The Final Word on the Daytona 500

So, what did we learn at the Daytona 500?

[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”270″][/media-credit]Well, we learned that if the rest of the races this season are comparable to the first, 2011 will be one hell of a year in NASCAR. To start with, you have a 20 year (and one day) old driver winning his first race in his second Cup start in an event it took Dale Earnhardt 20 years to finally claim. Trevor Bayne demonstrated throughout all the practices and his duel qualifier that he has that certain something. Jeff Gordon recognized it, and now most race fans should as well. The only question remaining is, what is the kid going to do now for an encore?

We learned that Dale Earnhardt, even ten years after his death, is still held in reverence. In sports, only hockey’s Maurice Richard comes to mind as being even close. Only Elvis can still spark such emotions. Few people in this world can still bring tears to the eyes of strangers after a decade as the memory of the Intimidator did over the past week.

We learned that his son can still run strong at the big track and remains as popular as ever. Too bad he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as Junior went from a Top Ten to sit 24th. David Ragan messed up the re-start of a green-white-checkers, which started a chain reaction of misfortune behind him that concluded Junior’s day. Earnhardt’s three team mates all got caught up in the 15-car Big One of Lap 29, with Jimmie Johnson and Gordon limping around to finish in 27th and 28th place. At least Mark Martin recovered to wrap up 10th.

We learned that Hendrick engines can, and did, fail. Kevin Harvick was gone from the scene within 20 laps, while Jeff Burton didn’t even make half way. J.J. Yeley got in ten before he was done, deemed the day’s Biggest Loser and collecting his single point for coming out.

We learned that eight cylinders beats seven, which is why last year’s Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray had to settle for 18th. We learned that Furniture Row’s Regan Smith is another fellow to watch for this season as he did himself proud to wind up seventh. Of course, we learned that two cars in tandem not only move fast at Daytona, but if the manoeuver isn’t done just right one can help ruin the day of the guy you were trying to help.

We learned that FOX came in with some new toys. They had cameras that showed heated tires and images that showed how much the drivers were turning the wheel. Nothing as stupid as ESPN’s bogus draft track, but unfortunately someone there insists on keeping Digger alive. Digger is dead, so let’s move on.

We learned on Friday night that Michael Waltrip still has some racing left in him, as he won the truck event 10 years to the day after he won the Daytona 500. Tony Stewart was 13th Sunday, but won his sixth season opening Nationwide race in his last seven attempts at Daytona on Saturday.

Next Sunday, a most welcome schedule change moves up our first visit to Phoenix by more than a month. Last April, Ryan Newman was the man, with Gordon and Johnson finishing right behind him. After their Daytona experience, I’m thinking those two could use a little history repeating itself in Arizona. By the way, as Bayne isn’t in the running for a Cup title this year, Carl Edwards leads the standings by a single point over David Gilliland and Bobby Labonte. Huh? Oh, it could be a very interesting season.

Enjoy your week.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


    • Well, damn! Nice pick-up, Carla. By the way, they actually don’t use RCR engines…they are built by ECR. See, I do know stuff!

      In my defense, due to scheduling, I had to write the piece sooner and quicker than I would have liked…and the dog ate my homework.

      Bottom line, you got me. I actually do appreciate you keeping me honest. Thanks again, Carla.


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