Race Review: NASCAR Daytona 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Daytona 500

Daytona International Speedway, Daytona, Florida, USA
(1/36)
Held: 15 Feb 09
Watched: 1 Nov 09
Coverage: FOX 1hr edit*, aired on Five

* I watched the 1-hour highlights edition which is obviously heavily edited from the original race coverage. I’m not sure who does the editing, if it is from NASCAR, FOX or Five.

200 laps scheduled

Green flag. These cars may not be impressive but their speeds and car control required are, look how much they move around! Takes some doing to keep them off the wall, I should think.

Kyle Busch leads the early running, Harvick is also quick but some way back.

Spin on lap 8. Almirola. Replay: He had to lift in traffic and the car behind tagged him gently. Yellow flag.
L11 – Restart.

[jump]
L40 – Kyle Busch and Dale Jr side by side for the lead. Busch pulls ahead. Two lines of traffic all the way back, typical restrictor plate stuff, exciting for a while if you are new to it like I am… but then very boring when nothing changes.

[jump]
L60 – Restart, my highlights don’t show why it was yellow in the first place. Man in the pits shows us a tyre, VERY worn right down to the cords. Dangerous stuff.

L65 – All the cars are bunched up still. Commentary saying 33 cars covered by 3 seconds… while that is quite impressive, it really is just an accident looking for somewhere to happen. You’re watching through your fingers because a big crash is inevitible, that’s not what this should be about.

[jump]
L86 – Something of a bad edit and we’re on another restart, not told why, not our business. This is a need-to-know operation and we don’t need to know.

Chat with Joey Logano, apparently he was in an accident.

L90 – The weather has changed, teams are racing to halfway in case of rain. If rain arrives any time after half distance (lap 100) the race will be declared as finished with full points awarded. Rain is due soon so no more waiting until lap 180 to then race to the end, got to go now..

L93 – Earnhardt Jr missed his pit stall last time, had to go around and came out last but he’s working his way up the order again, he’s into the top 15.

[jump]
L111 (89 to go) – Single file most of the way back, four car break up front: Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Edwards, McMurray. Finally someone breaks away!

86 to go – Jeff Gordon pits after a long green flag run, commentary says people will now follow him in. Jeff goes a lap down with a green flag stop.
Indeed they do start pitting.. most of the leaders stay out.
During the pit sequence a tyre blows on the track, yellow for debris.

[jump]
L124 (77 to go) – Restart but no, here’s the big one straight away.
Earnhardt Jr turns someone into the field who try to avoid the car, but many fail.. Kyle Busch, dominant all day, is taken out of the race along with about ten other cars.

Dale was pushed to the inside below the line, coming back in he caught the back end of Vickers’ car when he ought to have lifted slightly to get more space. Okay so he shouldn’t have been blocked, but once he was he shouldn’t have moved up until he was clear.

[jump]
L163 RED FLAG
The rain has arrived. Replay of Kenseth taking the lead from Sadler.

Official – the race is over due to rain.

Result (top 10):
1. Kenseth (Ford)
2. Harvick (Chevy)
3. Allmendinger (Dodge)
4. Bowyer (C)
5. E.Sadler (D)
6. Ragan (F)
7. Waltrip (Toyota)
8. Stewart (C)
9. Sorenson (D)
10. Ku.Busch (D)

Not necessarily representative of the pace of the race. Harvick did pull himself to the front but Kyle Busch ought to have been up there. That’s just how this style of racing goes.

Points (top 12):
1. Kenseth 190
2. Harvick -20
3. Allmendinger -25
4. Bowyer -30
5. E.Sadler -30
6. Ragan -40
7. Stewart -43
8. Waltrip -44
9. Sorenson -52
10. Truex Jr -55
11. Ku.Busch -56
12. J.Gordon -61

I do not understand this points system, I assume points were accrued through bonuses.

Summary:
Interesting stuff from my perspective, the style of racing is completely different to anything I’m used to. I couldn’t watch it for three hours or more although I did try to do so live at the time, but this highlights form really works for me. The editing could be better – we need to know why things like restarts are happening, not just that they are.

