Cool and crisp outside for most of us, but the wait is finally over and cars were on the track for the first competition of the season. It is basically the preview to the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest race of the season, with the 33rd running of the Bud Shootout. Who really knows how you qualify to race in the Bud Shootout anymore, but we are excited that the Sprint Cup series stars are back on the track.
A couple of observations as the cars made their pace and parade laps prior to the dropping of the green flag. The new nose on the Sprint Cup cars makes the car look 1000 times better than what they looked like last year. I have to agree with what Darrell Waltrip said on the race broadcast, the cars look like race cars again.
The crowd for the Shootout looks good as well. Backstretch is closed for this race, but the front stretch seems to be fairly packed for the Saturday night sprint race. Hopefully big crowds are in the future for the races this year.
Great move at the end of lap two with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Amp Energy Chevrolet hooking up with Clint Bowyer in the Cheerios Hamburger Helper Chevrolet and threading the needle to go to the lead. The new surface of Daytona is allowing the cars to run in packs of two. Two cars are hooking up and pushing one another up and past each the group at the font. Closing speeds from those drafts are incredible. Daytona International Speedway has done a great job on the repave, and NASCAR has done well with the aero package on the cars.
Lap 8 or so of the race and Kasey Kahne in his new ride appear to be done for the night. The #4 Red Bull racing machine appeared to have engine trouble, and it was later confirmed. Talk has been with the cool temperatures and the restrictor plate package that the engines are turning a high hanging RPM.
Lap 10, the first mention of one of Darrell Waltrip’s asinine terms, “coopitition”. I am impressed at this point though that Fox is just now going to its first commercial at the completion of 12 laps. That was a lot of racing shown without a commercial break. The new graphics package introduced tonight looks great as well. Overall the broadcast looks good, did not say it sounds good though.
Lap 21, broadcast just showed the top speeds of the night. Michael Waltrip in the Napa car turned a speed of over 206 miles per hour. Incredible speeds being turned on the new surface. Â With a lap or two before the 10 minutes break, the average speed of the race was over 196 miles per hour.
The first 25 laps of the Bud Shootout were completed without a yellow flag. The only incident was Kahne losing an engine. Observations at this point are that you have to have a dance partner if you are going to win this event. Two cars run together nose to tail and go wherever they want. As long as you can keep the nose of the car to the backend of the car in front of you, you are going to run to the front of the pack. Winning the first segment of the race was the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet of Jeff Burton.
After the break, we got our first look of the Digger Cam for the year. I like the camera, it is a great angle to show the action going by. I hate the graphics package that Fox uses to notify us of the camera. Just call it the track cam or something like that.
Lap 27, caution flies with a mini big one on the backstretch. Carl Edwards gets in the back of Dale Jr. courtesy of Regan Smith. At least six cars involved in the incident. Some of those involved included Baby Joey Logano, Curtis Conway, and Juan Pablo Montoya. The wreck appeared to just be a racing incident. No one did anything wrong per say, just not enough room for the cars at that moment on the backstretch.
Lap 35, caution is back out after just one and three quarters laps of green flag racing. Mark Martin in the Go Daddy car spun out the #18 car of Kyle Busch in the M and M’s car. Busch and Martin were nose to tail and Busch went high on the track. Martin continued on his back end and spun Busch’s car around. With how Mark Martin races other competitors, I would not say he purposely took Busch out. Another one of them thare racing incidents. The field is wildling down now, only 16 of 24 cars now on track.
The driving seems to have settled down now. The cars have hooked back up in pairs of two. The concern for the drivers in this type of racing is overheating the engine in the car running behind the front car. The two cars cannot stay locked together for the entire race. The car in the back has to duck out for air to cool the radiator and engine temp.
Caution is out again on lap 47 or 48. Tony Stewart in the #14 turned Michael Waltrip in the #15. For those who live in the areas that have received a lot of snow over this winter, Waltrip’s car gave the appearance of a snow plow as it shot grass and dirt into the air like a plow from the front end as it went through a grassy area. This was another racing incident that was not done with any malice.
17 laps to go, 24 lead changes on the night, a new record for the event. Not bad with a lead change pretty much every third lap.
So not a lot happened from the last caution to the end of the race. The racing was good, but not much change at the front until coming to the finish line on the last lap. Kurt Busch in the Yellow Double Deuce (#22 Penzoil Dodge) takes the win. Slight controversy at the end of the race. Denny Hamlin got to the finish line first, but he got there by going below the yellow line coming to the checkered flag. Denny was relegated to the last spot on the lead lap as a penalty. I do not think there will be too much complaint about that call by NASCAR, and Hamlin agreed with the penalty. Said he did not see any reason to wreck everyone at the front for a non points race.
What a finish to the first race of the season, albeit not for points though. The Daytona 500 is going to be very interesting next week. If the Great American Race is as good as what we saw tonight, the field is going to be wide open. Don’t forget that qualifying for the Daytona 500 is Sunday, February 13th at 1:00 PM Eastern on Fox. Don’t forget as well, Thursday afternoon is the Duels at Daytona! Lots going on as we get the racing season underway.