For NASCAR, the news is good. Ratings for the Daytona 500 were up 30% this season. That’s good for the sport and better for the bottom line. Final ratings are not out, though. We shall see. Regardless, even someone I respect so much, Buddy Baker, said it was not a great race. And it wasn’t. I’ve often said that a bad race is a lot better than a day a work or an NFL game or a no-hitter against your favorite team. That still stands.
After the excitement of the new car, the Gen 6 car, not much changed. The action, instead of being the “two-car tango,” became the freight train, once only seen at Martinsville and other less banked tracks. Very little passing was seen, mainly because taking a chance at moving to the inside line was instant death. There’s a lot to learn about this new car, and it will be at other tracks during the season. It’s time to be patient.
But, back on the subject of the race, I found it horribly boring. Sure, there are the pure racing fans like me, who just love the sport, but truth is, not much is different despite the new car. Chevrolet still rules, Hendrick Motorsports or Richard Childress Racing cars won everything at Daytona in a car that isn’t even available for sale until fall. The best Fords were far back and the best Toyotas, with the notable exception of Mark Martin either blew up or were not effective enough to finish. Even though the Joe Gibbs organization pointed this season toward a championship, engine and car problems led to a bad day. Same with Roush Fenway. Greg Biffle was there all day, only to be shuffled back by the combo of Dale Jr., and Mark Martin. The final determination is that Hendrick rules, as it has been for as long as I can remember. Many will point to Martin’s third place finish or Keselowski’s fourth, but neither were really a factor. Kenseth led the most laps, but wasn’t around at the end, but this is Daytona. It really doesn’t matter because the rest of the season is all that matters.
The lesson here is money rules. Hendrick has the money and the resources and everyone is trying to catch up. That’s been the rule for a long time and that isn’t a recipe for success, but it doesn’t hurt. But, it doesn’t hurt, either. Joe Gibbs and Roush Fenway are well financed for sure, but there is no doubt where the money is. Any team that can reject finances because the sponsor “doesn’t fit,” is doing well and in no need of help. Few have this liberty.
I think we’ll see a more balanced racing at Phoenix and Las Vegas. This car was made for the intermediate tracks. I expect the Chevys to dominate, as they always do and always will for the foreseeable future, but someone may sneak in and win.
As for the horrific accident on Saturday, I had to delete what I had typed Saturday night. I remember David Poole’s tirade after the Carl Edwards accident in 2009. Restrictor plate racing is the Great Satan. Many fans love it because it is exciting and keeps things close, but is not racing. I laughed at Greg Biffle when he said that he could have blocked in the 500, but it would have been the same result as in the Nationwide race on Saturday. The human condition intervenes here. That says a lot. I don’t think it’s the track as much as the competitors. Regan Smith wasn’t willing to take second place, just like Brad Keselowski wasn’t willing to in 2009. Both ended in near disaster. Can you change not? No. And so it goes. That’s racing.