Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2011 NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona

In a Nutshell: Michael Waltrip took the checkered flag 0.061 seconds ahead of Elliott Sadler to win the NextEra Energy Resources 250 Friday night (Feb. 18) at Daytona International Speedway. Waltrip took advantage of the classic last-lap pass in turn 4 to score his first career Truck Series victory. Clay Rogers, rookie Miguel Paludo and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Sadler. Waltrip ran an average race all night but knew exactly what he had to do to make the trip to victory lane. When the field took the white flag, he and Sadler were nose to tail, but that only lasted until the came out of turn 4. In what was a nearly perfectly executed last-lap pass at Daytona, Waltrip stuck his nose outside of Sadler and took the victory. But because of an illegal part on Waltrip’s truck, Sadler should have been the one in victory lane.

See also
Michael Waltrip Celebrates Life in Victory Lane, but Not Without Controversy

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. Why wasn’t Michael Waltrip black flagged for his spoiler failure?

When Waltrip made his emotional visit to victory lane following his race win Friday night, half of his spoiler lay flat, even with the bed cover. Of course, NASCAR immediately confiscated the both sides of the spoiler to take back to the R&D Center in Concord, N.C. for further inspection.

But why didn’t NASCAR black flag the No. 15 for the parts failure?

The simple answer came from NASCAR PR Spokesman Kerry Tharp.

“It appeared to be a failed part. The spoiler broke on the green-white-checkered finish,” Tharp said. “Our typical procedure is, instead of having an immediate reaction, we’ll take a look and, if necessary, we’ll have whatever reaction is appropriate the first of the week.”

But I have a real problem with the failure to react immediately when it can change the outcome of a race. Sure, it’s likely Waltrip would have been able to make that pass and take the victory cleanly without half of his spoiler laying flat, but there’s also that chance that he wouldn’t have. The extra downforce created by that slight change of angle definitely created an advantage for the No. 15 truck.

“It definitely helps his truck as far as drag. When he pulled out, he went by me. I was like, ‘Wow, he’s fast’,” runner-up Sadler said after the race. “I tried to side draft off of him and I couldn’t.”

Let’s take a look back at the season finale in 2008 when Johnny Benson lost the tape that was on the middle of the spoiler. Though NASCAR did give Benson and team a break by allowing them to fix the problem the next time they came down pit road, it was still a vital fix for them to remain on track.

For all we know, it could have been a legitimate parts failure, but it seems awfully strange that SPEED completely glossed over the spoiler problem with the exception of a quick mention by Darrell Waltrip up in the booth. There’s no doubt it was an emotional visit to victory lane for the race winner, but because SPEED seemed to ignore the problem, the conspiracy theorists have come out of the woodwork in saying the race was fixed. I wouldn’t go that far, but I do question NASCAR’s decision to not react.

Of course, we won’t know anything about any potential penalties until Tuesday, but what can NASCAR really do? The sanctioning body’s PR Spokesman, Kerry Tharp, has already said the win will stand regardless of the results of the trip to the R&D center in Concord, N.C. And because Waltrip has not declared to run for the Truck Series championship, there are no points to be taken away from him.

At the most, Waltrip may be put on probation and the No. 15 team might be assessed an owner points penalty along with a monetary fine. But I have my doubts NASCAR will even go that far.

2. What happened between Kyle Busch and Jennifer Jo Cobb?

When the field came to a halt under red flag conditions with just four laps remaining, Jennifer Jo Cobb drove right up next to Kyle Busch and could be seen gesturing at him and likely voicing her displeasure with something Busch did on the track. But what was it that got her so riled up?

The SPEED crew avoided the incident during their post-race interview with the driver of the No. 10 Lilly’s Cosmetics Ford, but thanks to her response on Twitter, we’re able to get a little insight into Cobb’s frustrations.

And you can’t really blame her. After all, it’s not the first time there has been history between the two on the track. Last season, the two tangled at Bristol in an incident just 36 laps into the 200-lap race. Instead of showing patience when he was caught behind the obviously slower No. 10 Ford, Busch just ran right through Cobb, spinning her on the track.

Frankly, it’s time Cobb stood up for herself. She ran well much of the night and made a veteran move down pit road to avoid a spinning David Starr in what was arguably the save of the race. And on top of all of that, she scored her career-best Truck Series finish.

Truck Rookie Report
2011 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Joey Coulter (No. 22)
Dusty Davis (No. 15)
Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 1)
Chris Eggleston (No. 27)
Craig Goess (No. 46)
Justin Johnson (No. 51)
Parker Kligerman (No. 29)
Johanna Long (No. 20)
Chase Mattioli (No. 99)
Miguel Paludo (No. 7)
Nelson Piquet, Jr. (No. 8)
Cole Whitt (No. 60)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 8
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Miguel Paludo, finished fourth; Jeffrey Earnhardt, finished seventh
Rookie of the Race: Paludo, finished fourth

Rookie Quotes

“First time here in Daytona. I talked to a lot of drivers before this race. They said, ‘Man you have to be patient [until] the last lap. So I did that. Since the [No.] 22 (Joey Coulter) went into the wall, I saw that it would be my night because I got lucky. I had a lot of accidents in front of me, beside me. We were pretty good. The truck was real fast on the drafting. It’s unbelievable to finish fourth [my] first time here.” – Miguel Paludo

See also
Tearing Apart the Trucks: Meet the 2011 Truck Series Rookie Class

Points Shuffle

Thanks to NASCAR’s new points rules, Rogers currently sits atop the standings with a two-point lead over rookie Paludo. Rookie Earnhardt, Ricky Carmichael and James Buescher round out the top five in a three-way tie, five points behind the leader.

Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters find themselves tied for sixth, eight points behind Rogers. Max Papis holds eighth, 10 points behind the leader. Starr and rookie Cole Whitt round out the top 10.


“I’ve been emotional all day long. I see one of my buddies and we laugh about things that we did with Dale, and I see another buddy and we cry about it. First thing I wanted to do was lead lap three for him. I tried. I got close to leading it, but I didn’t. I came here to celebrate his (Dale Earnhardt‘s) life with my black truck and my [No.] 15 car. I didn’t come here to celebrate a win.” – Michael Waltrip

“My plan was, Michael and I found each other after the first green flag pit stop. I think we drove from 25th and 26th up to 12th and 13th in six laps. We knew our trucks worked then pretty good together. Once [Ron] Hornaday got taken out, my teammate, I didn’t have anybody left with me, Michael and I worked good together.

“He made a great turn out of turn 4. I tried to block him a little bit, but I was guarding against the inside. He had a lot of momentum. When I went into turn 3, I jammed the brakes trying to get him off my bumper, I said, I’m in trouble. Came off [turn] 4, he got me, made a really good move. That’s the way it is.” – Elliott Sadler, finished second

“I’m so excited with what we accomplished tonight. This finish is a testament to my team’s hard work and dedication. We don’t have near the budget that some of the other teams operate with, but we never give up. It’s like Walt Disney said, ‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.’ When you think about drivers like Janet Guthrie and Erin Crocker who have accomplished so much in their careers, to think that I was able to achieve something that they didn’t at Daytona is really special.” – Jennifer Jo Cobb on becoming the highest-finishing female in a NASCAR national touring series event, finished sixth

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway next weekend for the Lucas Oil 150 on Friday night. In 2010, the series didn’t visit the 1-mile tri-oval until November, a race where Clint Bowyer scored a dominating victory, leading 80 of 150 laps. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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