Sunday, February 15, 2009

Live on Type Delay: The Daytona 500

The Daytona 500 is touted as the biggest race of the year for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Indeed, it kicks off the season, it shows us what the teams have, and what they've been doing during the off-season, and it does have a prestigious history. And after two weeks of preliminaries and media hype, it's Day has arrived.

A few unimportant questions about the pre-race programming, first. Do we really need a "Digger" weekly animated series? What is "country" about "country music" these days? Was the guy singing the "Star Spangled Banner" trying to sound like Adam Sandler?

Anyway, it hasn't rained yet, the cars are rolling off of pit road, and the crowd is going wild. So is Rev Jim. The thrills are about to begin.

One more question before the start, though. Does anybody get the impression that they are going to "let" Mark Martin win? I would certainly hate to be the Kyle Busch who takes away the win if Mark is leading in turn four of lap 199.

Martin Truex, Jr, from the pole, led the first lap, with Jeff Gordon in second, running around the track in the inside lane. On lap 2, Mark Martin takes the lead, passing on the outside with help from Kyle Busch. By Lap 5, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth have both moved up nearly twenty positions, after starting in the back of the field, and Kyle Busch soon takes the lead.

On lap 8, Aric Almirola spins out, and the first caution of the day flies. On the restart, it's Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and Carl Edwards in the top 5. The green flag flies on lap eleven.

Since we are stuck with TV only this week, it's commercial break time. The AFLAC commercial wasn't too bad, but the UPS ad with David Regan driving the car into the building and riding the elevator, in the car, was awesome.

Two minutes of racing and another commercial break.

Competition caution on lap 25 to check tires. The restart is on lap 30 with Kyle Busch, Dale Jr, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon in the top five. Edwards falters at the restart, Gordon moves all the way up to third, and Johnson moves into the top five. The field splits into two rows, with Tony Stewart, who had restarted in ninth, after starting the race in the rear of the field, leading Carl Edwards on the inside, and everyone else on the outside, with Kyle Busch still leading.

Wow lap 35 and we have already had a lot of racing. Earnhardt is now leading the outside line, but drops back a little. The inside line consists of race leader Kyle Busch, and the rest of the top three Jeff Burton, and Matt Kenseth. Earnhardt is in fourth place, racing on the outside with help from Jeff Gordon.

Lap 39 now, and Earnhardt and Busch are racing wheel to wheel, with Kenseth behind Busch, and Denny Hamlin behind Junior. Exciting stuff going on. Does Dale Jr have the lead for lap 40? It was close, but Kyle Busch is scored with the lead. Now on lap 41, Busch moves up in front of Earnhardt, Jr, to give the outside line a try, but Kenseth is moving up, so Busch moves back down.

Busch is the wild one, so far. He moves up the track and down, switching lanes as each line becomes faster than the other. This is crazy, but it sure is fun to watch.

Finally, on lap 45, Kyle Busch and Dale Jr pull away from the rest of the pack, with Busch in first, and Jr in second. A few car lengths behind them, Tony Stewart has taken third place, leading the rest of the pack.

With Stewart in the lead of the rest of the pack, they catch Jr and Kyle on lap 50 and fall into single file. On lap 52 it's Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Carl Edwards, and Jeff Gordon. Now things seem to have settled down a bit. Lap 54, and the front four have checked out on the rest of the field, and Tony Stewart follows Jr on the outside, as he takes the lead from Busch, and then Stewart drops down to the bottom in front of Busch and takes the lead from Jr. Caution, as Travis Kvapil hits the wall. It looks like Kvapil is going to the garage. Sam Hornish pits, his car is overheating and tajpe and debris are removed. Pit stops on lap 56, and the cleanup crew is on the track.

