Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Daytona 500. Crazy

To borrow a line that one of the announcers borrowed from James Taylor -- I've seen fire, and I've seen rain. But this was off the charts.

First, the race got rained out on Sunday. It was the first time that happened in the 54 years of the Daytona 500, which is amazing. That probably put a lot of people in a bind, particularly those with flights to catch or many miles to drive, to get back to their jobs or other responsibilities on Monday. NASCAR may be a multi-billion dollar enterprise, but even they can't order Mother Nature around. She can be fickle, at times.

After being pushed back several hours on Monday for weather conditions again, the race finally started. Then the insanity began. I was in a sports bar checking it out on a big screen.

After the very first lap, Jimmy Johnson got wrecked, apparently by Elliott Sadler. Who would have ever thought JJ would go out that quick? I heard shouts of astonishment.

Danica Patrick, further back in the pack, somehow got caught up in that, but appeared to get through it with minor damage. Yet, she left the track and headed to the garage area for repairs.

Shortly thereafter, a talking head said something about how her crew was working on her rear end. That statement gave me pause. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to see live coverage of that or not. Silly me, I thought it was supposed to be about racing. Then they said her crew had to put a gear in it. Whoa, that sounded like it might be painful. I understand it takes a huge commitment to participate in this sport, but that's getting a little over the top. The poor thing.

Then Jeff Gordon appeared to blow an engine and the sports bar erupted in joy. They jeered the former "Rainbow Warrior". Why do so many people root against Gordon? He's always seemed to be a personable guy, and for the most part races "clean". Yeah, he went through a divorce a while back, but it wasn't like he had pulled a "Tiger". I have a theory. It goes back to the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. The Intimidator used to wreck a lot of guys, but he was a fan favorite. Then up came this kid, that Earnhardt himself used to sneeringly call "wonder boy". Problem was, the "kid" was beating him fair and square and a lot of people didn't like it, especially Dale. I think that lingers to this day, hence Dale Jr.'s immense popularity, though he hasn't won much.

The strangest thing of all came next. While under the yellow caution flag, Juan Pablo Montoya came out of the pits and wanted to catch back up to the rear of the field. He needn't have been in any big hurry, because those trucks with the jet-powered blowers to clean debris off the track were crawling around at their usual snail's pace. But Montoya came whipping around the track, all the while radioing to his crew that he had a very strange vibration going on his car. Just before he got to the trucks, he lost it and crashed into one of them, at a high rate of speed. Montoya's car was destroyed, as well as the truck, and 200 gallons of jet fuel started spewing onto the track. The result was an inferno. Luckily, Montoya survived that, and even more luckily the driver of the truck who probably never knew what hit him. Whoever heard of a race car driver crashing into a "support" vehicle? It took over a couple hours to sort that mess out.

After the flames had finally been extinguished, the NASCAR folks decided to "wash" that area of the track by dumping huge quantities of "Tide" on the area. In this "Era" of "All" the detergents available, perhaps it was only a coincidence that brand was used. Perhaps not. Darrell Waltrip, one of the announcers, used to drive a car sponsored by Tide. A good-ole-boy conspiracy? Beats me. Boogety, boogety boogety on.

Other new ground was broken. Brad Keselowski, of Rochester Hills, became the first to tweet from a race car during the course of the action. Maybe we should stop worrying about teenagers texting while driving. If this guy can do it during the Daytona 500, it can't be that much of a distraction, right?

There was a down side, at least to me. The above mentioned Jimmy Johnson, who I had the ultimate respect for, was featured in a commercial advertising Honda riding lawn mowers. He's always driven a Chevy. He's a former 5-time NASCAR champion. He wants to be the All-American guy. This was the Great American race. He's got umpteen millions of dollars, and counting. And he's advertising a Honda product? Something is very wrong with that, and he just lost a fan. Me. Besides, JJ is in the business of running fast. You'd think he'd know -- nothing runs like a Deere.

In the end, Matt Kenseth won the race, and somebody else chimed in with how Danica spent her "period" in the garage.

I wouldn't touch that line with a 10 foot pole.


  1. OMG, John, great article, but then you had to add the "cheap" material about Danica. Like no team mate from another driver says that stuff. I have never seen that chauvinist side of you before. You can lose that about any time now. Keep your writing to the sport and not gender differences. You are much more qualified on the sports issues anyway. the Princess

  2. TP. Wasn't sure how to respond to that, but after much deep thought, whereby I pondered every conceivable possibility and ramification that could result thereof, not to mention a thorough soul-searching, in the end it all boiled down to three words. Yes, Your Highness.