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.

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!