The running order has changed in the pits. Jr missed his pit stall on the first try, and had to take another lap and return to the pit lane. Hornish takes the lead, having exited the pits while the rest of the field was entering. Stewart is second, being the first one out of the pits after Hornish, Kyle Busch is third, followed by Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards. Hornish had to drop back, and Stewart takes the lead, running on the outside. Kyle Busch is threatening on the inside line. Allmendinger moves up to third, behind Gordon. Allmendinger falls back. Jamie McMurray and Denny Hamlin have hooked up on the outside, and McMurray moves into third.

Lap 56 and everybody is two by two. Gordon leads the outside line, while Stewart maintains the lead on the inside. Gordon makes a move on the outside in turn four, with help from Kyle Busch, but Stewart, with Hamlin right behind him, maintains the lead. The next lap features nearly identical action, and neither Gordon not Stewart show any sign of giving up the race for the lead. Now both the radio and television have simultanious commercial breaks.

Normally, we would expect the race to be tame at this point. If the action continues the way it has been, this could be a long post. When the commercial is over, Gordon has the lead, Kyle Busch is second, Jamie McMurray is third, Denny Hamlin in fourth, and Stewart fifth, in single file. Then Stewart tries to lead a charge in the inside lane, but doesn't have enough drafting help, and falls back to seventh. These guys are racing as though it was only three laps to go, and we are still 25 laps away from the halfway point. Ryan Newman had to pit for a loose wheel. Good idea to pit before something bad happened.

The front four have moved ahead of the rest of the field, with Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Jamie McMurray in the top four. Caution, as Joey Logano and Scott Speed contact each other on lap 88, just beyond the exit of turn four. It has been a horrible week for Joey, but we cut him slack, as this is his first superspeedway race in a Sprint Cup car. For that matter, it's Speed's first superspeedway race in a Sprint Cup car. Now, as they return from the commercial and show the replay, it looks like Scott Speed had brushed the wall and rebounded into Logano, which shot the kid down the track and into the inside wall.

Simultaneous commercials again, and the radio broadcast seems to be fading, which is why we were TV only at the beginning of the race.

Kyle Busch left the pits first, and takes the lead. Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, and Matt Kenseth will follow him to the restart at lap 86.

Busch and Gordon momentarily step out by a few lengths, and the top five are single file, as Stewart tries to lead a charge on the inside lane, further back. Three wide now, and it is hard to tell who is where.

By lap 89, Gordon has fallen back to fourth, and they are going three wide for that position. That's nothing, around Jimmie Johnson, back around twelfth place, they are going four wide through the trioval. They settle down a bit, then four wide again coming out of turn 2. Johnson almost loses it, and makes a great save.

After everything gets somewhat sorted out, on lap 92, the top five are Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, AJ Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, and Martin Truex, Jr.

Lap 95, and Gordon has led a charge to second place. We have to be wondering now, if this race is so wild before half way, what will the last lap be like? Lap 97 is when Gordon tries to take the lead, but Busch blocks him and maintains the lead, followed by Gordon, Hamlin, Edwards, and Stewart.

Stewart takes fourth from Edwards at the halfway mark. Things still haven't settled down behind them. On lap 102, that wild bunch is now racing for fifth. Simultanious commercials again, so we miss whatever action ensues from that.

On lap 109, the front twelve are in single file. Kyle Busch is still leading, followed by Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt, Jr is challenging Gordon for fifth. Now the top four make some distance ahead of the field. Jr and Gordon are still racing, Gordon gets hung out, and Earnhardt, Jr takes his position. Gordon continues to fall back. Gordon seems to be having problems, and takes to the pits on lap 114. Jimmie Johnson also pits, so if Gordon needs drafting help, it is on its way. Both the 24 and the 48 cars seem to be having handling problems.

Hornish, Jr pits with steam issuing heavily from under the hood. Juan Pablo Montoya, and Brian Vickers also make green flag pit stops, now.

David Stremme's right rear tire went flat, and his right rear quarter panel has been destroyed, and the fifth caution comes out, on lap 118. The tire exploded while Stremme was in front of a very heavily populated group of cars, and, miracalously, everybody gets by him without incident.

