Wow… The Daytona 500 was, indeed, a “wow” start to the season. The new car looks great. Action and the finish kept the pace with good “edge of the seat” racing throughout…

Yeah…?

Actually…? Yeah!

However… Social media remains full of naysayers and whiners who just… can’t… get… beyond… 2001.

“Bring back the old days…” No. We can’t go back and you know it. You’re flapping over something that can’t happen. You are simply being loud for the sake of making a noise. Most couldn’t explain what they think about it on a bet. Racing is not cheap. The safety measures alone dictate many changes so we don’t injure or kill any more drivers (or fans!)

Some folks even complain that modern NASCAR racing is boring compared to the “old days”. Perhaps they aren’t watching the same races as the rest of us… Upside down cars, wild spins, cars sliding through the logos on the infield…

Harrison Burton in the Wood Brothers #21 going for a ride at the Daytona 500

Face it. The “old days” inspired the sport but it had to evolve. The rules to maintain safety and competition fairness had to grow with the technology available. Everything has evolved. Unfortunately, the instant nature of communicating opinions has also evolved. In the “old days” these people are pining for, you had to write a letter on paper and stick a stamp on it and mail it someone else who had to open the envelope to read the comment… If they cared enough to open it at all…
Now, however, there is no check and balance on comments and the instant nature of social media gives everyone an open shot at airing their “grievance”, even if that grievance is as useless as flushed toilet paper.

Myatt Snider in the fencing at Daytona during the Xfinity Series race

“Stage racing sucks” No. It doesn’t. People think they remember “better” racing when the reality was, mostly, hours of long laps sandbagging until the last 50 laps to bring the most expensive car to the line. Ask them why… “Why does stage racing suck…?” All they have is “they need to bring their car and just let them race…” They did that for a long time and either the most money won or the “racing” was a bit boring for 2 or 3 hours until it was time to “really race” to the finish. It was also possible that the “race” turned into a sheet metal free-for-all with a lot of damage going home on trailers. These people didn’t understand the points system then. Now that it is simplified with stages and wins they just complain for the sake of it. Stage racing makes the entire race a possible points gain. It keeps the teams and drivers in the competition from green to checkers.

“The new car and one lug wheels aren’t NASCAR” Well… In some ways, you got this one. It certainly is not a “stock car” which is implied by “National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing”. Reality check: It hasn’t been a “stock car” for a very… long… time. Many factors bring this generation to the track but cost and safety top the list. The central chassis is supplied and uniform across all teams. Cup cars are no longer built from the ground up but are assembled with parts from sanctioned supply chains. The brakes are bigger so the wheels are bigger. The design makes the central lock hub a better fit with larger and lighter wheels. The suspension is enhanced with current independent design from the solid axle system carried over from the earliest days of driving.

The shell is flexible so sheet metal is not bent or ripped as much as before. The numbers position allows more room for sponsor placement so their investment is a better showcase. The tires are wider. The interior design meshes with the entire car structure for better driver safety.

There is also something to be said for the earlier reference to “free-for-all” wreck it racing. It is too expensive. Car owners and sponsors are not going to watch their investment wreck out. It’s just not economic or viable to “race” that way. It never really was. If that was your idea of the “good old days” you were never a “racing” fan – You were a “wrecking” fan.

Face it. NASCAR bought a new car and it’s a step up.

“Bubba Wallace” We can’t even… There were multiple social media comments essentially mocking the integrity of the finish asking why Wallace was not penalized for going over the yellow line, “like any other driver would have been”… OK, two things. By “any other driver” these idiots are showing their racist ignorance by implying that Bubba Wallace is being given some kind of preferred status because he is African American. Let’s just toss that out with the MAGA hats. It’s just too stupid as these people do nothing but try to disguise their bigotry by making a “fair for all” comparison by complaining that Bubba’s treatment is preferential.

NASCAR also made a social post about history and referencing four Black owners fielding cars on the track. Brad Daugherty (JTG Daugherty) has been involved for a while. Michael Jordan is returning with 23XI Racing and Denny Hamlin. Floyd Mayweather (The Money Team Racing) and entrepreneur John Cohen (NY Racing) are running new teams for 2022. The alleged “enlightened” voices of fairness couldn’t stay away and the post lit up with responses. Most were supportive. However, the “let’s just stop talking about it” crowd could not leave it alone while stepping completely on the reality that this could not have happened in the “good old days” they yearn for.

