Michael McDowell. We’re going to wager there were no wagers paid out for the Daytona 500. Anyone that would have selected McDowell to win the “500” would be the type of person to choose a McRib over a North Carolina baby back rack…

Lots of Cup career starts… No wins… A handful of top 10s… Nope. Not the top pick to win the points opener. He’s been around quite a while but hasn’t been able to make that jump to the top tier… Until now. A win at the Daytona 500.

Now… Front Row Motorsports is indeed on the front. For now. Time will tell if this win pushes McDowell and FRM to show more performance. The win of the #34 LOVES Ford brings to mind the 2011 win by Trevor Bayne. Bayne managed some good rides but couldn’t quite grab a victory payoff after his Daytona. (It should be noted health issues plagued Trevor’s career moving forward.)

Whatever… All things being equal McDowell was on his way to very respectable third place. Joey Logano was leading Brad Keselowski. Final lap touch, spin, wall, fire, done… McDowell rolled through and nosed over the caution lights in front.

In a race that started in the afternoon with a big crash early on and rain shortly after that held the field until shortly after 9:00pm. The race ended a bit after midnight.

Michael McDowell’s late night ride into fantasy land marked yet another odd out finish for the stories that are spawned at Daytona. It was a miracle finish for a race that paid homage to a 20 year loss of Dale Earnhardt. Lap 3 was a tribute to the Man in the Goodwrench #3. The final lap (and the mash up in lap 14) was a tribute to the racing safety largely inspired by that fabled wreck in 2001.

This Daytona had a few surprises. McDowell… Well…, Yeah… The #48 with Alex Bowman on pole was another. Although, in reality if you think about it, the Ally #48 with Alex Bowman was the same car for Alex Bowman as the #88 would have been with different stickers. Bubba Wallace and the new #23 team ran really well with time up front and finished 17th after being caught in the last lap mash up. Two big crashes that were rather spectacular. A mid race fast food run by drivers. Denny Hamlin did not win.

On top of that… They stay in Daytona to run the road course as the next points race. Speed Week is Speed Weeks and Daytona never ends… For another week, anyway…

Talladega – Clean air out front at the finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Mid-field turbulence tore up some others…

The #88 of Dale, Jr. was out front and holding position while team mate Johnson in the #48 was chasing but not really catching. Others made moves including Denny Hamlin but really just opened the train to multiple lanes crossing the finish.

Talladega also saw the challenge of close racing at speed as air pressure pulled and pushed the field. Early on it was Trevor Bayne going loose with Menard on the outside and Kurt Busch on the inside. The air went rough and the tail of Bayne’s Ford went wild triggering a spin in the field that put quite a few either out or down with repairs.

For Earnhardt, it was a sweet and emotional win as he spoke somewhat softly in Victory Lane. Excited, yes, but also reserved while expressing his view on his team, his personal life and how it is all coming together with his racing and feeling really thankful. Talladega notches his first points win of the season and puts The CHASE in view for the #88.

Top 5 across the line at Talladega: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex, Jr.

Dale Jr. moves into the the #5 spot in points with Kevin Harvick still on top. Martin Truex, Jr. is second in points with solid finishes but the only driver in the top 5 with no wins in 2015. Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano fill up spots three and four.

Next up: Kansas

The coincidence, or the weird, or the ironic…

Not sure which…

Daytona and the opening of NASCAR offered a generous and exciting start to the season but it also raised the spirit of the modern sport itself.

It’s all a bit spooky…

Consider the recap. Richard Childress brings the #3 back to Cup with driver and grandson Austin Dillon. Dillon has done the number proud with the trucks and a championship in the Nationwide series.

Dillon qualifies with the #3 on the pole for the Daytona 500. The first return of the #3 to Cup since the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt (the man that made the number an icon) and it is leading the pack for the start of the new NASCAR season. (more…)

It’s kind of spooky. Cool, yes… But spooky.

The #3 is back in the top series of NASCAR. It’s been on the Camping World Series trucks and the next level Nationwide Series. It won a Nationwide Championship last year in 2013. Now, that driver that won with it has brought it into the Sprint Cup. His grandfather is the owner. The kid grew up surrounded by it.

Austin Dillon and Richard Childress Racing. RCR owns the number and had kept it off the tracks for several years after Dale Earnhardt drove it to 7 championships and, finally, to his death at the Daytona 500 in 2001. (more…)

Injuries. It is probably not the best topic on the eve of the start of NASCAR and the Daytona 500. Reality, however, may take the reigns.

As tough as it may be for some, perhaps even many, in the grandstands, the famed #3 is returning to “Cup” racing. The number may technically belong to Richard Childress but to all those who keep a fading and slanted “3” on their automobile windows it will always belong to Dale Earnhardt. The seven time Champion was killed while in the sport and in the car. It was a fatal injury that changed the way NASCAR races from that day forward.

It is not a matter of whether Austin Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress, can or even should drive the number. It is a matter of injury. The drivers, whatever the number, take a risk for their ride and for the show that the fans pay the money for. (more…)

Wow. That didn’t take long. The “big one” before the “big one” season starting Daytona 500 even got the green flag. The testing of the new Gen-6 car went wild during draft and group testing at speed…

Apparently, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. discovered a “draft fact”, that is if his post run comments were on the mark. Marcos Ambrose went loose setting off a chain of events that left a eleven cars in a state of insurance headache. Ambrose’s Ford went sideways after a rear clip from Earnhardt, Jr.’s Chevy which apparently lead to his comments. (more…)

Martinsville. It can be a turn to turn slug-fest or a lap by lap run down trading positions. The classic scenario mixes the two for moves through the field and pushing the way to the front.

This weekend we got a bit of the classic Martinsville. Twenty-two lead changes, plenty of clashing bumpers with some spins and wall-hangers to an “anyone could take it” 20 lap final.

This was the Chase from Martinsville as the track celebrated 65 years of racing with Hall Of Famers, a showing of historic memorabilia at a local museum, a points grab on the line and a return to his car by one of the top stars of NASCAR.

If that wasn’t enough to make a full day throw in a constant threat of hurricane Sandy off the eastern coast and another front pumping through from the west. As the race ran through scheduled 500 laps it was raining 80 miles west and 100 miles east. Martinsville sat between the weather for racing but 15 minutes after the checkered flag the temperatures began to plummet and the wind was kicking it.

Martinsville fans are used to dealing with a little weird weather but this may have pushed it up a notch. (more…)