The Final Word – A Lack of Love at Daytona

We have just gotten the season underway, and already we got guys torqued. I mean, some got downright ornery.

Take the Sprint Unlimited race last Saturday. Joey Logano seemed just a flying fist of fate away from being all gums, no teeth. In fact, the best save of the day came when one of his crew grabbed his driver by the scruff of the neck and dragged his butt out of harm’s way. Down to the final couple of laps, Logano was driving up Kevin Harvick’s exhaust when that battered car tagged the wall. That was enough for a post-race discussion, but when Joey decided to stick his mug into Harv’s face to drop the f-bomb, he was suddenly hauled away. In doing so, he avoided a possible sock-it-to-me moment.

Oh, by the way, Matt Kenseth won the race, ahead of Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards.

The next day, NASCAR’s wacky method to determine the front row for the Daytona 500 came into play. Instead of just finding out who is the fastest, we now include cars actually racing during qualifying, blocking to maintain position and to interfere with another’s time, along with jockeying on pit road as to who goes when to take advantage of what. The result is a nonsensical farce just to provide some kind of show for the fans. If you do not believe me, ask Clint Bowyer. He ignored his crew chief’s pleas to leave his smoking wreck to yell at Reed Sorenson, who had tried to block, which caused one hell of a mess. By being taken out early, the best Bowyer could do was record the 41st best qualifying time.

Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson survived it all to take the front row spots in the Daytona 500. On Thursday, the duels will decided the other 41 positions.

So, Bowyer is not happy. After getting out of his car to jaw with Sorenson, a rule violation, he could wind up even unhappier. The fact he called the new qualifying format idiotic, saying “It’s NASCAR’s fault for putting us out here in the middle of this crap for nothing,” it is doubtful he has endeared himself to the powers that be. However, among the drivers, he is not alone in that observation.

If Kurt Busch’s ex is some kind of trained assassin, she must truly suck at her job if Busch can assault her, and live. The judge must think so, too, according to his ruling, ordering that Kurt stay away from her. If she is fearful of mean ole Kurt, she must be scared crapless of Jimmy Spencer.

Having to go home is a fear for a few on Thursday, but with Carl Edwards securing a spot last weekend in his new entry, all the familiar faces are locked in. Almost. 13 are in, with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson on the front row. Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Edwards and Jamie McMurray are in through their qualifying times. Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano get a pass from their 2014 owner’s points, with Tony Stewart in as the most current past champion.

On Thursday, a Top 15 finish in one of the duel races locks a driver into the Daytona 500. If that driver already has a secure spot, the pass goes to the driver with the most 2014 owner’s points not already in the field. The six with the fewest owner’s points need to race their way in Thursday, with Ryan Blaney, Reed Sorenson, Michael Annett, Cole Whitt, Justin Marks and Ron Hornaday currently on the outside looking in. Those they are hoping to leap over include, in order, Michael McDowell, currently on the bubble, Johnny Sauter, Ty Dillon, Mike Wallace, Bobby Labonte, with Josh Wise the most secure of the bunch. Of course, if any of those bubble boys finish 15th or better in their Thursday race, they lock themselves into Sunday’s field. Simply put, for those high in 2014 owner’s points, it is less crucial to do well on Thursday. For those who are not, Thursday could mean everything.

Fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr have to love the fact that the next available spot would go to their guy, who has the best total in 2014 owner’s points among those not yet locked in. There is a chance, a very small chance, that Junior could fail to make the field. For that to happen, he would need to miss the Top 15 in his duel, as well as see every one of the 13 drivers currently locked in to finish their race 16th or worse. If just one of them finishes 15th or better, Earnhardt is in, and his fans have to love that.

Thursday they run the duels, Friday the trucks (except in Canada), Saturday the junior league, and Sunday it is the Daytona 500. What is not to love?

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.


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