Tire Testing Set to Begin in Daytona; NASCAR’s Perseverance from Daytona 500 RememberedBy Kelly Crandall
As drivers make the journey to Daytona Beach on Wednesday and Thursday for a Goodyear tire test on the newly repaved Daytona International Speedway, it brings backs memories of how the NSCS got to this point.
The biggest race of the NASCAR season is supposed to be remembered as the greatest day in a driver’s life. The 2010 Daytona 500 however, was remembered for one of the worst days in NASCAR’s.
Just past halfway of the February 14, 2010 running of the Great American Race, things started to get a little bumpy in turns one and two. The race was red flagged for an hour and half as NASCAR officials went to work to repair the four-inch, two-foot deep hole.
The race was restarted only to be red flagged for another hour when the hole opened again. When the race restarted for the final time it would go past its scheduled distance thanks in part to NASCAR’s new green-white-checkered rule before Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced to the finish line.
Many were understandably upset with the day and that a race which started shortly after 1:00 p.m. ET didn’t end until nearly seven hours later. Some fans left during the red flags, be it from frustration, travel plans or the weather cooling down, the stands did empty.
Others sat and watched McMurray capture his first Daytona 500 as Earnhardt Jr. went from 22nd to second in two laps. It certainly wasn’t a day that anyone was expecting but it could have been much worse and for that NASCAR should be applauded.
Said former Daytona International Speedway president Robin Braig back in February, “We’re the World Center of Racing. This is the Daytona 500. This is not supposed to happen and I take full responsibility … I apologize for it. This is hallowed ground. We understand that. We accept the responsibility.”
Braig may have sounded hard on himself but it’s not a lie in saying he did everything he could. The decision was made to red flag the race to fix the pothole, not once but twice.
No one, fans or drivers, wanted to sit around and wait but it was better than calling the race early and robbing everyone of the biggest race of the season. It also wouldn’t have been the best way to kick of the season with a bad tone in the first race.
Kevin Harvick, who was leading during the second red flag, told TV viewers he hoped NASCAR would restart the race instead of declaring it official. If they had he would have been called the winner but the racecar driver in him wanted to go out and beat the 42 other competitors.
It’s been said time and time again that NASCAR may never win with the fans, there’s just too much to complain about. Back in February, NASCAR worked and worked to ensure the fans could not complain.
They worked and worked to give them what they wanted: not only a complete race, but a complete Daytona 500.
It won’t go down as NASCAR’s most defining moment, but it should go down as one worth noting. NASCAR officials were bound and determined to do right by those in the sport and for the sport.
Looking back, 2010 was all about the fans as many changes NASCAR made ones they were kicking and screaming for. Heading into the season it was announced a new green-white-checkered rule, three attempts, would be put into effect to help ensure fans would see the race end with a run to the finish and not under caution.
Boys, have at it. ‘Nuff said.
The wing became history after Bristol in March, nearly three years to the day after it made its debut at the same track. Double-file restarts helped create the great racing that seen every week as it made its season-long debut.
Positive, they’re out there if you look.
Ramsey Poston, NASCAR’s director of corporate communications wanted the positives of the Daytona 500 to overshadow the pothole debacle.
“Obviously the red flags are unfortunate, no one wants to see that,” he said that day.
“But hopefully what fans will really remember about this race tomorrow and years to come is that dramatic finish, the 88 [Earnhardt Jr.] cutting through the entire field, really having a great finish for the win, and a great win for Earnhardt-Ganassi with Jamie McMurray.”
Here the sport is, in December of the same year when all of this took place, with the new pavement at Daytona finished. The day was coming when it would have had to be done, it was marked for possibly 2012, but it’s here and now.
Drivers such as McMurray and Earnhardt Jr. will be among the likes of Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton and about 12 others as tentative participates in the test. New pavement brings new excitement as an opportunity to see the new surface before Speedweeks has drivers anxious to get there.
“Everybody used to dread Daytona testing,” said 2009 Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth.
“I’m really looking forward to getting on the track and seeing how they did on the paving job and how smooth it is. I bet it will really change the track. I bet you it will feel like you are on a different track. That surface was so incredibly worn out before, and now it’s going to be more like a Talladega race. It’s going to be wide open. Handling is going to matter more than [at] Talladega but probably not very much. Everybody is going to be wide open. It is going to be a big draft the whole time.”
Talladega Super Speedway, who was paved following the 2005 season, has the expectations for the 2011 Daytona 500 through the roof. Talladega is coming off a historic season where they set the record for the most lead changes, 88, in a NSCS race. The fall race fell short by of tying or passing that record with 87 lead changes.
What can Daytona do with a new surface? History might be in the making and it starts with Wednesday and Thursday’s tire test.
With the holidays around the corner, it’s a time to celebrate and be thankful. Some fans, believe it or not, are thankful for NASCAR. They’re also thankful for the pothole.
Thankful because even though it may not seem like they’re listening, NASCAR has the fans in mind. They certainly did back in February with the decisions made in the Daytona 500.