a crash. Daytona was good to the Fords last year as well and the Roush guys and the Roush powered Marcos Ambrose looked solid as well. I didn’t notice much competitiveness out of the Dodges. I’ll be curious to see what they have in the Duels coming up on Thursday.
Kyle Busch. I am a big critic of Kyle Busch, but I can hardly find fault with his effort on Saturday. There were two amazing saves by “Rowdy” Busch and a very smart, very fair pass on Tony Stewart, who was a sitting duck, on the final stretch to win it. The car had nose damage from the earlier thrill rides he took but he proved again that a damaged car doesn’t count you out at Daytona and Talladega like it once did. Kevin Harvick piloted a competitive, beat up Chevy at Talladega in 2010 as well. Kyle could make some noise for the 500 on Sunday if he can, of course, stay out of harm’s way.
Qualifying. I was not surprised at two Fords on the front row for the 500 or 6 of the top 10 qualifiers. Edwards and Biffle are locked in up front, in that order, and everyone else will race their way up or down for the starting grid in the Duels on Thursday. As I said above, the Fords are fast at this track, sweeping both points races in 2011 at Daytona. I don’t put as much stock in qualifying Daytona because you can race your way to the front easily here if you have a strong car. These cars will be different in the draft versus how they run when they are qualifying alone. The Duels will be a better gauge of which guys will be up front.
Duels. The Duels will be around on Thursday to determine the rest of the starting grid other than the top 2 guys. All the drivers that qualified in odd numbered positions (1,3,5,etc) will race in one event and the even numbered positions in the other event. We’ll have a better determination of the top guys here as they’ll look to improve their positions to stay up front and out of trouble in both this event and the 500. I would look for less wrecks as well as I would imagine these guys are going to show a little patience and probably have had some talks about staying off of the left bumpers of the driver in front of you.
We’ll be back later this week with some predictions for the 500 and beyond. Thanks for reading.