I’ll continue this series of race reviews over the off-season, although I’ll only promise to cover IRL, GP2 and MotoGP races, there will be a lot more but the coverage will be patchy.

A roof over your head

So.. I watched the Daytona 500 last night. You may have seen my Twitter feed at the time (see side panel) and my comments on Meesh’s recent post.

I think some of those experienced NASCAR fans following me on Twitter might have been getting a bit annoyed at my newbie-ness. I was going for the ‘F1/IRL fan discovers N-Word ovals’ take, because that’s what it was. I’m not going to apologise for that, I make it clear that I’m not a NASCAR fan, so if I annoyed you that’s your own fault for following me! (Yes, I am a bit of a racing snob.)

Someone even asked how long I’d been following racing so surprised were they at my reaction to the US feed I was watching. It was tongue-in-cheek (err, I think?) but perhaps not realising that British sports coverage doesn’t have sponsored discussion topics and anthropomorphic camera angles – or maybe it was to suggest I’m a noob for not being aware of the $$ in N-Word. Perhaps it was said not knowing I was British although I’m not sure why – I bang on about it far too often.

I just couldn’t believe how many ad breaks were taken, and during the coverage how many times a sponsor was mentioned. They couldn’t go more than 20 seconds without mentioning a brand name! It was ridiculous. Talk about over-commercialisation of sports.. and they say the Premier League has got it bad.

Just to rub it in to my American readers, our Formula 1 coverage switches to BBC1 this year – no commercials AT ALL! (apart from lots of BBC self-promotion)

Back to Daytona, and once I found a steady video feed quite late into the race I did actually enjoy it. I’m not stupid enough to expect real racing on a restrictor plate track, you need to look for strategy and leave the driving to another race. Some great strategic racing was developing before a yellow flag was thrown because a car was sent into the infield. I didn’t see much debris on the track on this occasion, but that yellow did breed further yellows (for bigger incidents) which spoiled the flow of the race for me, and that persisted until the red flag for rain. As many sites and blogs have noted, it was an anticlimax.

I don’t know why I persisted with the less-good feed for so long. I think it contributed to my lack of enjoyment for the first half of the event, however others have noted on other blogs (and on Twitter) that NASCAR races aren’t actually that interesting or enjoyable until 50 to go anyway, so maybe it wasn’t the video feed…

In summary, it was more enjoyable as a whole than I was expecting and you can’t blame them for stopping for rain. If anything the stupid start time did them in. 3.30pm? Madness. Races should always start on the hour unless they are on the undercard. I’ll be trying NASCAR ovals at random intervals again this year, follow my Twitter if you can bear it.

Full disclosure: On Twitter I said I’d not seen a full NASCAR race before. That was a little white lie. I’ve watched Watkins Glen, and I watched a chunk of Nationwide at Montreal last year. I had never seen a full NASCAR oval event before. I used to watch the odd highlights package – they cut so much out you couldn’t figure out what was happening so I gave up on that idea fairly quickly.

Before the oval action I took in BTCC at Brands Hatch (Indy) and DTM at Barcelona, both recordings of events held in September, and still found time to go to the laundrette.
The DTM was boring once it had settled down, the field got far too spread out although I liked the battle between Paul Di Resta and Timo Scheider early on.
The BTCC at the short layout of Brands is always fast and frenetic and this was no exception! It won the day for me in terms of tin top entertainment. Giovanardi is a worthy champion and it is a shame to see his adversaries SEAT leave.

Tonight I’m watching WTCC at Imola, the first time I’ve seen the place since the redevelopment. They’ve done a great job with the revisions but F1 was right not to go back, even though the revisions were only done to please Bernie. It’s a good bike and touring car track but is in no way suited to big open wheel cars. WTCC isn’t as entertaining as BTCC but watching Thommo working hard for some good results was fun.

After this sudden binge of racing I’ll probably take a break from watching any for a few days – I still have plenty on my hard drive – BTC and WTC have short races which is why I’ve got through so many this weekend. Knowing me I’ll probably be on the podcasts tomorrow instead!