Oh, man, Dale Earnhardt, Jr has to take a penalty for working on the car while the tires were outside the box. At Daytona, all four wheels have to be inside the line of the pit box, before the car can be serviced, and Junior had the front right tire barely over the line. They are being held in the pits by NASCAR. It wasn't Kyle Busch's fault. Just thought that should be mentioned.

After the pits, Elliott Sadler is first, his teammate Reed Sorenson is second, Kyle Busch is third, Matt Kenseth is fourth. After the restart, Vickers falls in line on the inside lane, in front of Dale Jr, because both of them are trying to race back to the lead lap. Jr has to drop down below the yellow line to avoid Vickers, then, as he comes onto the track, he runs into the back of Vickers, Vickers shoots up the track, and IT'S THE BIG ONE, ELIZABETH!

Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Scott Speed, Jamie McMurray, and Carl Edwards all take damage. There are cars spinning in the infield everywhere. Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Robby Gordon were also involved in the carnage. .

Hamlin's, Johnson's, Junior's, and Edward's teams are able to effect repairs in the pits, so they are still in the race, so to speak. Just watch, this will probably turn into a victory for the #48 team.

Now it looks as though there will be a rain delay. Only a short delay, and restart after 132 laps. Sadler in the lead, Sorenson is second, then Kenseth, Burton and Allmendinger. Dale Earnhardt, Jr starts in 31st place, the first car one lap down.

On lap 139, Paul Menard (surprised?) makes contact with Jeff Burton, and then richochet's off of several cars like a pinball caught between bumpers, and another caution comes out. Hey, Dale Jr fans, Junior gets the free pass. McMurray's team has completed repairs, and the #26 car is back on the track.

Elliott Sadler is in the lead and wishing for rain. Matt Kenseth is second. While the caution is still out, however, more cars pit.

Restart with 58 cars to go, and the top five are now Sadler, Kenseth, Sorenson, Allmendinger, and Stewart. I believe, with one more pit stop neccessary, they should be setting up for the finish. I was wrong. Matt "Kensiss" Kenseth hooks up with Kevin "Out of Nowhere" Harvick to challenge for the lead. Kensiss takes the lead with Harvick right behind him, and another caution flies as Almirola and Hornish make contact further back in the field, and Almirola careens into the infield. Those cars were packed close, and it could have been much worse, but somehow, mass carnage was avoided. Johnson gets the free pass.

It is irritating when DW says "Kensiss" for "Kenseth." It is just as bad as Rusty saying "Kennifs."

52 laps is still outside the pit window, barely, so nobody on the lead lap pits. The Fox crew is attributing that strategy to the possibility of rain, as well, and now it is raining. The top five are now Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, AJ Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, and Elliott Sadler. If the race restarts, it is still anybody's race.

The red flag is being displayed. Rain delay. It is still early, we may get to see the race continue.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr, interview. He is not happy. He has had a very bad day. Even Jeff Burton is mad at him.

The race has been called, and Matt Kenseth is the winner! It is always good to see another first time winner at the 500. We would have liked to see a shootout to the end, but Nature didn't agree.

It was an adrenaline-pumping race anyway, and perhaps we couldn't have taken any more excitement, so Nature was just looking after us. The Daytona 500 has always had some very wild moments, but this was one of the wildest.

Somehow, because the race was called early, we still feel robbed. Congratulations to Matt Kenseth, and his crew. We should also offer congratulations to AJ Allmendinger for his third place finish, and to Tony Stewart for getting a top ten finish (eighth) in his first points race as an owner/driver.


Cheyenne said...

Let them all be mad at Junior...Vickers had it coming. He was long overdue.

RevJim said...

I just knew there would be someone who remembered Talladega II in '07!
When Jr says he didn't do it on purpose, I believe him, because if he had done it on purpose, he would have said so--even if it meant a penalty.
But I like to imagine how different that race may have been if Jr had just fallen in line with Vickers and they had helped each other race their way to the lead lap, which they could have done, being the only ones in the inside lane, and next to the leaders. A few less wrecked cars to the bargain, too.