Realistically…  None of it matters. Yes, close quarter 2×2 racing took its toll and some of the most experienced and fastest drivers were sent to the cap and out of contention. Yes, a record number of cautions and restarts kept the deck shuffled.

This is Daytona! The new surface and the racing style set in motion for the Daytona 500 created a touch and go and hook and push race that created the final scenario of a Wood Brothers Motorcraft #21 Ford victory.

Rookie Trevor Bayne, in his second Sprint Cup start and his first run at Daytona, hooked with some of the best drivers throughout the day, watched as many fell by the wayside in damaged cars, and managed to keep the historic #21 mostly clean and clear to the green-white-checker.

Was this sheer beginner’s luck? No… Not here. Not at Daytona. The 20 year old (birthday the day before the 500) kept his nose and the car clean, backing out of tight spots and driving safe. Beginner’s luck…? Driving nose to tail approaching 200mph for most of 200 laps…? No… Not here. This racing style set up by a new, smooth surface was a new deal for most of the drivers. Drafting isn’t new by any means but requiring it to run at speed lap after lap set tension and fatigue at high levels while magnifying the slightest mistake.

Keeping out of the mess took some driving. Trevor Bayne earned this win. The Wood Brothers needed this win. A team that has been running a short season for the past couple of years and has had to endure hushed whispers in the garage has won the 2011 Daytona 500.

Now we have something new to cheer for in NASCAR. “Go Dale Jr.” has a nice ring to it. Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick….  Johnson…  Gordon…  Whatever hat you have on your head to show your allegiance on race day doesn’t matter when a 20 year old rookie puts some shine back onto an iconic name of NASCAR racing.

The Wood Brothers have Daytona this season and that is something every fan should be able to cheer for.

The Budweiser Shootout is on at Daytona. The speed sprint to showcase the new NASCAR season before the points count at the Daytona 500 is on with some new cars (notebaly to the front re-design), some new colors (the 2011 schemes are sharp) and some sponsor change-ups.

Possibly most noteable is the move of Budweiser from Kasey Kahne to the 29 of Kevin Harvick. Harvick is a good fit for Bud. He is respected among the drivers and generally well-liked in the grandstands.

Perhaps Bud should go to a “Harvick Special” with 29 can cases…

Jeff Gordon is no longer carrying the DuPont colors but will have AARP and the “Drive to End Hunger” on the 24 Chevy for a bulk of the 2011 races.

Kurt Busch is out of the #2 Miller Lite car and into the #22 Shell/Pennzoil but will continue with Penske Racing. Brad Keselowski will be taking the seat of the #2 Miller Lite car.

Kasey Kahne is running with Red Bull Racing, for this season anyway, before making another move in 2012 to Hendrick where he is slated to take the #5. Look for Kahne in the #4 with Red Bull this year.

However, don’t look for these changes at nascar.com. It may be fixed before the Daytona 500 but as of this writing, NASCAR has not corrected the drivers or team colors on their website. Odd, as many of these changes were announced as early as May of 2010!

As for the Bud Shootout – there are currently 20 laps to go. 14 cars remain.  Junior is out. Kyle Busch is out. Mark Martin is out. Two car hookups are the rule for the night.

The first 25 lap segment was uneventful as drivers hooked up and tested the cars and the track at speeds over 200 mph. The second 50 lap segment brought out tangles and touches and the yellow to put several in the garage. The remaining 14 are currently pushing it 2×2 around Daytona to chase the top spot.  Jimmie Johnson started in the back  and has pushed or pulled to the front of the pack. Will the #48 roll out? Will Harvick take the new Bud #29 over the line for three in a row?

Too many questions – I’m going to watch!

The folks at Daytona International Speedway spent a fortune to lay a new surface on the historic high bank raceway and January saw the first real test of the speed available during the Grand-Am Rolex 24. The Daytona Prototypes and GT series put on a fantastic show with Chip Ganassi Racing taking the top 2 spots for the Daytona Prototypes. The top 7 spots separated by 60 seconds after 24 hours of racing. That shows not only the durability of the cars and the tenacity of the drivers but also shows the quality of the new surface at Daytona.

The next big test is the Budweiser Shootout to show how the stock cars of NASCAR take to the surface. It looks promising!

There are some body modifications with a new nose on the cars.  The wing was replaced during last season for a more traditional spoiler in the rear.  The new surface should show the advantages of these modifications with more speed and more control at those speeds.

Let’s go racing. 2011 offers changes in the cars, some changes in drivers and teams, some new sponsors and colors and some new examples of speed.  This new season has put the fire into all the teams to go out and run hard. Every race matters with the new 43 point system so every start should be taken with a go out and run hard attutude. This can only mean a better show for the fans.  Since it ultimately comes back to the fan base anyway, it will be a win-win for the checkered flag and the grandstand. 

