The time has finally arrived for the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. Speed weeks has brought us spectacular racing with nail biting finishes. There is one question we have left on our mind as the Daytona 500 is about to get underway, will we have a similar finish that we saw in trucks and Nationwide? Five hundred miles from now, we will have the answer.
Fox did a nice job with the pre-race show. I do have one question for the tracks though; does it always have to be country music act performing before the race? Some variation in the music genres would be nice. A very nice tribute to Dale Earnhardt was shown as well.
It is interesting that the pace laps are being led by the Transformer cars for the movie coming out this summer. The racing might be slightly more interesting if the actual stock cars looked the way the Transformer version of the stock cars look. Guns and cannons that could be used get those other pesky drivers out of the way.
The green flag is out and 43 drivers are on their way in the 53rd running of the Daytona 500. Jeff Gordon immediately drops like a rock to the middle of the pack. Kurt Busch leads lap one and take the points lead in the series with 1. Just had to throw in a quick reminder of the points change have occurred this season.
Lap 5 brings out the first caution of the day. Michael Waltrip in the Napa Auto Parts #15 spins out the #18 of Kyle Busch. Busch avoids the wall by spinning down low. No other cars were collected, but both Waltrip and Kyle Busch will need to pit. Waltrip may have gotten damage to the nose of the car when hit the door of the Busch as he spun on the track.
During commercials for the caution, Chevrolet had a great commemorative commercial for Dale Earnhardt.
Lap 11 second caution is out. JJ Yeley loses his engine and ends his day. The bigger deal was that the yellow was out, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s spotter did not tell him the yellow was out. Junior almost wrecked when bumped by Martin Truex Jr. In the end, no harm no foul in this incident, but could have taken out some top contenders if Junior would have shot back up the track.
How about that on lap 18, Bobby Labonte has taken the lead of the Great American Race. One of the great things about Daytona, you never know who is going to lead the race. It is also nice to see a lot of different names be able to work their way to the front. Honestly, when was the last time you saw Bobby Labonte lead a race under green? I know I cannot recall it.
Lap 22 third caution is on the speedway. Kevin Harvick will not be the champion of the Daytona 500. Harvick lost an engine in the pack, and moved down to the low side of the backstretch. Jeff Gordon then got into the back of Robby Gordon. Damage is sustained to the front of Jeff Gordon’s car and damage to rear end of Robby Gordon’s car.
Lap 29 BIG WRECK in turn three and four. Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Davie Reutimann, Michael Waltrip, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Brian Keselowski, Brian Vickers, and Marcos Ambrose, amongst others, are all involved in the wreck. The wreck all started when Reutimann got turned around by his owner Michael Waltrip. Those two were running directly in front of the big, and you can visualize it all from there. Cars were wrecking all over the track. Many cars go directly to the garage for repairs. As a side note as well, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the only Hendrick Motorsports car that was no involved in the big wreck.
Lap 47 fifth caution is displayed. Robert Richardson Jr. in a one car incident hits the wall on the front stretch. Richardson was spun by Travis Kvapil. The two car drafts are not working out so well today. I find is surprising that the greatest drivers in the world have caused so many wrecks prior to the Â¼ distance in the race.
Just past the quarter distance of the race now. A lot of leaders of the race so far, with no clear cut front runner. The leaders keep coming and going.
Lap 56 and the caution is flapping in the breeze once again. Brian Vickers attempted to return to the race from the big wreck. Vickers got to turn two and his car died. He ended up sitting off the track and NASCAR was forced to throw the caution.
The big wreck on lap 29 has kind of taken some of the spice out of this race. With a lot of cars off the track or having no shot to win, the racing has calmed down. I guess this would be expected even without the big wreck. Drivers have also realized they probably do not want to be the next one to lose their opportunity to win the race.
Lap 75, the race has seen 26 lead changes at the start finish line.
Lap 76 and we have another caution. Travis Kvapil gets into the wall with what appeared to be a tire that had gone flat.
Lap 93. Jeff Burton expires an engine. This is the second Richard Childress Racing engine to blow up today. No caution as Burton was able to get to the bottom of the race track and keep oil off of the racing groove.
We have reached the halfway point of the race. Here are some halfway statistics: 14 leaders for 27 lead changes, 23 caution laps, 135.277 mph average speed and cars on the track 40 of 43. Most laps led Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer (14 laps).
At this point in the race, I am most impressed with Regan Smith. Smith has kept his car clean and has run up front almost the entire day. He did the same thing in his qualifying race on Thursday. This is another example of when was the last time you saw the Furniture Row car near the front of the pack. I know, all the time before they changed the rule to lap down cars to the rear of the field.
Lap 106 and the eighth caution is out. Juan Pablo Montoya spins and everyone comes to pit road. I have not talked much about pit road so far today. Generally the stops have been for fuel and two tires. Some teams have had different strategies depending on when they last stopped. Pit stops will become more important as we get closer to the end. Seems if you are up front, you stay up front. Almost forgot, no damage to Montoya’s car, just spun without hitting anything.
