Rating the Race – Sprint Unlimited at DaytonaBy Ron Thornton
Why I watched…
NASCAR returned with 19 of its stars in its annual pre-season contest featuring the pole winners from last season, along with the former winners of what had been known as the Bud Shootout. More importantly, we were hoping for a real good look at the new Gen 6 car to see if the new design could actually lend itself to a more visually appealing contest.
Yes! Yes! Yes! If they had the broadcast of this race up on one of those HD big screens, be it in Times Square or just in a department store showroom, people would have stopped and watched. That is when you know you have something. Under the lights in Daytona with cars that looks like real cars, with gyro-cams tilting as they went along the high banks and the overhead cam chasing them as they sailed more than 190 mph down the straightaway. Yes, it looked impressive.
It was not impressive that Terry Labonte made five laps then parked. Anyone see enough of that car to see if it even had a sponsor? Did something actually go wrong mechanically or it was just pulled before something did? If anything happened that was unexpected on the night, that might have been it.
You knew we would be in line for some action, especially after Dale Earnhardt Jr mentioned to his guys that he hoped they were not too attached to his car. He was not sure he would bring it home. The likes of Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr, and the Busch brothers did not. Lap 15 saw Tony Stewart make a mistake, got nicked by Marcos Ambrose, and while neither wrecked they sure caused a mess behind them. Maybe Labonte’s team read the script before the race and, like the departed manufacturer, got the heck out of Dodge.
It was pretty to watch, and concluded with a bit of drama. For much of this event, we had just a dozen cars running about a second apart. 12 entries that showed that you did not need 43 cars to make a race, just enough who could and would compete. Sometimes you don’t need the hamburger helper when you could simply savor some top choice steak.
When it came time to put the pedal to the metal, we saw Kevin Harvick diving to the inside to block Stewart, then shooting back up to the outside just in time to block Greg Biffle. A split second later and Biffle would have delivered some bad times that would have left Happy testing the fence in a hard way. As it turned out, Harvick did not break his auto until after he crossed the line, and even then that boo-boo was on the inside, not the outside. The #29 still looked as pretty as when they began.
Rating the race – 10 /10…
What more would you want? Maybe a car that would shoot by on the outside in a sleek slingshot maneuver like in the days of old, but that was about it. We had action, we had racing, we had drama, and it was all presented in a fashion that even the most jaded NASCAR hater would have had to be impressed with. If the Daytona Duels on Thursday and next Sunday’s Daytona 500 can match what we just witnessed we are going to have a very good start to the 2013 season. Don’t you agree?
Race Results – Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway
|8||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Chevrolet||16||75||0||Running|
|9||56||Martin Truex Jr||Toyota||6||75||2||Running|
|10||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Chevrolet||14||75||0||Running|