Farrah Kaye, sicknissified.com
Thoughts After Daytona 2.0
Daytona is a beast. It eats up cars and spits them out. It has no mercy. Whether you're the pole-sitter or in the back of the pack, you are at risk of not crossing the finish line. Every lap matters.
Daytona has seen rain, fire, potholes, horrendous crashes, a race where the 11th place car won when the 10 in front of him wrecked, heartache, joy and good ol' racing.
But this time around, the Coke 400, known for years as the Firecracker 400, left us a bit bored ... unless you like seeing green flag racing in packs and cars hitting walls head on and going airborne. And the Subway Firecracker 250 gave us the tandem racing with a touch of Cole Trickle/Rowdy racing courtesy of Kurt and Kyle Busch. To say it was an interesting weekend ... well, it depends on who you ask.
Days of Thunder: Kurt Busch had a special paint scheme on his No. 1 City Chevrolet Phoenix Racing entry in the Nationwide race thanks to Rick Hendrick and the Armed Forces Foundation. Cole Trickle was in full force and his crew was no different, as they ate ice cream on the pit box during a caution. As it should be, Rowdy bump drafted Cole through the pack (although the two finished fourth and eleventh).
The Big One (Nationwide): The big one always happens at Daytona and Talladega. It's inevitable. This one was caused by Travis Pastrana (he said himself "I wasn't clear") and he took two brutal hits, leaving his car nearly unrecognizable. Jason White, caught up in the wreck, climbed out of his car and immediately fell to the ground, causing everyone to hold their breath and wait. He eventually got up and was escorted to the ambulance. The accident happened with three laps to go and brought out a nearly 10-minute red flag. Despite Sam Hornish Jr. leading the most laps of the day, Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag.
Starting P1 Doesn't Mean You Finish P1: Austin Dillon has proved he can qualify well. At Daytona, he earned his sixth pole in his last seven races, making this his ninth pole of his Nationwide Series career. However, he has yet to finish in the same position he started. Dillon has four top-fives and 10 top-10 finishes this season but he just can't seem to get the win. He's been dabbling in the Cup series and now there is talk of bringing the famous 3 with him in the near future. No pressure there.
Denny Hamlin And His Back: Since retuning back to his car full time, Hamlin has had three DNFs, all for crashes. The hits (there were two) he took this weekend at Daytona were extra alarming because of the angles and speeds. Rumors have been flying that Joe Gibbs may pull Hamlin out of the No. 11 if he keeps dropping in the points (meaning he won't make the Chase) so he can have the back surgery he needs and have even more time to heal than just the eight(ish) weeks of the offseason. It should be interesting to see that play out, if it is true. Hamlin has been open about his back issues for years and if he wants to be successful in the future, the surgery seems necessary at this point.
Dangers of Pit Road: Pit road is always busy, but sometimes, things go wrong. At Daytona, more than one thing went wrong. Denny Hamlin got blocked in to his stall by A.J. Allmendinger, causing a longer pit stop than planned. During his pit stop, a member of Carl Edwards' crew had his shoe get stuck under the front left tire and after the jack dropped, Edwards went. The crew member was fine and said he had wedged his foot out of his shoe, which had split in half. Then there was Michael Waltrip, who spun in the pits, causing chaos. And to top off the night, a crew member for Joey Logano was in his normal spot in the pit box towards the end of the race when the "big one" happened. Debris was flying everywhere, including toward the pits. A piece of debris hit their pit box and then fell to hit his wrist (he is okay).
Unprecedented Penalty?: It's one thing when a team has all their cars fail inspection. It's another thing to have almost half the field of both series to have the same infraction. The entire fleet of MWR, JGR, Penske, Roush, RPM, Germain, Wood Brothers and Jamie McMurray (Montoya did not have the illegal part) all had spacers that were not in compliance with the manufacturer kit given to them (the total number of cars was 16). On the Nationwide side, the JGR cars joined Roush, RPM, TriStar, R3, SR2, JD, Go Green, JH and Key Motorsports for a total of 15 cars. While most are expecting to see penalties, I wonder why. I understand it's a rules infraction, but how far will they - or can they - take it? If it was one team, or two affiliated teams, I can see it. But 31 teams in two different series? Plus, for teams already on probation, this can be a season-ending blow if suspensions are handed down.
Next up is New Hampshire. It should be interesting to see how any of this plays out and what will happen.