Forget Daytona! It’s On to Phoenix For NASCAR Nation

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Updated: March 1, 2013
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“One of the things that made it hard to pass was nobody [would] get organized on the bottom.”  ~ Mark Martin

The 2013 Daytona 500 weekend was a lot like the month of March.  In like a lion, out like a lamb.  Danica Patrick sitting on the pole created a much needed buzz for NASCAR during speed week.  Add to that the near perfect Chamber of Commerce weather all week long, and the table was set for another memorable Daytona 500.  What we actually were left with was more like a lamb than the lion.

The horrific disaster on Saturday’s Nationwide race put a huge damper on the weekend.  In spite of this, NASCAR nation regrouped and we were poised to start the 2013 Sprint Cup season with a bang.   What we all witnessed was anything but exciting.  Sure, for Jimmy Johnson fans and Dale Jr. fans it turned out to be a productive and happy weekend.  For the rest of us we were left with, well, in a word, blah.  For nearly 496 miles we saw a single file of  43 cars going around the 2.5 mile (4.0 km) high banked pavement.  In what looked to be a great weekend of racing we were left with 4 hours of follow the leader.  Yuck!

Who’s to blame?  Let’s start with the new Generation 6 car.  The car itself is absolutely beautiful.  It’s great that one can see the difference between a Ford, a Chevy, and a Toyota with the naked eye.  No longer do they all look the same.  Now how will they race?  During the Sprint Unlimited and the Budweiser Duels there was passing and pack racing, which we’ve become used to on restrictor plate tracks.  During those races there were plenty of lead changes and racing on multiple grooves.  I think the jury is still out on the car and I give it a pass for the performance (or lack of) at the 500.

That leaves the blame solely on the shoulders of the drivers.  In interviews after the race, some of the drivers were admitting the role they played in the 496 miles worth of freight train racing.  Mark Martin, who finished third behind Dale Earnhardt Jr., had this to say after the race:   “One of the things that made it hard to pass was nobody [would] get organized on the bottom.”  Most drivers appeared content with the position they were in and were not interested in moving to another lane to try to improve it.  Jeff Gordon was one driver who attempted to move down low and had no one there to draft with.  He slowly moved backwards before falling into line and finishing 20th.  Martin went on to say, “I don’t think it had a lot to do with the Gen 6.”

So NASCAR and the car manufacturers invest millions of dollars in creating a new car in hopes of improving the racing after last season’s many uninspired races.  What we were left with was a boring and processional affair.  Driver caution takes the blame for this mess.  Let’s hope they got that out of their system so we can all see what this new car is capable of.

On to Phoenix we go, where the racing will surely be more exiting.  The last time NASCAR visited this track it featured a WWE type donnybrook between Clint Boyer and his crew against Jeff Gordon and his entourage.  Don’t expect a similar event this time around but the racing will feature some good side-by-side action and a little beating and banging to boot.  The one mile, low banked track should give us a good measurement of the Gen 6 car.  Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin were the winners of the past three spring races here.  The Chevy’s have been the dominate car winning 16 Sprint Cup races in Phoenix.  Ford has 12 wins and the new to the scene Toyota has 1 victory.  A Chevy will win again.  My top 3 picks?  Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart

 

Top it off:  Hamlin apologized in a tweet to Keselowski after the Daytona race for not being able to get close to him to help with drafting blaming his (Keselowski’s) “stupid” teammate.  He was referring to Joey Logano.  Clint Bowyer echoed Hamlin’s feeling as he retweeted Hamlin and offered the word, “seconded” to the tweet ………. The Dayton 500 television ratings were up nearly 24% from 2012 gaining a 9.9 rating and 22 share.  It was the highest rated 500 since 2008 ………. Phoenix is unique as it allows fans to sit on a hill high above turns three and four.  Rattlesnake warning signs have been posted in the past ………. By the way, those hillside seats cost $35 and you must bring your own seat or blanket.  Children sit free in this area .………. Carl Edwards holds the track record of 137.279 mph set in February 2011 ………. Jimmy Johnson has the most wins (4) and Ryan Newman has the most poles (4) at the track ………. Tejano music star, Bobby Pulido will sing the National Anthem on Sunday ………. 44 cars have been entered in this week’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 ………. Weather forecast for Phoenix for race time is partly sunny, temperature 81F.

Feel free to leave comments below, and follow me on twitter @JimLaPlante, or the site @lastwordonsport.

photo credit: Darryl W. Moran Photography via photopin cc

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