I’m on record as an ACT Late Model Tour lover and one of the major reasons is the car counts. I enjoy going into a pit area early on race day, where 40-plus cars show up looking to qualify for one of 30 spots in the main event.
I won’t bore you will the details of drawing for heat race starting positions and so on, but a lot happens before they line up the 150-lap feature. For me it just adds to the day at the races. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy most all my time spent at a track. But there’s a different buzz in a pit area where 14-plus cars will be on the trailer come race time than at a race where all the cars in the pit area make the main event.
Why am I talking about short-track heat races in February you ask? I’ve enjoyed watching a great many of the twin qualifying races held at Daytona over the years. But do you realize, after watching 45 cars run two laps under the clock and then two 150-lap heat races, the end result is two cars will be sent home. And more than likely those two cars didn’t plan on running all 200 laps anyways.
Now, I understand it’s enjoyable to be sitting in the grandstands at Daytona in February and not be up north snow-blowing your driveway. I just find it funny all the hype on TV about so-and-so can fall back on his time or Joe Racer needs to finish in the top 15 in one of the twins or whatever.
Not once this week, leading up to the 500, have I heard someone say, “After all these laps only two guys are going home early.” But don’t tell me you’re better off starting in the top 10 at a track where you can drop 27 positions by getting out of the gas for a split second. And let's not forget a few guys will fall to the back to ride around for more than half the race looking not to get caught up in a wreck.
I long for the days of 57 cars running the Thursday Twins, where not finishing in the top 15 meant you were going home. Now that was entertaining.
• Did you know Dale Earnhardt won 10 straight Thursday twin races? Yup – 10 in a row from 1990 to 1999. Of all the NASCAR records that one has to rank right up there as nearly impossible to break.
The Jayski podcast has returned for the 2013 season. Mark Garrow (@GuruGarrow) provides NASCAR news, rumors, stats and info Monday through Friday during the entire season. To listen go to http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=8959426 or check out ESPN.com.
Danica on the Pole
The media coverage since Danica Patrick won the pole for the Daytona 500 has been – pick a word, insufferable, intolerable, unbearable, to name a few. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t care if she’s a girl or a Martian! She’s one of 45 drivers at Daytona looking to win the 500. I don’t care who she’s dating, what color her socks are or what her favorite meal was back in her seventh grade cafeteria.
A big thank you goes out to the guy who brought us the DVR. I tape all the racing shows and fast forward through the nonsense, which sadly is most of the show now-a-days.
Kevin Harvick spoke for most of us after winning the Sprint Unlimited last Saturday when he said, “How are we going to get Danica and Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) on the front page now? I missed you guys the other day. All of you guys were busy being TMZ (a TV show about celebrities). Now you have to talk to me and I’m going to be a complete p***k.” This was two days after media day, where most of the talk was about Patrick and Stenhouse Jr. dating.
• Do I think NASCAR “gave” her the pole? In all seriousness I can’t see how that can happen. Call me dumb, it may good for NASCAR to have a girl on the pole of the Daytona 500 but I can’t believe guys like Jack Roush and Chip Ganassi are going to sit quietly in the background while Patrick and the Chevy camp get all the headlines.
• I did find it very strange when the odds came out last Monday and she, at 18-to-1, was a better bet than 30, count ’em 30, other drivers. A few on that list were Martin Truex Jr. 22-1, Jamey McMurray (former event winner) 25-1, Kurt Busch 30-1, Jeff Burton 33-1, Mark Martin 33-1 (I know, I know, he seldom finishes a plate race), and another former event winner, Ryan Newman also at 33-1 to name a few. And let’s not forget Trevor Bayne who won this race in 2011 in at 35-1.
Daytona 500 Facts
This will be 55th running of the 500, the first 500 was held in 1959.
• A little known fact to you youngsters – it’s been the season-opener only since 1982.
• 521 drivers have competed in at least one 500; 309 in more than one.
• 35 different drivers have won a 500.
• Nine drivers have won more than one. On top of that list is, of course, Richard Petty with seven. Cale Yarborough has four wins, Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett, and Jeff Gordon all have three. Bill Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Sterling Marlin and Michael Waltrip each have two.
• Dale Earnhardt has the most seconds with five. Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Terry Labonte lead all active drivers with three.
• Dale Earnhardt finished in the top 10 in all but seven of his 23 starts.
• The record for most 500 starts without a win is Dave Marcis (33 races).
• Seven drivers won their first-ever Cup race in the Daytona 500: Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994), Michael Waltrip (2001) and Trevor Bayne (2011).