Start your engines and green-green go-go-go!

Speed week is well under way. The ROLEX 24 ran a couple of weeks ago. The Gatorade Duel is run and done and the field is set for the upcoming Daytona 500. It’s a new season and again it is time to go through your NASCAR fan gear and see what needs to go out the door so you won’t look like a fashion loser on race day.

photo courtesy NASCAR / Getty Images

Most noteable is Jamie McMurray and his move to the #1 Bass Pro Shops ride with Earnhardt Ganassai. Roush-Fenway came up against a four team NASCAR ruling and the #26 program was cut.

So…  Where is Martin Truex, Jr.? He is behind the wheel with the new #56 team of Michael Waltrip Racing, which is also running David Reutimann’s #00 and a #151 driven by Waltrip.

So… Where is the #55 that Waltrip drove last year? That number is now under the banner of Prism Motorsports with Michael McDowell handling the driving. Prism also handles the #66 Toyota with Dave Blaney.

And the #26 that was McMurray’s ride …? Latitude 43 Motorsports has Boris Said and the #26 with Window World Cares sponsorship. Window World Cares is also sponsoring the #34 Ford with John Andretti being backed by Front Row Motorsports with Yates racing.

photo courtesy NASCAR / Getty Images

TRG Motorsports is running the Sprint Cup Series again in 2010. Last year a few drivers drove the #71, including Mike Wallace and David Gilliland. TRG has been running in the Camping World Series Trucks and comes to NASCAR from Grand-Am where they have a very successful Porsche program. For 2010, Bobby Labonte is taking the TaxSlayer.com Chevy through the early season.

David Gilliland is driving the BAM Racing #49 on track with Warner Music Nashville / Larry the Cable Guy. Perhaps Gilliland can “Git-R-Done” in the #49…  (Apologies, but it had to be done)

Mike Wallace is starting the season in the really high numbers…  #198, with K-Automotive Motorsports. The #198 is not the only triple digit entry. Waltrip has the aforementioned #151, Todd Bodine will be in the #127, Reed Sorenson is in the #132, Casey Mears will be trying to get the #190 qualified for 2010 races…

Now, there probably won’t be a rush to Goodwill with last year’s gear as there aren’t many of the stereotypical, high profile drivers shifting rides. Jamie McMurray and Martin Truex, Jr. fans…  Well, sorry. You had your fun with Dale Jr. fans a couple of years ago. Bite the bullet and get new gear or get really talented with a Sharpie real quick.

Oh…  Wait…  You might want to check on sponsors for your favorites this year. For instance, Mark Martin, on the pole for the Daytona 500, has Go Daddy on his car… 

Watch the Daytona 500, check the driver list at nascar.com, see who is driving what and who is paying their bills and find out if you need to buy a new hat. Either way, or whoever you shout for, the race, my friends, is ON!

Sitting and watching the ROLEX 24 on SPEED I have to wonder….  Where are the racing fans? I have to watch on TV as I’m several states away with a driveway full of snow but what of racing fans in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia….? Looking at the stands at Daytona during the ROLEX 24 it looks like the Grand-Am guys snuck in started racing! It appears there are more people around the infield than in the stands. Is it the cool weather? Maybe the rain at the start on Saturday?

Seriously…  Drivers from practically every motor sports discipline on hand to get the racing season started with a 24 hour showcase of speed and the stands are so empty you would have food left over from a Bojangles Family Pack! I don’t get it…

But I don’t understand the average racing fan anyway. Perhaps that is the key. Perhaps there are very few “racing” fans out there. It seems there are millions of NASCAR fans but offer an INDY or Formula 1 or Grand-Am race and they just turn away. Why…? Either step up and be a “racing” fan or pose away in your Dale Jr. cap.

I say open yourself up to anything that goes fast. There are people out there that want to shut it all down for political, social or supposed “green” reasons so those of us that enjoy motor sports need to broaden our horizons and embrace some of these other racing series.

Support you local weekend tracks, drivers and race events. If you get the chance to see the INDY, LeMans, Grand-Am or even SCCA races in your neck of the woods get a ticket and GO! It is all racing and it is all good.

