Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2009 Daytona 500

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

Had the rains not come, AJ Allmendinger had a shot at taking it all. In the end, he had to settle for third, but that’s a long way from a year ago, when Allmendinger watched the race on television after failing to qualify. The driver called ‘Dinger by his friends has been impressive in a fill-in role since being released from Team Red Bull late in 2008. Unfortunately, the No. 44 only has funding for a handful of races this year, so we may never see what this driver is capable of.

What… does this mean for the rest of the season?

I don’t know if it was the lack of testing to prepare or what, but I was hoping for a lot more from this year’s Great American Race. The season opener, which is usually a welcome and wonderful sight after a long winter, was mediocre at best. The racing was lackluster and the rain certainly didn’t help, robbing fans of any hope for an exciting finish. If this is as good as it gets, this could be one long season. I wonder how many casual fans will still be around for the end of it.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

After all was said and done, Martin Truex Jr. brought it home a respectable 11th. Truex never looked to be a serious contender once the green flag dropped, but he was also able to avoid trouble, and brought it home in one piece.

When… will I be loved?

Linda Ronstadt may have covered it first, but it’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. singing the tune this week. Junior started the day with a couple of boneheaded moves on pit road, missing his pit stall and then not getting a tire inside the box, drawing a penalty. But those were just the warmup to causing a multi-car wreck. Earnhardt got into the side of Brian Vickers trying to shove his way into line, and spun Vickers into traffic, ending Vickers’s day as well as the day of several other teams. Junior just didn’t have his head in this game.

Why… does NASCAR insist on starting this race at 3:30 Eastern?

Had the race started at 1:00, as it used to, it would have been finished long before the rain robbed the fans of a green-flag drag race to the checkers. Nobody would have saved up for an entire year to take their family to a race that they never saw a decent end to. Not to mention, it would have been over by dinner time, allowing for a relaxing evening getting ready for another long week of work. NASCAR needs to get back to tradition on this one and start Sunday races at an earlier hour.

How… often does the Daytona 500 winner win the season championship?

Not very. In fact it has happened only eight times since 1959. The most recent Daytona 500 champion to also win the Sprint Cup was Jimmie Johnson in 2006, and Johnson is the only driver in the last 10 years to accomplish the ultimate bookends to a season. But in 35 races, a lot can happen, and Matt Kenseth surely knows how to win. Could he be number nine in 10 months?

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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