Monday, February 23, 2015
A Spectacular Start!
Well, this has been quite a momentous couple of weeks at Daytona for NASCAR fans. It started with Jeff Gordon winning the pole for his last ever Daytona 500. That was a feel good story, for sure. Then Matt Kenseth won the Sprint Unlimited, getting his year off to a positive start after not winning at all last season. Dale Junior won his Duel race and Jimmie Johnson won his....so far, so good for Hendrick in 2015.
Things took a turn for the dark side when Kurt Busch was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR after the judge's ruling was revealed in full regarding his girlfriend's request for a protective order...the evidence proving that it was more likely than not that Kurt had engaged in domestic violence. Then Kyle Busch hit a concrete wall at full speed in the Xfinity race and broke his leg and his foot so he is out of the Sprint Cup for we don't know how long.
I thought the race itself was more exciting all the way through than most Daytona 500's. No long train of cars ever rode around lap after lap. Few drivers spent most of their time hanging out at the back until near the end. There was always action going on somewhere, often at the front. We got to watch several great drivers work their way through the field after receiving pit road penalties sent them to the back. We got to see cars that looked pretty evenly matched, like Jimmie and Junior and Joey, trading the lead. We got to see some heartbreakers....once again, it wasn't to be Smoke's turn to win a Daytona 500....and Brad went up in smoke.
The last 30 or so laps before the final green/white/checker was hyper-intense with three rows wide back through the field, 200 miles an hours, inches apart, cars moving around, lap after lap. We got to see exactly why these guys are called the greatest drivers in the world.
In the end, of course, Joey prevailed and congratulations to him for running a great race. He was near the front during most of the 500 laps and capitalized when it counted.
Meanwhile, the kids showed off earlier in the week with Tyler Reddick (who?) winning the truck race and Ryan Reed winning the Xfinity series. Hurray for them!
All in all, it was a thorough satisfying two weeks of racing after a long, boring off-season.
Some side notes:
- I was personally glad to see Jimmie start on the front row, win his Duel and finish fifth in the 500. Daytona does not a season make but after his worst one ever last year, it bodes well for what's to come. He's off to a great start.
- Ditto for Matt Kenseth and Junior and his new crew chief, Greg Ives, and Carl Edwards and his new team. I was happy to see Martin Truex, Jr. showing signs of strength after a not very good 2014. It was also nice to see both Regan Smith and Johnny Sauter have good runs after having to step in at the last minute to fill in for the missing Busches.
- For some women, me included, it is a little creepy to see a female arguing with a man as he puts his hands all over her. I know Denny didn't mean anything by it but there is just something patronizing about it. ("Now, now, just settle down, Little Lady") I don't think he'd have handled, say, Kevin Harvick's anger in quite the same way he handled Danica.
- On the other hand, there were many hateful comments about Kurt Busch's girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll. I guess we'd like to believe that she is a witch who took poor, innocent Kurt for a ride. Except it is Kurt Busch! If he'd been kind and gentle Kurt right up until this incident, then maybe....but his reputation for lack of self control and anger management problems has preceded him for years so it is a little hard to believe in pure-as-the-driven-snow Kurt now.
Both these incidents with Denny and Danica and Busch and Driscoll reveal that an ugly kind of sexism is still alive and well in the sport.
- I think this will be the Jeff Gordon farewell tour throughout the entire season and that's fine, Jeff deserves all the accolades he'll be given.
- It's too bad that another driver had to be badly hurt but maybe the NASCAR tracks have finally got the message. There need to be SAFER barriers on every bit of the wall a driver can possibly hit!
And so, next week Atlanta, what some of us think of as "real" racing. Oh, man, NASCAR, I'm so glad you're back!