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Minter: What In The Heck Was That At Daytona Saturday Night?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 13 2011

Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin are pushed across the finish line by Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman respectively. Was it racing or not? (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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

A second-segment wreck took out several contenders. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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 rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 13 2011


  • reno says:

    the race was a joke. nascar, you lost me forever

  • jay says:

    so much for being excited about going to the 500………

  • jay says:

    and to think i was excited to be going to the 500……

  • warren says:

    If thats what the 500 is going to be like I won,t be watching. racing is 1 car team beating the field, not dancing with the car stars.

  • Charles says:

    Nascar needs to let the teams decide the gear ratios!

    The engines in these cars used to turn around 6700 rpm, now that Nascar mandates the gear ratio they are turning 9700 rpm!

    I think one thing is what is causing two cars to really line up and pass so easy!

    If Nascar would just stay out, and let the team memebers have some choices the cars would be different enough and make for better racing!

    Nascar said last year let drivers be drivers and have at it! They really need to let team owners be team owners and the competition would work it self out!

    This type of racing I call it takes ‘TWO TO TANGO’is not what most Nascar fans would want to see!!!!


  • Jerome says:

    What a horrible race. NASCAR just keeps hooting itself in the foot. I am done with “DW” and Larry Mac. Do they think we are stupid. I agree with Bob-it was a jokke that the clowns in the both gushed about the quality of racing. A long time fan-from the eraly 70’s. I started taoping the races a few years ago-fast fowarding through the commerials (endless) and the boring parts (too frequent) towards the end of last year I stopped watching what I recorded. Saturday night’s “shootout” may be the only “race” I watch this year. Where has the racing gone? What has happened to NASCAR

  • SB says:

    Whatever it was last night, it wasn’t my idea of a race. Granted that drafting has alwas been a part of plate racing, but never before has one car depended on another car to get and stay in the front. As someone suggested, maybe they need to give 2 trophies, one for ‘the pusher’ and one for ‘the pushee’. I somehow doubt that that type of racing is going to draw big TV numbers next weekend. Good thing that Nascar made all these rule changes and gave us the aerodynamical nightmare, the COT. Heavens, we might actually see individuals with the better car winning races.

  • Dick says:

    Come on………it’s just simply time to recognize that the day of the “super speedway” is over!

    These 2 1/2 mile tracks are p*** poor tracks for the spectator, even. You pay $180 for a seat and then sit there in it watching TV for 2/3 of every lap because the backstretch are two turns are so far away. They breed, from necessity, stupid racing styles that come down to nothing more than who just so happens to be in the right spot on the last 1/3 of the last lap.

    Daytona just blew tons of money resurfacing the monstrosity when, at the time they had the perfect chance, they could have built an excellent mile or mile’n a half, competitive track in front of the grandstands. (Are you listening Talladega?)

    • ed g says:

      Absolutely correct, Dick. Bill France needs to be honored in only the Hall of Fame. ‘Dega and Daytona “Superspeedways”remain primarily as tributes to him-Big Bill built them so they cannot change. They are outdated; too fast and too big for today’s cars. Shorten them up and/or flatten out the banking.

      Otherwise, build triple layers of 75 foot high catchfences and throw away the restrictor plates! Why be foolish when with just a little more effort you can be totally ridiculous?

  • Pat388 says:

    The Shootout last night had to be the worst Nascar event ever. Not only was it boring it was very dangerous for the drivers. If you listened to the driver’s scanners, the 2nd driver in the 2 car packs, could see nothing ahead of them at over 200 mph. Shows that Nascar really has no concern for safety. Also how can you call it a race when all night on the scanners the spotter told his driver to BACKUP so some other driver could catch up to him. I thought the object of a race was to get to the front and beat every driver on the track. It seems Nascar has a new meaning:

    N(o) A(ctual) S(how) C(ars) A(ren’t) R(acing)!!!

  • Bob says:

    It’s good to know that I’m not alone in my feelings about the thing they held last night. I’m not sure exactly what it was but it wasn’t racing (as I know it, anyway). Then, the icing on the cake was hearing the TV media constantly tell us how great and exciting it was! To have a winner decided not by finishing first but by a rule violation just seems a fitting ending for the thing.

  • Al says:

    France and Helton have yet to learn that the drivers will race the way it is necessary to win. They will not follow a NASCAR script to make an attempt at exciting racing just for the show. Helton and France just can’t get ot into their heads that racing got where it is today with racing not rule changes.

  • Terry says:

    I couldn’t help but keep seeing in my mind….
    passing and gaping these TANGO PAIRS……
    What has been accomplished with the plate but weired ( last night )and MOSTLY boring races…..
    I understand and grew up with drafting ….but not for the whole race please….GIVE THEM SOME PASSING POWER ….PLEASE!!!!