Today the Blog D’JOur and the Blog Post will deal with the Daytona 500. First, from 2009, the Rant.
I am a NASCAR fan.
I know in some circles this conjures up a certain image. A 300 pound redneck swilling beer in a torn Dale Earnhardt T-shirt and….more
Blog Post for Sunday 2/20/11 – 20 degrees at 6:33 AM – it’s cold enough to run the space heater in the kitchen again. Some snow fell overnight. Just a dusting.
Today is the running of the 53rd Daytona 500. I seriously doubt that I have seen all of them. But, being old enough to enjoy racing when I was eight or so, I can say that I have seen most of them.
Much is made of the Daytona 500 being Stock Car Racing’s “Super Bowl.” I think that sells both short.
First of all, the 500 predates the Super Bowl by quite a bit. 1959 was the year they first raced on the sands of Daytona but the football was not tossed in Super Bowl I until 1967.
To me, the Super Bowl is all about finality. Teams have struggled all year, beating each others brains out on the way to the big game. They arrive on Super Bowl day exhausted, injured. and knowing that this is it. They will either be going to Disney World or going home first losers. It’s the biggest and most important game any of the players will ever be in.
The Daytona 500 is all about a new beginning. Drivers and teams are rested. The cars are shiny and usually brand new. And in the light of the entire season, at least in terms of the championship, the race makes no more difference than any other race leading up to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It pays out the same amount of points.
The weeks preceding the Super Bowl are rest and relaxation. Players get a break and rehab.
The weeks before the Daytona 500 are called Speedweeks and it’s a frantic return to racing after the winter break.
More than a dozen on-track events are scheduled for the Sprint Cup cars including practices, qualifying runs and races like the Budweiser Shootout and the Gatorade Twin 150’s.
So by the time the Daytona 500 rolls around the drivers have done the equivalent of the All-Star game in baseball and a lot more. It’s like going from a dead stop onto an escalator going 200 MPH.
But, in spite of what I said about the Daytona 500 being no more or less important than any other race in terms of the championship, it surely is the biggest race of the year.
The Daytona International Speedway is the most fickle of all places to race. It’s unlike any other track with it’s steep banking, tri-oval configuration and history. It’s not an easy place to win a race on and the Daytona 500 is not an easy race to win. Count the drivers who have won it multiple times and you will have fingers left over.
Dale Earnhardt Sr., who won seventy-six races in his 27 years of competition at stock car racing’s highest level, was only able the beat flat tires, equipment failures and just plain old bad luck once, to win the Daytona 500 in 1998. He died trying to win another.
David Pearson, who won 105 races in his career, also won the 500 just once in 1976.
Sometimes it seems like winning the Daytona 500 is all a matter of luck. The car must be right, the driver prepared but it all comes down to where you are on the last few laps, who will help you and if you are lucky.
Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick won it (2008, 2007, respectively) and never won another race in those years.
Only three drivers Richard Petty (1973–1974), Cale Yarborough (1983–1984) and Sterling Marlin (1994–1995) have ever won it consecutively.
Arguably the Daytona 500 in 1979, the first ever broadcast live, featuring the big fist-fight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison (along with Donnie’s brother Bobby Allison) brought NASCAR into it’s own as a national sport.
Just like at the Super Bowl, dignitaries and stars attend. Two sitting presidents (both named Bush) a Supreme Court Justice (Clarence Thomas) and George Wallace (twice) have served as Grand Marshalls. Whoopi Goldberg, author James A. Michener and Brett Favre have all waved the green flag. Mariah Carey, Engelbert Humperdinck and Vanessa L. Williams have sung the National Anthem.
I have never been to the Daytona 500. It’s on the bucket list. But one thing is sure. Today when Darrel Waltrip, who tried 17 times to with the race until getting to Victory Lane in 1989, does his Boogity, I’ll be parked.
Be nice if Jr. won, too.