Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Three days' worth of the Daytona 500

Observations

NASCAR and its tracks have all kinds of contingency plans for various emergencies. But sometimes you just have to learn from experience. It seems save to say that all the work that went into dealing with the crumbling of asphalt and the pothole that emerged during the 2010 Daytona 500 played a role in NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway's ability to deal with the jet dryer explosion and resulting fuel spill on the track this year. So in a sense, while the 2010 race may have been a black-eye, what was learned from it helped allow the 2012 version of the race from becoming a bigger one.

It was somewhat surprising to see how little a factor Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were in this year's 500. The two drivers who battled down to the wire for the 2011 Sprint Cup title had shown to have fast cars at Speedweeks. Edwards won the pole for the 500 while Stewart won his Gatorade 150-mile qualifying race. Both eventually got involved in late-race accidents in the 500 but were rarely up front.

I don't know if Danica Patrick is going to be a great NASCAR driver. At this point, neither does anyone else. What she deserves is the opportunity to find out – and without unrealistic expectations lofted on her from the get-go. What she also doesn't need are TV announcers who constantly try to bolster her "case" by making outrageous claims. Examples: Claiming Patrick, who had yet turned a lap in the a Cup race, is now the "face" of NASCAR. Another: Suggesting that same driver was one that could teach others like five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson has done quite well on his own before Patrick's arrival. That kind of talk enrages far more NASCAR fans than it engages.

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