Lap 122 and the caution is out again. Travis Kvapil brings out the caution again. The racing has continued to be good at the front of the pack. There is a five or six groups of two that keep going to the front of then dropping back when they make the swap. None of the cars at the front of the pack are really dominant over each other. It is a run to the front, and then another pair gets the run. Drivers are making what could be their next to last pit stop. For the most part, the field is taking gas only.
Lap 134 and caution is displayed by the flagman. Matt Kenseth wrecks his car in the tri-oval. Kenseth got squirrely and then was bumped by Greg Biffle and sent into the wall. No other cars are collected in the incident. This is the 10th caution flag of the day. The race record for cautions in the Daytona 500 is 11. One more caution to tie the record, two to break the record. Roughly half the field takes the caution opportunity to hit pit road.
Lap 141, caution is out again, which ties the record for the most cautions in the event. Juan Pablo tapped the back end of Biffle’s Â car turning him. As Biffle turned, he collected Montoya. Biffle’s day is over, JPM will be able to continue in the race.
Fifty laps to go now and the intensity of the drivers is picking up. Earlier, some drivers were holding back and avoiding being in a big pack. The two car drafts are staying closer to each other. A lot more cars are in the mix for the lead. At this point in the race, there have been 19 leaders with 56 lead changes. The record for lead changes will be broken today.
Record setting caution number 12 for Travis Kvapil. Loses a tire and hammers the wall. Thank goodness this one should put Kvapil behind the wall for good. I have Kvapil tied to at least three cautions today. He has hit everything but the pace car at this point. Drivers should be able to make it to the finish with a stop here.
They just said on the Fox broadcast that Kevin Harvick has tweeted that he has made it home to Charlotte already. Amazing how quickly you can get home from the race when you have a plane, and exit the race early on with an expired engine. No traffic to slow you down going to the airport when you are out of the event that early.
Lap 167 and we have yet another caution. Miller Lite is spewed on the track when Brad Keselowski in the Blue Deuce is turned by Robby Gordon. Baby Joey gets a piece of the action near the back end of his car as Keselowski gets to the bottom of the track. This then causes Regan Smith to spin through the grass as he tried to avoid the accident.
Twenty five laps to go. Packs of two are at the front. No way at this point to even guess who is going to win. Truex Jr. makes a great save and goes down pit road at race speed. No penalty as he slowed down and then goes back on track. I will say the racing has gotten more interesting at this point.
19 laps to go and Kasey Kahne in the Red Bull machine puts the car in the wall from what looked like a tire going down. At the same time, it is also being reported that Jamie McMurray in the Bass Pro Shops car is down a cylinder in his car. Kahne and McMurray see their chances for victory go away. We have found out that Kahne lost his brakes and dropped a rotor on the track, and just behind him Carl Edwards gets lucky and had a tire go down from that brake rotor. Edwards is lucky because there was no damage to his car, and the caution allowed him to stop and change tires.
13 to go, Stephen Wallace is on pit road with a tire down. Wallace had given his car a great ride today. Have not really heard his name all day, but he has raced clean and could have had a chance at the win.
Five laps to go, six two car packs are in the lead pack. Big names and not so recognizable names (for at least running up front) are battling for the win.
Four to go and the caution comes out. Regan Smith is spun by Kurt Busch. Kurt was pushing smith and they got separated. Kurt is then pushed by Tony Stewart with a huge run he hit Smith. Busch had nowhere to go but to hit Smith. Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman were all involved in the wreck also. Denny Hamlin pits because of flat spotted tires. Tony Stewart also caught the front end of Kyle Busch’s car during the accident. Junior now has a flat tire as well. Junior pits.
Green white checker finish to the race.
First attempt, wreck on the back stretch. Junior sees a great day go away. Hard to explain how it happened on the backstretch, but Junior, Truex and Newman were all involved. With the green white checker finish, some cars are stopping to get some fuel to ensure they can go the distance. During all of this, David Regan was giving the black flag at the restart. He jumped in front of Trevor Bayne before the start finish line.
Amazing story at the end of this race, in only his second start in the Sprint Cup Series, Trevor Bayne has won the Daytona 500. It was a great finish to the race. Bayne outraced Carl Edwards, Bobby Labonte, and David Gilliland back to finish line. Bayne’s win is the fifth win in the Daytona 500 for the Wood Brothers, and the second youngest winner in the Sprint Cup Series.
The Great American Race is over, but I am not sure it was the greatest race we have ever seen. I would say decent, kind of how I described the Nationwide Series race on Saturday. I will also say that Bayne winning will be a very popular win. NASCAR is going to have to do something about the two car tandem. I do not know what the answer to that is, but way too many cautions today.
Here are some final race statistics:
Average Speed: 130.326 MPH
Cautions: 16 for 60 laps
Lead Changes: 74
Let us know what you thought of the race. Login with your Facebook id and leave some comments. Check back later this week for more analysis of the Daytona 500, and a look forward to Phoenix.