Now that the dust has cleared and a Daytona 500 Champion has been crowned, it’s time to look back at that race and see where we are with the changes made by NASCAR. First, we must understand that Daytona (and its sister track, Talladega) are different animals than the rest of the tracks that the drivers will visit. Don’t expect to see close packs and 37 leaders, but if you’re reading this, you already know about that. It’s really the points, which just a while ago we were trying to avoid. It’s almost déjà vu. Once again, another change. When will it end?
You see, NASCAR is in trouble. Not with us hardcore fans, because we will continue to watch and attend regardless of rule changes, but to Joe Six-Pack, to steal a name from 2008, who likes to watch, but likes things to stay the same. Explaining to the casual viewer how Kevin Harvick can be third in points while crashing out early in the race, is an exercise in futility. They pretty much throw up their hands and say they’re going to watch college basketball. That’s the problem. I should admit, I did a double take, even though I thought I knew the system. If the Wall Street Journal report wasn’t bad enough, we have this mathematical equation to decipher to figure out who’s in first.
I should admit that I couldn’t give two pitchers of warm spit who wins the championship. I grew up in the 1960s when Richard Petty won every year and my heroes were guys like Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson (really a two-time champ), and Cale Yarborough (who also, later on, won three), and others who raced hard, won, and it didn’t matter. Each race mattered and no one, that I can remember, worried about who was leading the championship points. It was more who won the most races, what car he drove, and what race was next. Call me ancient.
That said, what about the race? Since I stayed home this year and watched on television, I will say it was great TV. I was glued to the tube. The only problem was that it was more wrecks than racing. I’m on record as hating the kind of racing we see at Daytona and Talladega, but the segments didn’t seem to register with the media guys and the public at large, or maybe I’m out of touch. Either way, the drama was there, even though the guys everyone thought would win—Junior, Keselowski, Logano, Truex, Harvick, and Chase—were nowhere to be found at the end except Logano and Truex. Kurt Busch was a surprise winner and we had one of the young guys, Ryan Blaney (thanks to Logano) finished second in the Wood Brothers Ford. So, where does that leave us? The jury is out.
If those of us who are “older” fans can get past the complicated points and concentrate on each race and the moment, we will be fine. For the young fans, it’s more about spectacle and maybe seeing Junior win. There, we have the problem. Daytona was Daytona—an aberration. I’m withholding judgment until after Atlanta and the western tour. Then I’ll have an answer. Maybe. Stay tuned.