The Season Begins With The Big One At Daytona

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

As they’ve been doing for a long time, NASCAR starts off their season with the biggest and most prestigious race of the year, the Daytona 500. As we enter the 2022 NASCAR Cup season it’s no different than it has been for long, long time BUT, there ARE a LOT of things different this year.

The Clash was in a totally different venue – The Coliseum in LA – and they built a track for that where there wasn’t one before AND that track was a quarter-mile, something the Cup cars hadn’t visited for 50 years or so. The car is new – the Next Gen or Gen Seven car – and has been totally re-designed (except maybe for the power under the hood.) Some of the drivers are new to the Cup series and there are new teams, team names and owners joining with NASCAR as all of this comes together in this new year.

So, let’s talk about some of what has already transpired.

Hey, I admit I’ve been a NASCAR fan for longer than many of the fan’s these days have been alive. I have seen a lot of changes over the years and some I have liked and some had to grow on me but, I’m still a fan after all this time. As we enter the 2022 season, I have to say right up front, some of the things I’ve seen so far this year will also have to grow on me.

We all endured the hype leading up to the Clash at the Coliseum and there certainly was lot of it. Some were disappointed with it but many weren’t. Looking at it from a local stock car driver/owner, not in NASCAR point of view, I’m sure the drivers enjoyed it more than anybody and as it turned out, it was just like a normal Saturday night short track race. Frankly, if it weren’t for the usual short track pushing and shoving, beating and banging, I found it to be a bit boring. In typical short track fashion, it was pretty much follow-the-leader and the way to pass was to move the guy in front of you out of the way.

Admittedly, the Clash has always been more of an entertainment type of race from my view with no points on the line but definitely a trophy and bragging rights. Since it was the first race on the previously unknown track and venue, Joey Logano walked with both of those. Looking at it as a fan, it was okay and I’m glad many got a chance to see a NASCAR Cup race, possibly for the first time even though not a typical track. Honestly though, I really couldn’t tell if the fans in the seats were there more for the race or Pit Bull and Ice Cube.

This week we saw, practice, qualifying and The Duels and it was the first time we all got to see the Next Gen car with more cars running on the track at the same time. From this fan’s view, it was a little disappointing to see how much of a follow-the-leader type of race the duels were. Yeah, I know the teams were feeling out their cars and determining what they needed to do to make them faster and more manageable in groups but, once again the Fords mostly ran together, the Toyotas and the Chevys the same.

Now, I understand the manufacturer thing and even the team thing but, I have to admit, at least from my view, I was disappointed in how hard it was to make up the difference between a two tire stop and a four. I was even a little surprised at how easy it was for a car to lose the draft and how hard it was for those that did to catch back up. Usually, they didn’t. From my view, it looked like the magic number of cars to either catch up or break away was at least four. Whether or not it had anything to do with the manufacturer or just at least four cars hooking up, I couldn’t tell.

Now, I’m not saying these aren’t things they won’t find answers to even as early as the start of the race, but it does make me question, at least a little bit, just how the 500 may go on Sunday afternoon. Could it be that NASCAR in desiring to attain parity as they wanted, has done too good a job? I say it is possible but not too likely. All of these guys are racers and I am sure they will figure it out even though it may not be for Sunday’s race.

From this fan’s view and trying to be as positive and fair about all of what is going on in NASCAR in this new season, I wonder what the Daytona 500 will be like this weekend. Judging from the end of Duel 2, I see it is still highly possible for drivers to make mistakes. That being the case, that means there is still the likelihood of having at least one “Big One” and possibly more than one.

Another thing I wonder about is which of the teams and or manufacturers might show an advantage over the others. Were the Chevys only fast as single cars or were they sandbagging? Looking at the performance of the Fords in the last practices, I just wonder if they are that far ahead of the others or if they just work good together? And the Toyotas… well… hard to tell at this point.

From this fan’s view, I think this is going to be a race with a lot of follow-the-leader laps with a lot of side-by-side and single file racing. I don’t think anyone will be anxious to jump out of line and quickly fade to the back or lose the draft altogether. Unless I miss my guess, I expect there will be a lot of two tire stops unless the stops are under caution. This just makes sense to me since there is about a four second difference between a two tire and a four-tire stop. Without a doubt in my view, fueling will take the longest amount of time on a stop and that will be the demise of some and the advancement in the field for others.

Understanding there are a lot of things new and different going into the Daytona 500, I’m willing to take it all in and see how things pan out. After all, there’s a lot of racing ahead in 2022…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view. See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 19, 2022 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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