Race Weekend Central

Sometimes Racing Can be too Good

The day dawned bright and clear. The fans filed into the track via Daytona’s new “injectors.” Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip yakked up a storm. Mikey appeared for a short time before the green flag to play the goofy younger brother that he does so well. The pre-show went off like clockwork—on-track concert, anthem, driver intros and flyover all rolled by without major mishap. Finally, the engines roared to life and those Daytona jitters started. You know, the ones that involve not really watching the three-wide packs and waiting for the explosion of the century to occur.

Chase Elliott teased us all with that hard hit to the infield grass, his No. 24 leading the way for a flurry of other swerves and spins coming out of Turn 4. Except, well, yes, the cars got beat up a bit. A few heroes were dropped to the back of the pack or effectively out for the day. But really, having the grass eat a few splitters is nothing in the grand scheme of plate racing.

Eventually, we nodded off for a nap, ate up the Great American snacks, agreed that Gibbs certainly has it happening this year and waited…

The Big One never happened. We got a photo-finish between Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin, with the No. 11 taking away the trophy. However, a half-lap of close racing does not an exciting race make. I realize that Hamlin did the happy dance, and Truex was pretty pleased with his day. Even Dale Jr. didn’t grumble too loudly over losing the back-end of his No. 88. Post-race interviews up and down pit road were indeed generally congenial. Without a heap of shredded racecars and a booming business for the tow trucks, the Chamber of Commerce Day at Daytona just seemed a little too nice.

I’m the first one to admit that my annual post-race column for the 500 is usually full of derogatory comments on the complete waste of energy that plate racing at Daytona and Talladega create. But at least something bad to talk about is still something.

I guess Joie Chitwood III would be ecstatic with the performance of his new stadium. Who wouldn’t be? Under blue skies and balmy temps, the massive facility got to show off its stuff in the best way possible. Even the fish in Lake Lloyd were sunning themselves.

In short, even though the Daytona 500 is the equivalent of NASCAR’s superbowl, the 2016 edition simply failed to deliver any kind of wow-effect. Try as we might to pull some sterling storylines out of the afternoon, we are left with the remnants of rainbows and picket fences. Racing is always better served with a healthy serving of grease and ripped up sheet metal.

At least now we know that Daytona is able to give us a nice day at the races, but when all is said and done, the thrill of the event got lost in the perfection of the day. Somebody wake me up when we get to Atlanta.

Something Shiny

Maybe you saw it dangling behind Darrel Waltrip in one of the pre-race segments; a chandelier on the grandest scale. If you took a second look, you suddenly realized that the various lit layers of the intricate piece of artwork were actually tracks. All the ISC tracks, specifically. Located in the Rolex 24 Lounge, it is just one of the many bright and shiny thing created at #DaytonaRising.

Click on the link from The Charlotte Observer to see this beauty. Can you identify all of the tracks?




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