NASCAR Race Review: Daytona 500

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Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series opens the season with the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. This is the Grand Opening to the season, the Super Bowl of NASCAR racing. It starts out with the exhibition race, the Budweiser Shootout (Kyle Busch won with many cautions and intense racing), goes on with Coors Light Pole Qualifying, securing only pole sitter Carl Edwards and second place Greg Biffle. Then comes the Gatorade Duels that determines the Line up for the Daytona 500. Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth won their races putting them in third and fourth.

NASCAR officials made changes to the cars to bring back pack racing and make it harder for the drivers to hook up together for tandem racing. This Daytona 500 was a combination of both with pack racing and short spurts of pushing one another to the lead. It was also a recipe for cautions, with nowhere to go in a pack and drivers hitting the car they are pushing on the left bumper, making them spin out.

For the first time in the 54 year history of the Daytona 500 Mother Nature ruled and the race was delayed until Monday at noon. But she wasn’t finished and it was still raining for that noon start. The Daytona 500 started around 7:30 Eastern time and finished Tuesday morning. A Prime Time race for the first time.

Many drivers have new cars this year and new sponsors. 99 Carl Edwards is on the Pole with a speed of 194.738 mph and 46.216 seconds around this massive 2.5 mile track.

So, here we go! They race side by side for the lead and 16 Greg Biffle inches ahead of 99 to lead the first lap. On the second lap 33 Elliott Sadler bumps 48 Jimmie Johnson in the left rear, sending him into the wall and other drivers. They were in the middle of the pack, so I don’t know where he thought he was going to push 48. 34 David Ragan, 21 Trevor Bayne (last years Daytona 500 winner) and 10 Danica Patrick were caught in the mess.

17 Matt Kenseth leads with 16 beside him. 78 Regan Smith takes the lead. 16 takes it back. 39 Ryan Newman has a tire going down and spins out, bringing out the second caution. 5 Kasey Kahne manages to get by. They all make pit stops. The wheel comes off 39 just after he leaves the pit stall and 22 A. J. Allmendinger, coming into his pit, hits 39.

99 pushes 27 Paul Menard into the lead, tries to take the lead, but falls back. 11 Denny Hamlin takes the lead. The first seven cars are single file, with the outside lane not going anywhere. 16 pushes 31 Jeff Burton into the lead on the outside.  11 pulls out but no one goes with him and falls back. 27 and 11 start Green Flag pitting. 14 Tony Stewart is the last one who hasn’t pitted and leads. When he tries to pit 18 Kyle Busch is in the way and he has to go around again. The third caution comes out during the commercial after all the pitting for debris. 31 is leading. 83 Landon Cassill gets back on the lead lap. 17 puts his nose past the stall line and has to back up before he can be serviced.

There will be a $200,000 award to the driver leading at half time. 17 is having water problems with the gages not working and they put new water into the car. 9 Marcos Ambrose pushes 16 into the lead. 10 is back on the track. 56 Martin Truex, Jr. takes the lead. 24 Jeff Gordon blows up in smoke and fire, bringing out the fourth caution on lap 81. He waves them by and no one gets into him. 32 Terry Labonte (in the race with a past Champion provisional) stays out to lead. 16 takes the lead.

9 pushes 32 on the left side and spins him out for the fifth caution. He makes a nice save, without hitting anything, but gets stuck in the wet grass. 16 and 9 are up front for the restart. 18 pushes 9 and then gets left behind. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pushes 5, but 88 drops 5 and he falls back. Two laps to halfway and 16 is in command. 11 pushes 56 to the front and 56 leads at half way. (He won at half way last year also.)

11 pushes 14 to the front and then takes the lead. 99 has fuel pressure issues. 15 Clint Bowyer is overheating. 14 and 20 Joey Logano are pitting, with 15 running out of fuel. The sixth caution comes out because 15 can’t make it to the pits and has to be pushed. 20 drives through pit road, while 14 completes his pit stop. Pit road is not open, but 31 pits anyway as he is running out of fuel. 39 Ryan Newman gets back onto the lead lap.

55 Mark Martin leads. 11 pushes 16 into the lead. 20 takes the lead. 17 takes the lead. The seventh caution comes out when something breaks in the 30 car of David Stremme. Pit stops are made, with 36 Dave Blaney, 83, 26 Tony Raines and 38 David Gilliland staying out. The track is being cleaned up with trucks dragging blow dryers on the top of the track. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya comes out of the pits on the bottom, like he’s supposed to with the blow dryers going. Something breaks and he goes sideways, can’t steer, and smacks into the truck with the blow dryer. There is a big explosion as 200 gallons of jet fuel and diesel fuel ignites.

The Red Flag comes out for over two hours, with 40 laps to go, to get the truck off the track and clean up all the fuel, after they put out the fire that keeps on burning. They use water blowers and Tide detergent to make sure the track is safe to drive on. The drivers all get out of their cars and the television audience gets treated to driver interviews. When clean up is completed, a bus takes a crew member from each car out to the track to help them get secured in the cars. The four that stayed out must now pit or they will not make it to the end. 18 and 99 took a tare off from the windshield during the Red Flag. You cannot work on the cars during Red Flag conditions, so they will have to restart from the rear. 13 Casey Mears is on the apron with fuel pressure issues and has to be pushed.

They restart with 34 laps to go. 17 is leading with 88 along side, 17 on top in front of 16. 29 Kevin Harvick pushes 88, but 17 and 16 get in front of them. Eight cars are single file. 20 comes up almost into 11 and 31 who are coming up on the outside. They have to separate. 14 steps out but on one goes with him. The lapped car, 13, is getting in the way and messing up the formation.

9 and 43 Aric Almirola get into 13, bringing out the eighth caution with 21 laps to go. 6 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. tried to avoid 13 but got into 43. 43 saves it and 9 goes spinning off. 15 Clint Bowyer gets back onto the lead lap. They restart with 18 laps to go. 11 has led most of the laps. 20 has to go back to eighteenth place for not maintaining speed.

17 moves up in front of team mate, 16 at the restart. The ninth caution is the Big One in the middle of the pack with 13 laps to go. 1 Jamie McMurray cuts a tire and spins around and around into 5. Seven cars are involved. 14 and 2 get by, but not without damage. 99 has damage to repair. They restart with 7 laps to go. The tenth caution comes out with four to go. 6 turns 14. He saves it but needs tires. 18 doesn’t save it this time. 39 and 36 get caught in it.

The restart will be the first attempt at a Green White Checker Finish. If a caution comes out before the White Flag is thrown they will try it again. Three attempts can be made before it ends under caution.

17 again moves up under 16 to lead. The White Flag comes out. 17 Matt Kenseth wins his second Daytona 500. 88 Earnhardt, Jr. got by 16 Biffle for second. 99 went below the Yellow line, but it was decided he was forced down there and no penalty is assessed. He finishes eighth. 11 Hamlin finishes fourth, 31 Burton fifth, 27 Menard sixth, 29 Harvick seventh. 20 Logano finishes ninth and 55 Martin finishes tenth. Thirteen different drivers led laps, with Hamlin leading the most laps. 202 laps were run to come up with a Daytona 500 Champion.

What a Daytona 500 this has been! Fire and rain, along with starting a day and a half late and finishing on Tuesday. Matt Kenseth will go down in history as the Champion of this unique race.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I Love NASCAR racing.

 

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