All I’m saying is don’t let the naysayers have their way. Be a “racing” fan and support as much of it as you can!

rolex24logo2010We sit upon the weekend to start the racing reason in a spectacular fashion. Grand-Am drivers of Daytona Prototypes and GTs share their seats with Formula One, LeMans, Indy and NASCAR drivers for this roar of color and a 24 hour speed parade. For the visiting series drivers this is a fun step away from their regular jobs. It is a chance to shine in an endurance race with exotic cars and maybe get a little ink before their own cars roll out to their respective starting lines. However, the Grand-Am / ROLEX Series drivers bank points on this race to officially start their season.

grandamlogo1The Grand-Am / ROLEX season start with the ROLEX 24. Do the regular drivers secretly harbor some hidden issues with these usurpers in their seats? It is a double-edged sword when you turn it over and look at it. On the one hand, the starting series points could be jeapordized by the one race visiting drivers. On the other, the fact of these visiting drivers brings a huge motor sports spotlight on the series as a whole.  It is a frenzy of media and speed for this January weekend in Daytona with Grand-Am drivers catching a lot of attention because of the presence of the stars from other dimensions of racing. Is it a good thing…? Yes. Whatever points may be won or lost due to the presence of these other drivers falls in importance next to the attention drawn to Grand-Am racing because of them. The ROLEX 24 is a bright start to the racing season for everyone involved.

Enough commentary and philosophical drivel. Let’s talk racing. Qualifying is done for the 2010 ROLEX 24. There were some incidents during practice sessions that left 3 cars on the lift for repairs. All should be ready to race by Saturday to take the green. The Daytona Prototype pole position is held by the #10 SunTrust Ford Dallara following the drive by Max Angelelli. The outside spot on row one is held by the #60 Crown Royal Ford Riley driven through qualifying by Ozz Negri.

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The GT series front spot is held by the #69 SpeedSource FXDD Mazda RX-8 driven to qualify by Jeff Segal. The GT series has a large pool of entries consisting of Mazdas, Porsches, BMWs and Chevy Camaros.

2010gtrolex24

The large field of GT cars sharing the track with the Daytona Prototypes is going to make for some tight racing and challenging pass positions. The size of the road course layout at Daytona makes for a 3.5 mile distance but when these cars bunch up in groups fighting for series position it will be a force of will and patience to move through.

It all adds up to one thing. The ROLEX 24 is a must watch on SPEED this weekend. They will broadcast all but the overnight ours of the race which, in a way, is a bit disappointing. Some of the best racing can happen under the lights. However, those of us who are fans might also benefit from a little sleep and catch the headlight highlights on Sunday dropped in over live coverage.

Get your pizzas and snacks and beverages of choice and get ready to watch some racing to get 2010 off to fast start. The Super Bowl is yet to come so no conflict there. Basketball…? Are you kidding? Hockey…? Do we need to be reminded it’s cold outside? This is racing! This is speed! This is a world wide showcase of some of the best drivers from the hottest disciplines of racing. Put aside anything that has no wheels and watch this. Enjoy.

See Race Photos Here

Auto racing at 160+ mph is something to see. It is literally a flash of color and sound and wind chasing the wings as they go by. Combine these speeds with a short track setting such as Richmond International Raceway and you get a 5g vertigo festival. It is fun to watch and definately a bit different from a NASCAR Sprint Cup race on the same track. The lighter cars allow for quicker acceleration so the Indy cars shoot out of turns like rockets while NASCAR cars are thrown out of a turn on sheer power and momentum. Another noticeable difference is that the nature of NASCAR racing puts more cars in the same space and sheet metal is bound to get banged up while IRL cars are wide open with all four wheels exposed. While “rubbing is racing” is expected in NASCAR it can be a race ending disaster in IRL. Touching open wheels rotating at these speeds can send two cars in a dozen directions – including straight up. That seems to be frowned upon…

This past Saturday (June 27, 2009) the SunTrust Indy Challenge sped through 300 laps at Richmond International Raceway. With few cautions to shake things up, the race resembled a high speed parade for the majority of laps. It is difficult to pass at Richmond anyway and these cars are so evenly matched the chances at passing on the Richmond track only grow slimmer. The lead changes were mostly taken care of with pit strategy and pit stop speed more than ducking under the inside diving at speed into the turns. Dario Franchitti even apolgized to the fans after race making a mention of the lack of excitement on this particular race day.

All that aside, this race was fun to watch despite tha lack of two-wide turns and chasing through the field. The novelty of the design of these cars in an area known for closed cockpit, left side driving is one thing. The sheer speed, acceleration and quick braking is another. The personality of the race is different, too, but that is harder to put a finger on. Better to go see for yourself.

I found the race, the facility, the fans and the day to be thoroughly delightful from the point of view of a racing fan. My only dissapointment is the same I have at every auto race that does not have a Gordon or an Earnhardt in it. Where are the people. Go to any NASCAR track for a Sprint Cup race and the stands are crowded and the midway is busy. However, put a different kind of car on the same track and the fan response is much different. I’ve said it before. If you are a racing fan, be a “Racing” fan and support as much and as many types of racing as you can.