This is highly simplified. However, the flap is real. If you are going to argue that there is unfair focus on African American personalities then you are only arguing for the sake of modern Caucasian innocence which attempts to sweep years of inequality under the rug and “whitewash” the real economics of racism.

Let’s not forget that the defending NASCAR Cup Champion was suspended just over a year before for using a racial slur during a promotional “virtual” race event. At the time the talk was that his career was set back and permanently damaged. He then was given a chance at a ride back and won the Championship. So… Let’s not jump out on the “preferential treatment” for Black drivers or Black owners just yet…

Face it. 2022 is here. The new NASCAR season is here. The new car is here. The concept of diversity behind the wheel and in the garage has grown much wider.

Don’t look too closely… You might see some women coming up through the ranks…

let’s go racing, Everybody!

The first real look at competition with the new car for NASCAR came Thursday night at Daytona with the Bluegreen Duels. The race in Los Angeles was a pleasant preview but was not the best showcase for the aerodynamics and side by side pace racing. The coliseum may have showed us some of what to expect at places like Martinsville or Bristol but the real test for the new car will be at pack speed.

Duel one went off without major incident. Brad Keselowski took the win for position lining up on the inside for the Daytona 500.

Brad Keselowski – Winner of Bluegreen Duel #1 (2-17-2022)

It was also a bit of a win for Kaz Grala and Money Team Racing. A pit speed penalty put them way back but a last lap pass put them ahead of JJ Yeley to make position for racing on Sunday.

The second Duel put some crunch into the final laps as Joey Logano made an impulsive move to block a pass from Chris Buescher. The result of that left the #22 spinning while Buescher went on for the win. Logano later acknowledged it was a bad move which has the #22 team scrambling with a damaged car.

Chris Buescher – Winner of Bluegreen Duel #2 (2-17-2022)

Also noteworthy, Greg Biffle is back in a Cup car for the Daytona 500. His last Cup season was in 2016. He “raced in” for a spot on Sunday for New York Racing.

The front row from qualifying Wednesday has defending Cup Champion Kyle Larson on the pole with team mate Alex Bowman on the outside. Rousch Fenway Keselowski team mates, after sweeping the Duels, start in row 2.

Austin Cindric and 2021 500 winner Michael McDowell are in row 3.

A big batch of the hottest names in NASCAR are starting back in the field. Kyle Busch starts 10th and Chase Elliott starts 11th. Martin Truex Jr is 14th, Kurt Busch is 17th and Logano is in the 20th spot.

Kevin Harvick, William Byron and Denny Hamlin start mid pack or further back. With talent spread throughout the field at the start it is cranking up to be a really good race. The challenges of the new car on the teams and the long form race of the Daytona 500 is going to test every aspect of Cup racing for the checkers.

We’ll see drivers with new teams. New teams facing hard competition and a new car putting a challenge to everyone on the track. It’s a new season that has already shaken convention with a race on a football field. The Daytona 500 is the biggest reveal on a sport that is taking on a challenge to keep racing into the future.

There are some that are still crying for the past. We can’t go back. The race is on and it’s in front of us.

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…

That was entertaining. Perhaps even more so for those race fans that tune in to watch NASCAR but don’t dive in to all the nuts and bolts of the news and bits. These are the folks that may have gotten a surprise by watching the opening laps of the Busch Clash. Right hand turns, esses, bus stops and chicanes… It might have been a shock to the system for left turn fans looking for a glimpse of the Daytona 500.

Perhaps they thought someone forgot to take the cones and markers down from that pesky sports care race 2 weeks prior… Whatever the case, it was entertaining. NASCAR cars are heavier than the IMSA cars that ran the ROLEX and it showed with spins and straight line runs off course. Drivers like Kevin Harvick who we’re used to seeing in the top 5 were struggling to stay on the pavement. Some others, such as defending NASCAR Cup Champion Chase Elliott, were taming the turns with a start from the back to the front in the first half of the race.

Lead changes were plenty from straight up racing to pit strategies. Ryan Blaney was on the pole from a random draw. Denny Hamlin quickly took the front a few laps in. Tyler Reddick, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. traded front spots up to the scheduled competition caution at lap 16.

Kurt Busch won off pit road to restart up front but quickly lost it in the first turn. Mid race mishaps included Cole Custer losing power and catching fire around the overheated brakes. The caution put William Byron back on track with a bad tire change that quickly went flat and off the rim.