• A driver has won back-to-back Daytona 500s only three times – Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95).
• Exactly half of the winners, 27 of the 54, have started in the top five. Matt Kenseth won it coming from 39th, the deepest a race winner has started.
• Nine have been won from the pole. The last to do so was Dale Jarrett in 2000.
• Only five reigning Cup champions have gone on to win the 500 the following season: Lee Petty (1959), Richard Petty (1973), Cale Yarborough (1977), Jeff Gordon (1999) and Dale Jarrett (2000).
• Five drivers have won the 500 and the championship in the same season: Richard Petty did it four times (1964, 1971, 1974, 1979), Jimmie Johnson (2006), Jeff Gordon (1997), Cale Yarborough (1977) and Lee Petty (1959).
Restrictor Plate Wins
Twenty-one of the 45 drivers entered in this year’s Daytona 500 have at least one win in restrictor plate races at either Daytona or Talladega. Eight of them have only one, while five of them have two. Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with 12 in 80 starts. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has seven in 52 starts. Tony Stewart is next with five in 56 races.
Others with wins are Michael Waltrip (4 in 102), Jamie McMurray (3 in 41), Jimmie Johnson (3 in 44), Kevin Harvick (3 in 47), Matt Kenseth (3 in 52), Brad Keselowski (2 in 15), Clint Bowyer (2 in 28), Kyle Busch (2 in 32), Mark Martin (2 in 102) and Terry Labonte (2 in 116). Those guys with one win are Trevor Bayne (8 starts), David Ragan (24), Brian Vickers (28), Greg Biffle (40), Ryan Newman (44), Jeff Burton (76) Bobby Labonte (80) and Ken Schrader in 92 starts.
• Nine of them have won a Daytona 500: Gordon (3), Waltrip (2), Kenseth (2) and McMurray, Johnson, Harvick, Newman, Bayne and Junior all with one.
For those of you who grew up listening to Dave Moody at Thunder Road, or who are now Sirius Radio fans of Dave, he wrote a great piece on his career that can be read by going to http://motorsports-soapbox.blogspot.com/2013/02/thoughts-while-waiting-for-plane-at-6-am.html.
UNOH Battle at the Beach
Earlier this week, Monday and Tuesday night, they set up a .4-mile track on the backstretch of Daytona. The event was called UNOH Battle at the Beach. NASCAR short-track championship drivers were invited to run their Whelen All-American cars, a modified or a K&N Pro Series car on this flat track that was shown live on Speed channel.
I don’t follow the K&N Series like I did back when it was the NASCAR North Series, mainly because the drivers seem to be a bunch of teenagers I don’t know. I have read the 2012 K&N Pro Series East Champion Kyle Larson was a good, respectful driver. He was going to run in all three races in the UNOH battle. This 20-year-old kid finished second in the ARCA race last Saturday, he’s also entered in the Nationwide race on Feb. 23.
My opinion of this kid dropped big time after he spun the leader C.E. Falk III coming off turn four. My first thought was NASCAR will throw the black and not the checkers because he clearly wrecked the leader hitting him not once but twice before spinning him out. But nope – he was awarded the win. Falk did a 360 and crossed the line in third.
Afterwards Larson said, “This is a pretty big race and I wanted to be the first to win it.” He was awarded the win, so should I be mad at this kid or NASCAR because they allow this crap? After thinking about it for about three seconds, I blame NASCAR for his behavior because they allow this crappy type racing just as they allowed Kevin Harvick to “block” Greg Biffle in the Shoot-out last Saturday night. And all you Harvick fans save your hate mail, I’m not singling him out, he’s just the latest to do it. I’m sure the winner in both the Saturday race and the 500 will do the same thing – WHY, because there are no rules against it.
Heck even the Falk kid didn’t seem too upset when they talked to him. “I think I got monster trucked at the end,” he said.
Here’s where some dope will tell me rubbing is racing … while I hope this weekend your favorite gets punted as he’s headed to the checkers and you lose the dollar pool BOTH DAYS because of it.
USA Today earlier this week reported NASCAR will no longer estimate the attendance. NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said tracks still will have the option of providing crowd estimates, but it will be their prerogative. “NASCAR’s race reports generally become a box score for the media, and box scores from sporting events do not generally provide estimates,” Tharp said. Of the 23 tracks that host a Cup race, 21 are owned by publicly traded companies such as International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc. Officials with those tracks have said they don’t provide attendance figures because they don’t want to provide earnings guidance.
Until Next Week
Every day find someone or something that makes you laugh.