Race Weekend Central

The Frontstretch Five: Things That Would Make Fans Happy at Daytona

Welcome to the Frontstretch Five, a brand-new column for 2014! Each week, Amy Henderson takes a look at the racing, the drivers, and the storylines that drive NASCAR and produces a list of five people, places, things, and ideas that define the current state of our sport. In the latest edition, has five things that could make race fans leave Daytona happy.

1. No controversy

This one’s important, and will probably be harder to achieve than it should be. But what fans need to see is a race with nothing they can argue about with NASCAR. That means no inspection issues, no questionable cautions, no cause for questions. All in all, there needs to be no reason for anyone to question the outcome.

With conspiracy theories flying left and right (most of them completely baseless), in order to quiet them, NASCAR needs a race that’s straightforward. On a restrictor plate track, there should be little reason for a debris caution that’s not legit, because there’s no need to try and make a closer race of it. But any penalties that are not cut and dried also fuel the fire. The hardest thing to police in a race at Daytona is the yellow line, so any penalties there need to be consistent (and don’t hold your breath, because this is one area where they have never been consistent). Of course, if any car bearing the Chevrolet banner, especially one from Hendrick Motorsports or a team running Hendrick equipment, wins the race, accusations of “fixing” will pop up, no matter how the win goes down, but what’s really needed is a race that runs its course, from flag to flag, without any reason to wonder if NASCAR was manipulating the outcome.

Some three-wide racing like this might be just what the doctor ordered for this week’s race in Daytona.

2. A first-time winner

There are few feel-good stories as compelling as a driver taking home his first career win. There’s nothing quite like watching someone take the checkers for the first time, hearing his words on the radio, seeing the raw emotion of his experience. With plate racing being an equalizer of sorts, there are certainly some drivers who could use a little of that first-time magic. There’s Kyle Larson, who’s been knocking on the door of a top finish a few times this year. Or AJ Allmendinger, longing to prove himself after his fall from grace a couple of years ago. Maybe David Gilliland, whose teammate did what many thought impossible by taking tiny Front Row Motorsports to the winner’s circle last year and whose Nationwide Series win was one of the most improbable in recent memory. For most drivers, the first win is the sweetest, and sharing in that is good for fans, too.

3. Or at least someone different

If there can’t be a first-time winner this weekend, perhaps an improbable one would do just as well. Again, there are a few possibilities: Tony Stewart who has won the summer race at Daytona four times but is struggling this year after a devastating leg injury last summer. David Ragan has won both at Daytona, and in his current, underfunded, Front Row ride. Road-course specialist Marcos Ambrose is racing for his job. Casey Mears was once an up-and-coming talent who has recently toiled with an underfunded team that was once a championship outfit, so both driver and team have something to prove. It would be hard not to enjoy a win by any of these racers. This would provide a break from the same ol’, same ol’, and make for a great story to boot.

4. A little rivalry

While Daytona isn’t the place to take out petty grievances on another driver, it’s the kind of track where it’s easy to get angry at someone. If that can be channeled into controlled aggression,  it can make for some moments that fans remember for a long time. There’s been talk of a rivalry between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, and those two have put on a show for fans before because they race each other with respect. That’s the kind of rivalry that’s good for NASCAR and its fans, but those two aren’t the only ones who could create quite a story. There are teammates and former teammates who would like nothing more than to best each other. There are old friends who’ve battled for years and young guns trying to make a name for themselves. The sport needs something polarizing for fans, and a close, clean on-track rivalry could be exactly that as fans take sides and align themselves with one

(Credit: Getty Images)
A photo representing the budding rivalry between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. .. Oh wait, no, that’s just a result of glass from a bottle. (Credit: Getty Images)

side or the other.

5. Two grooves that work

Restrictor plate racing is only fun to watch if the cars don’t spend too much time strung out in a line, and in order for that to happen, there need to be two lanes that work equally well so two, or even three, draft lines can race each other successfully. If only the bottom groove is working, then the field strings out, but if the top runs equally well¸ it makes for quite a show as the two lines battle back and forth for dominance. If a third line can work its way up the middle, that’s icing on the cake. There have been some compelling races this year, but not enough of them recently to keep fans excited. A barn-burner to open the unofficial second half of the season would be just what the doctor ordered to make everyone sit up and take notice.


About the author

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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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If NASCAR ran races that were straightforward there would be no conspiracy theories. If the NASCAR press consistently jumped all over the manipulative caution issue there would be no conspiracy issues. Like most of the press this article dismisses the ” irregularities” of NASCAR with a wave of the hand. That kind of coverage certainly feeds people’s impressions of conspiracy even when none exist. As to AJ Allmendinger, why does an amphetamine abuser with a DUI, a whiny blame another driver every time he makes a mistake personality and more hair products than the entire cast of Grease strike you as a feel good story. If you love punks with criminal tendencies you might want to consider covering the NBA.

Carl D.

Yeah, Kyle Larson would be a great win, but he does drive a Chevrolet. Still, that’s okay… it’s not a HMS Chevy or a SHRakaHMS Chevy.

I’m going with Jamie Mac for the win Saturday, but if he can’t win it I’ll be pulling for the Dinger.


Wouldn’t surprise me if Larson replaced Kasey pretty soon. You can bet ‘ole Hendrick has his eyes on him and Larson, I’m sure, wants a Hendrick ride. Hell, every driver does.


I thought the 1 and 42 run Felon engines? I saw a guy wearing a felon fire suit working on the 42 NNS race at road America. The only bow tie cars that aren’t part of Felon Racing are RCR and the guys that buy from ECR/RCR.

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