Kurt Busch won off pit road to restart up front but quickly lost it in the first turn. Mid race mishaps included Cole Custer losing power and catching fire around the overheated brakes. The caution put William Byron back on track with a bad tire change that quickly went flat and off the rim. Truex had missed a turn and had to restart in the back. He came back to the front just to lose it in the dirt and curbs of a chicane and spun the #19 into the garage.

The FedEx #11 of Denny Hamlin might have been the car to beat but he had to pit with half the field with 6 laps to go. Chase Elliott stayed out on older tires and Ryan Blaney took the lead with 2 to go. Elliott wasn’t having and raced hard on the final lap, getting under the #12 in the final chicane. The tires couldn’t hold and he spun Blaney as his own #9 bounced off the curbing. All this allowed Kyle Busch in the #18 M&Ms Toyota to roll past both of them and take the checkers.

Kyle was there when it mattered, ready to roll through the advantage if it presented. With it, he grabbed a second last lap Busch Clash pass for the win. (He did a last lap pass – win in 2012)

Kyle Busch – Busch Clash Winner 2021

The Duels are Thursday. The Daytona 500 is Sunday. ARCA, Camping World and Xfinity run Friday and Saturday. All with standard, left turn Daytona racing. They will remain at Daytona the following week with a full race back on the road course.

If the Busch Clash was any indication, the final February race at Daytona should be a wild one.

Let’s face it. Despite “The Weekend”, the Super Bowl is one day. Racing practically fills 4 weeks at Daytona from the Roar. the Rolex, the Clash, the Duels, the 500 and the Cup Road Course. Throw in the Dixie Vodka at Homestead and you have 5 weeks of racing in Florida.

One weekend in Tampa for the Super Bowl up against all that racing… And we still have barely heard a word from major news. No news anchors discussing their take on Corvettes winning over world wide competition or Acura and Wayne Taylor bringing home a 3rd trophy in a row… No attention on Chase Elliott or Jimmie Johnson competing at the Rolex… No predictions on what commercials will air during the Daytona 500… No talk for weeks about the competitors, the changes in the season or, for that matter, anything to do with racing.

They gave racing some lip service when NASCAR placed a ban on the confederate flag and the reports of the noose incident last year. You would think, even with that, there would at least be some interest on Bubba Wallace and his new team, 23XI Racing, with owners Denny Hamlin and NBA Hall of Famer, Michael Jordan. No mention of 7 time Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson not running NASCAR and focusing on Indy…

Nauseating minutia for weeks on the Super Bowl… Speed Weeks gets nothing…

OK… Fine… We’ll take award wiining country music artist, Luke Combs, and the Daytona 500, and all that goes with it, as something so special it’s above the realm of the average “talking head”. We’ve had the Roar and the Rolex and we’re ready for the green flag to fly on the Busch Clash at DAYTONA (Tuesday, 2-9). The week continues with the Bluegreen Vacations Duels at DAYTONA (Thursday, 2-11). Friday and Saturday, the 12th and 13th, we’ll have the ARCA Menards Series, The Camping World Truck Series and the XFinity Series.

Sunday the 14th… Valentine’s Day… We’ll take the Daytona 500 and roll on with our 10 month season of motor sport. We’ll take the laps… The average talking heads can stay on script while we go racing and stay fascinated by shiny things going fast.

Now… There are some changes to tuck in your head. We all know Jimmie Johnson retired from full time NASCAR Cup racing. We’re not going to completely rule out that he’ll take the seat from time to time. Alex Bowman will take over the #48. The #88 is out for 2021 but Hendrick brought back the #5 with Kyle Larson at the wheel and back in the NASCAR field following the virtual racing vocal lack of judgement in 2020.

As mentioned, Bubba Wallace is in the #23 for 23XI Racing with team owners Hamlin and Jordan. Petty Motorsports has placed Erik Jones in the iconic #43 as Christopher Bell takes over the #20 at JGR. The Stewart-Haas #14 will have Chase Briscoe in the seat as Clint Bowyer takes a spot in the studio broadcast. The #42, taken over last year by Matt Kenseth, will feature Ross Chastain for 2021.

If you had signature hats for these drivers or numbers, you’ll need new ones… Or be really good at embroidery…

It’s race week at Daytona. Time to put men in tights and football away and go for the checkered flag!

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…)