Minter: What In The Heck Was That At Daytona Saturday Night?
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
After a few hours to sort out and think through the events of Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway, I think I prefer potholes.
Unlike those I’ve read who thought the Budweiser Shootout was a great race, I find myself looking forward to Bristol or Martinsville, or even to the Saturday night short tracks around home.
The two-car tango just doesn’t seem like racing. You know, that sport where one man and one machine and one crew go out there and compete against 42 other men, machines and crews.
My fellow racing scribe Monte Dutton, who is one of those rare racing reporters who grew up following the sport as a kid, described the end of the Shootout as “a stupid ending to a stupid race.”
Monte’s been accused at times of simply being anti-NASCAR. But after years of long conversations with him, I don’t believe there’s a person in the media center or the grandstands who cares more for the sport in general, or at least what it was or what it could be. I don’t think he really enjoys penning lines like that.
I know I don’t.
But from a danger standpoint, Saturday’s Shootout was just a peek at the possibilities. The real perils likely will come when there’s a full field on the race track. The speed difference between the two-car units and a bigger pack is too much. With two pairs of twos heading toward a bigger pack, there’s not enough pavement at Daytona to keep from having a big wreck.
Even with the HANS device and the COT, and better catchfences, it’s too risky.
It wouldn’t be surprising if NASCAR makes a change before Sunday’s 500 to get speeds back down
below 200 miles per hour, but it still won’t be racing as the sport’s founders intended.
Just think about what Matt Kenseth said after the Shootout about what it’s like to be the pushing driver in a two-car tango.
“It’s not really that great having a whole bunch of groups of two, and when you can’t do anything without that it isn’t really that much fun,” he said. “If you’re the pusher, you can’t see a thing, and with going 207 miles an hour and pushing someone when you can’t see, it’s not a lot of fun.”
Relying on other drivers has been a part of racing at Daytona and Talladega since the places were built. As has been the case for years, the tracks are just too fast. But that’s not going to change any time soon. The proof of that came last year when Daytona was repaved just as it was built in 1959, for the speeds they were running then, which are about like caution laps compared to today. It’s the same at Talladega.
They’re not going to change the race tracks, so what we get is things like the two-car tango. You can’t blame the drivers and teams. They’re just doing their jobs, being innovative and doing whatever they must to be the fastest.
If you want to see pure racing, you’re just going to have to wait a few weeks. I’m getting hungry for a Martinsville hot dog just thinking about it.
– Rick Minter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments