Sunday night under the lights at Daytona will be both an ending and a beginning.
NBC will be covering its first Sprint Cup race since 2006 and I’m excited to see what they have after FOX kicked the season off with some of the worst coverage I’ve ever seen. Constant production mistakes, announcers giving false or misguided information, biased studio analysts, constant commercials, and a terrible pre-race “grid walk.”
The walk, in particular, ripped off from Will Buxton’s Formula One segments, is a constant embarrassment and has got to go next year. Instead of Buxton’s professionalism and talk of things relevant to the in-race action, FOX has Michael Waltrip run from car to car, breathing hard and making poor attempts at comedy. Quite possibly the lowest point of the entire NASCAR season has been Waltrip spilling a taco over Denny Hamlin’s race car.
To be completely honest, Waltrip is completely useless on the FOX broadcasts. Jeff Hammond is on hand and can provide just as good, if not better, analysis. Hammond also doesn’t have a bias like Waltrip does, which is always a negative when it comes to sports broadcasting. I don’t like it when analysts have a stake in the game/race they are talking about. It is just unfair to all other teams talked about during pre and post race coverage. I wasn’t thrilled when Brad Daugherty worked for ESPN while covering NASCAR but at the very least JTG Daugherty wasn’t really that relevant until the end of ESPN’s run.
So far, I like what NBC is doing. Nobody in the broadcast booth has called a Cup series race, but I’ve felt for years that Rick Allen’s call of the Truck Series has been the highlight of FOX’s coverage of the series. Jeff Burton did a great job covering XFINITY races for ESPN part-time while Steve Letarte has potential but needs some seasoning.
I even like the pre-race crew. Nobody really has a bias in today’s NASCAR. The closest would be Kyle Petty with Richard Petty Motorsports, but even then I don’t believe Kyle has a stake in the team. Dale Jarrett is better in the studio than he is in the booth while Krista Voda has been very good in her role as host for FOX’s Truck Series coverage for years.
The closest thing I have to a problem is with Rutledge Wood, who is only really bad when he has a show all to himself, Trackside, and is fine in small spurts.
There’s definitely talent in the NBC crew, but now let’s see how the actual coverage is. If anything, they should be better than FOX at the very least.
Sunday will mark the final start for Jeff Gordon at Daytona. Gordon holds six points victories at this track, including three Daytona 500’s, along with two Sprint Unlimited wins and five Budweiser Duel wins. Gordon, however, hasn’t won at Daytona since 2009 and hasn’t won a points race since 2005 when he won his third Daytona 500.
Although unconfirmed, it may also be the final Daytona race for Bobby Labonte in the No. 32 Ford for Go Green Racing. The 2000 Cup champion holds no points wins at Daytona, but has a single Duel win and finished second to Dale Earnhardt Sr. when he won the 1998 Daytona 500 in one of the most famous races in history.
From now on I’ve decided to name two drivers for each category instead of just one. The reality is that most weekends there is no clear cut favorite/sleeper/dark horse, and with 43 teams in each race it’s hard to talk about only three teams.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a better average finish than any other driver in the past 10 plate races at 10.5 and is tied with Jimmie Johnson in both wins and top-10s. Johnson has an average finish of 12.1 and one more top-five than Dale Earnhardt Jr. in those same races.
Although Clint Bowyer hasn’t won a plate race since joining Michael Waltrip Racing, the Kansas native is typically out front and center near the end of these races.
Casey Mears has been super impressive in plate races the last few years and he knows this is the last real shot the small Germain Racing team has at winning and making the Chase. It’s strange to call the defending race winner a dark horse, but that’s what Aric Almirola is this week. Although he hasn’t been too impressive in these races, the reality is that he was leading, not in the middle or a pit cycle or anything like that, when the race was called last year, and under the unpredictable Florida sky, anything can happen.
I try not to bring politics into any NASCAR writings, but this week I’m making an exception to that.
As most who are reading this have heard, NASCAR has come out against the public display of the Confederate Flag at races. Having been to Martinsville and Richmond, I can, in fact, confirm that many NASCAR fans believe the Civil War is still going on.
Many of these fans have complained about their first amendment rights being taken away by NASCAR, and constantly claim that the Confederate Flag has more than one meaning. They believe that they are in the right and NASCAR, for condemning the flag, is in the wrong.
Here are some basic facts about this issue that these people need to read:
- A racetrack has the right to tell you not to fly any flag, just like how you have the right not to go to said racetrack.
- NASCAR is not the government and thus cannot tell you not to fly a flag when not at their racetrack.
- The Confederate Flag was the symbol of a traitorous non-country that helped to usher in the worst war in the history of the United States.
- In said war, white men fought under said flag for their right to enslave African Americans. Even though some fought for other reasons, at the end of the day this was the principal reason for the Confederacy’s existence to begin with.
It simply doesn’t matter if the Confederate Flag stands for something else. The Swastika is and was a symbol for luck, eternity, and even God himself in most Asian cultures long before Hitler got his hands on it. Does that make it right to be flown in this country? No, but you have the right to fly it on private property, just like with the Confederate Flag.
Not to mention, if the flag is really such an integral part of our sport, why is nobody in it defending its usage? The fact is that it’s a niche flag being flown by people who do it just because they hate the government. Not one person I’ve ever seen flying it has been happy with the administration in power at the time, and within this commonality, most don’t think about what needs to be looked at such as those who hand out political flyers at racetracks; disdain and an annoyance. Political statements shouldn’t be made at races.
All stats for the Finley Factor are provided by Racing Reference unless otherwise noted.