Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: From Daytona Rain to Staying “SAFE” at Myrtle Beach

Did you see all of the race action this weekend? Or, like lots of busy fans, did you miss a late-night adventure, a Friday controversy or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch during the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed for the coming week no matter what series you might have missed, all in this week’s edition of Pace Laps!

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: When Will You See the Daytona 500? For the first time in its history, the Daytona 500 was postponed from its usual Sunday afternoon start to today (Feb. 27) at noon Eastern. But the real question here is whether or not you will see it today. With the forecast calling for an 80% chance of rain, including some heavy thunderstorms, and the rain prospects not lessening significantly until late in the day, what will NASCAR do?

Those are not great odds, especially with the thunderstorms in the picture; a metal grandstand full of race fans during a lightning show could prove tragic. So if Monday is out … when?

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Here lies the real problem: These teams have to leave for Phoenix, Ariz. for next weekend’s race. There are not a lot of options for stalling; while many teams do have second or testing haulers they might be able to send in a pinch, not all do and the teams still need the pit equipment that’s in Daytona. It’s approximately a 32-hour trip from Charlotte (where most teams are headquartered) to Phoenix.

So, do they race Tuesday? That doesn’t leave much turnaround if teams don’t even arrive in Charlotte until the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Should they impound the cars and return in six weeks on the Easter off week? The Daytona 500 wasn’t the first race on the schedule until 1982, so it’s not a 60-year tradition being broken or anything. My guess is Tuesday, but stay tuned … this announcement could be big. – Amy Henderson

NASCAR Nationwide Series: Can Teams Afford to Start the Season Like This? The Nationwide Series heads west to the Diamond in the Desert after kicking off their 2012 campaign at the World’s Center of Racing. Well, what’s left of the Nationwide Series anyway. The season-opening 300-miler resembled a Demolition Derby more than a professional race, leaving dozens of teams with little more than scrap metal to take home after the checkered.

The millions of dollars in damage that occurred over the course of the weekend was enough of a challenge; in one late-race incident, triggered by a group of Sprint Cup regulars, 19 of the 20 cars involved belonged to Nationwide-only teams. But for so many, a messy Daytona debut is going to pose many other challenges than simply paying repair bills, including a difficult and expensive schedule that has teams visiting Phoenix and Las Vegas rather than cheaper, once-traditional venues closer to home. For the teams, is losing a racecar the best way for the series to begin the season?

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That’s not the only question to be raised after this past weekend’s Nationwide Series race. The other asks just what lessons were learned regarding the 2012 season after this weekend? The answer is much the same as it was after ARCA’s opener last week: nothing. With all the attrition this weekend, Daytona took on a life of its own, a race that was a matter of survival far more than teams excelling or struggling. For better or worse, the real battle for the Nationwide Series championship will start Saturday. – Bryan Davis Keith

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: How Long Can King Reign? Rookie John King has stolen headlines all over the NASCAR world after his shocking win at Daytona Friday night. Say what you want to about chance and plate racing but the 23-year-old, who just joined Red Horse Racing over the offseason, did something half of the field didn’t – he made it to the finish.

After starting 23rd, the driver of the No. 7 finally cracked the top 20 about halfway in and continued to improve, thanks in large part to working the draft with veteran teammates Todd Bodine and Timothy Peters.

There have been many comments since the checkered flag flew about the level of talent behind the wheel and how “lucky” King was to visit victory lane, along with his contact that wrecked leader Johnny Sauter and put him in front. But no one can take away from what the young rookie managed to accomplish Friday night. And at this point, he also holds the top spot in points.

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Clearly, so many things can change once the Truck Series hits the track again and drivers can shake off tough finishes in the season opener, but for now King is riding on a wave that’ll last him all the way until the series is active again at Martinsville on March 31. Will King be able to stay on top of that wave as the season goes on? Stay tuned. This kid just might be one worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses. – Beth Lunkenheimer

Short Tracks: New Life for an Old Racetrack? Myrtle Beach Speedway has been reportedly purchased by Speedway Group Inc., owned by Leonard Watts and Bob Lutz. Watts is a real estate developer who had built homes in the Myrtle Beach area for years while Lutz owns the NASCAR Racing Experience. Lutz’s connections in NASCAR could potentially lead to some high-profile drivers competing at the .538-mile oval.

But that’s not all; the group is talking about installing SAFER barriers with hopes of enticing NASCAR to return a national touring series event to the well-known South Carolina track. The last time that happened at Myrtle Beach was 2000, a dozen years ago when Jeff Green took the checkers in a then-Busch Series race. The track, which opened in 1958, has seen countless racers try their luck on its surface, including four generations of the Petty family and three generations of Earnhardts. Will one of NASCAR’s elite divisions return to the beach at last?

The group is not only targeting NASCAR national touring series but is interested in bringing other prominent sanctioning bodies to the track as well. They’re also enticing more cars for the weekly racing shows by increasing purses and upgrading amenities at the facility. The NASCAR Racing Experience will also be an addition, where race fans can drive a NASCAR-style racecar on the oval.

With those solid investments, the new owners hope that the track will once again become a major racing destination. – Mike Neff

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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