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This Daytona 500 will be different than any other in recent times, at least from this fan’s view. I can’t remember there being so many unknowns entering into this race as there are this year. With the new Gen 6 car, the newer but changing track surface and the drivers still not being sure of how their cars will react in side-by-side large packs, I’m one of many that expect the unexpected this Sunday afternoon.
I think another thing that will enter into the mix will be the temperature expected for the afternoon. It is going to be a bit warmer than it has been at any other time the Cup cars have been on the track and that just adds to the unknowns. I’m not saying any one of these things will figure into the results in a big way but all of them together may add up to completely unexpected results.
It has been hard to tell whether or not the teams have really gotten comfortable with this new car and how they plan to attack the race but one difference we might notice will be how many times they change tires. It may or may not be any different than the Duels but it did seem they had a little better handling when they changed tires when they actually had to stop in the pits.
While we’re looking at the pits, it ‘s another thing that could have a large effect on which team takes home the trophy at the end of the day – how the pit crews perform. During the Duels, pit crew mistakes did show up as time lost on the track. They weren’t by themselves either because some of the drivers lost their advantage on the track simply because they were caught speeding coming into or going out of the pits. (A driver named, Jeff Gordon pops into the mind of this fan. His speeding penalty probably cost him winning Duel #2. Although it is unclear whether it was a tach issue or the driver pressing the envelope too far, from my view that is exactly why he didn’t win the second of the two Duels. His mistake opened the door for Kyle Bush and others to win so don’t be surprised if speeding penalties don’t play a part in this Daytona 500.
Now, don’t misunderstand what I am saying, but with what happened during the Nationwide race on Saturday afternoon, there are even more questions about what might happen as the Cup cars come down to the checkered flag on the last lap, especially if the pack is bunched up the way the Nationwide series was. Of course we all know part of that was because of the race being restarted with just a couple of laps to go and it was just a typical dash to the finish that has kind of become the norm at these type races in both the Nationwide and Cup series.
I’d like to say right up front, all of us that love NASCAR want all of the injured fans to have no lasting effects from the terrible accident that happened at the flag stand. It was a horrible way to end what had been a very exciting race. This fan’s hope and prayer is that all will be well with every one of those fans that were injured by the flying debris. I don’t say that lightly and I know that no one in NASCAR takes it lightly either. I don’t blame anyone for what happened and it was definitely a freak accident. I do guess we have to expect something to give when around 3400 lb cars are traveling at 190 plus miles per hour and become airborne for one reason or another. One thing I am certain of is that NASCAR will analyze the situation and they and the Daytona racetrack will come up with a way to make the fan’s even safer, just as they have the drivers.
It is a shame to this fan that such an interesting couple of weeks has to have a bit of a dark cloud hanging over them. At least for the moment all of the injured are being cared for and although some are still listed as critical at least all are stable at the time of this writing.
So, the 55th running of the Daytona 500 will take place this afternoon as planned. It will be historic in several ways, not the least of which is the person sitting on the pole. Yes, Danica Patrick will lead the other 42 cars to the green and then it’s anybody’s guess who will win. As they pass the repaired fence near the flagstand I am sure they will all reflect at least for a second or two on what happened at that spot on Saturday afternoon and then they will mat the gas pedal to the floor and all 43 of them will focus on how they can best get to the front and stay there.
Will Danica become the first woman to win a Daytona 500? From this fan’s view, she has as good a chance as any one of the 43 drivers on the track. It is obvious she wants to win but I don’t see her driving with complete abandon all the way through. With the things that have happened to her in past races at Daytona, I’m sure she knows the old saying as well as any one of the drivers on the track, “To finish first, one must first finish.” I don’t know for sure but I’d be willing to bet the farm there are about 42 other drivers that feel exactly the same way.
When it comes down to that last lap and the checkered flag is fully in view, I’m still going to be expecting the unexpected. I’m going to call the winner as anyone that started the race and is still running as they cross the finish line…
As for the “Big One?” Well… I’m expecting at least one of those, too…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 23, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions