The Insanity of Speedweeks – A Look Back

As the cars and drivers head to Atlanta to test, just one more comment about Daytona wouldn’t hurt, would it? Never has there been a more insane Speedweeks. We saw a period when two stars, brothers to be honest, get eliminated from competition. We’ve seen two drivers who had never won before in the NASCAR Camping World and XFINITY Series. We’ve seen the latest Wonder Boy win the Daytona 500. We saw Ford sweep the entire week, something that most people, including the media, said was impossible. It was quite a ten day period, but it was insane.

First was the Kurt Busch indefinite suspension by the sanctioning body. Once the order by the judge in Delaware was revealed, NASCAR acted swiftly. Within a matter of what seemed like minutes, Chevrolet severed all support for Busch, which is unprecedented in my lifetime. So in one action, Busch lost his ride and his manufacturer. His future is teetering on the edge of disaster. If you read the report from the legal authorities, you see two persons who are troubled. Domestic violence has become a big deal. That was Friday.

On Saturday, Kyle Busch, driving an XFINITY race for Joe Gibbs Racing, got clipped into an area not protected by SAFER barriers. No one knows if those barriers would have minimized the damage, but another Sprint Cup top driver was sidelined indefinitely with a compound fracture of the leg and a broken foot. It didn’t stop there.

On Friday night and Saturday, Tyler Reddick won the Camping World Truck series race in a Ford F-150 owned by Brad Keselowski. It was his first win. On Saturday, Ryan Reed, who has Type 1 diabetes, won the Xfinity series race in a Ford. On Sunday, Joey Logano won the Sprint Cup race in a Team Penske Ford Fusion, when everyone had given the race to Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr. It shook up the media and the pundits. A clean sweep of Speedweeks is something reserved for Chevrolet. Add in the 24 Hours of Daytona win by a Ford and it just goes to show you that listening to those we see on television or listen to on radio, like most of us, cannot predict what will happen at the 2.5-mile speedway that we call Daytona International Speedway.

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That said, please understand that Daytona is no predictor of what is to come. It’s a different animal. Anyone can win at Daytona. The years since Bobby Allison’s catch fence crash at Talladega has ensured that. David Ragan, Michael Waltrip and others can testify to this, but there is something to take from the results of the opening of the season. Joey Logano is the real deal and Team Penske is a real threat to the usual favorites like Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. Last weekend, Brad Keselowski Racing (essentially Team Penske), Roush Fenway Racing and Team Penske flexed their muscle and asked that someone, anyone, realize that there is another player. I know that it does not make any difference to the fan base. The legions of fans of Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing will win early and often, but those other teams that were written off by most of the people who cover racing via TV or radio, and many fans, actually came out on top. It’s healthy for NASCAR and the sport. With Jeff Gordon retiring and several others not far behind, do we really want the sport to go through what it did when Dale Earnhardt Sr. was taken from us so suddenly? I don’t think so.

Kyle and Kurt are gone for the moment and Jeff, Jimmie and Junior proved to be human for a day, even if they were second and third. Matt, Denny and Carl kind of fizzled out and Tony got stopped before he had begun. Danica was just there.

NASCAR is a sport where there are many drivers who have fans that have been neglected for too long. Go into your local Walmart and try to buy a Greg Biffle or a Martin Truex Jr. die cast. They don’t exist except on the internet. A big diet of what Jeff or Jimmie or Kasey or Junior, or Tony or Harvick or Kyle or Denny or Matt are doing tends to turn many people off. Speedweeks kind of shifted the conversation a bit and that is, in my opinion, a good thing.

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Ron Fleshman has followed NASCAR racing since attending his first race at Martinsville Speedway in 1964. He joined the Motor Sports Forum on the CompuServe network in the 1980s and became a reporter for Racing Information Systems in 1994. In 2002, he was named NASCAR Editor for RIS when it appeared on the World Wide Web as www.motorsportsforum.com. He can now be found at www.ris-news.com. Ron is a member of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. You can find Ron following and reporting on the top three NASCAR divisions each week. As a lifer in his support of racing, he attends and reports on nearly 30 events a year and as a member of the motor sports media, his passion has been racing for 47 years. He lives with his family in rural West Virginia and works in the insurance industry when not on the road to another track.

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