At the end of this one, Scott Dixon took the checkered in the Target Chip Ganassi #9 while team mate Franchitti rolled in the 2nd spot right behind him in the 10. Graham Rahal took 3rd, Hideki Mutoh was 4th and Danica Patrick grabbed another top 5 and 300 laps were done. Check out photos by clicking here.

Variety. The word describes the automotive fan as much as it does the cars they follow. NASCAR, Formula 1, Indy, Rally, Sports Cars, GT, Grand Prix…  and that is just a few of the racing series. That doesn’t begin to touch the thesaurus of general manufactured cars, modified or not, which draw people in. Lets not skip the customs and hot rods, the modified and the tame, which make people silly about the wheel. We’ve all been to a “car show” at some point. The problem with your typical car show is that it is crowded with cars. By that, I mean the cars are lined up side by side and some are surrounded by those rope things meant to keep you in line at the theatre. Yes – You see a lot of nice cars but they are static and surrounded. You can’t fully appreciate the cars because the many are all around distracting from the lines and curves of the the car in front of you. However, it is difficult to hold a “car show” where each vehicle has some space to be appreciated at its best… On the road, at speed, in a natural setting…

Mark Simpson in a '58 Scarab passing the Oak Tree turn at VIR
Mark Simpson in a '58 Scarab passing the Oak Tree turn at VIR

Unless you have access to a place like Virginia International Raceway.  June finds this paved jewel invaded by auto enthusiasts of all kinds bringing in some of the most beautiful car art ever built. The Heacock Classic Gold Cup features Morgans and MGs, Fort GTs and Ferraris, Porsches and Plymouths… and practically everything else! They are out in the open! They are on the track at speed! In other words – These cars appear in their natural habitat and definately NOT as a static display.

These are the cars you may only see on television or in a magazine. If you are like me (a working slob) then you don’t have the liquid cash to own one. However, on this weekend in June, you can come out to VIR when the people that do have the bank to own them bring them out for all of us to enjoy. Many of these cars represent the golden age of the car and motorsport. With graceful lines, powerful engines and exotic design, these cars turn the pavement of VIR into art in motion. It is something to see. Mark your calendar and don’t miss it again. It is an art gallery on wheels for any fan of motorsport. Check this gallery for a glimpse of the fun!

Here’s a Missed Gear Auto Quiz. What do you get when you take 3.2 miles of pavement, 1200 acres of scenic views, 4 or 5 divisions of high technology, a healthy dose of speed and a touch of nostalgia and mix them all together? You get a splendid automotive playground tucked away just east of Danville, VA known as VIR.  Virginia International Raceway has a historic beginning with the SCCA and names like Carl Haas and Carroll Shelby. Now, however, VIR hosts some national racing events while still playing host as a SCCA proving ground.

Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes at VIR
Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes at VIR

This past April 24, 25 and 26 VIR hosted the Grand-Am Rolex Series with Daytona Prototypes and GT cars racing for points and highlighted on SPEED Network for the world to see. (See pictures from raceday here!) Through the course of three days of laps, qualifying and racing, VIR also hosted the Skip Barber Racing School, the BMW Championship Series, the Star Mazda Racing Series and the innovative VW TDI Racing Series.

Grand-Am Rolex Series GT Class @ VIR
Grand-Am Rolex Series GT Class @ VIR

Your ticket to VIR, which won’t cost you even the slightest bit of skin from a favored body part, gets you access to all of this racing, the paddock and no assigned seats. From a driver or car owner standpoint, VIR offers facilities for performance engine and chassis tuning. For developing racers, the VW TDI facilities are based out of VIR. One of the fastest consumer-ready enthusiast cars is built on the grounds. The Ariel Atom boasts 300+ horsepower and 0-60 in under 3 seconds. There is rental housing, condo ownership, garage facilities and so much more.

Volkswagen TDI diesel racing based from facilities at VIR
Volkswagen TDI diesel racing based from facilities at VIR

VIR remains a premiere destination for club racers, enthusiasts and car lovers. Now, however, VIR is a fan destination for sports car racing and motorcycle racing events. Tickets are cheap. The racing is exciting. The views are beautiful. You can even see NASCAR road course testing and an air show! VIR is a petrol payground no racing fan should skip so take the opportunity to go racing in Southside Virginia. You will be glad you did.

Jeff Gordon locks in a win at Texas. He’d been pushing the checkered flag for quite some time but couldn’t quite grasp it until he won the guns after 47 races without the taste of Victory Lane. He remains first in points and the Texas win only pads the margin.
Gordon’s teammate, Jimmie Johnson, picked up the Martinsville win the week before. Ironic as it seemed for many laps it was Gordon’s race to lose. Missed Gear was at Martinsville for the race and we’ve got lots of pictures! Check them out HERE!

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