Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… New Stuff

The total estimated loss from destroyed equipment from the three NASCAR races this past weekend at Daytona is roughly between millions and half the national deficit.  Or something like that.  While the races may have been entertaining from an absurdist view, owing to all the wrecks, the concept of flow was ruined in all three and none of that had anything to do with the new segment/stage construction of races.  That doesn’t take away from some wild things that happened.  

The teams, however, must be overjoyed to be heading to Atlanta this weekend to race at a track where many more of their rides will return to the trailer simply having been run rather than wrecked.  

Happiness Is… Safety.  New for this season, NASCAR implemented having its own traveling crew in addressing the medical concerns of the drivers.  The move had been long overdue and shows a modicum of care toward the health of the drivers.  Daytona International Speedway also made sure to debut something that was long overdue: the inclusion of SAFER barriers on the wall that Kyle Busch nailed two years ago and caused him to miss a third of the season.  

Between these two positives, it should be noted that all the drivers who crashed out walked away in seemingly fine shape, other than being a bit rattled.  A few even managed to speed their way into the very wall that had been made safer and suffered nothing compared to what Busch did.

The big story regarding safety and concussions surrounded Dale Earnhardt Jr. catching Kyle Busch’s car in the 500 and then popping the wall.  He emerged unscathed and much of the NASCAR collective sighed in relief.  But looking at how many cars were on the that unfortunate place of the hook, it’s just as important that every other driver displayed any ill effects and is free to continue racing (funding permitted).  

Happiness Is… Five Minutes.  No, that’s not how long the caution periods were between segments – though if there’s something that NASCAR needs to address it is how handles the caution laps between the stages.  The new rule implemented where cars can enjoy only fives minute of work before the team is forced to park it came into play for a number of organizations at Daytona.

Sorry, your five minutes are up. Park it (Matthew T. Thacker – NKP)

Whether the move was made to cut down on expenses for some teams by limiting the parts used or the change was made to, in essence, clean up the track, it does not matter.  The fact that NASCAR had been encouraging damaged rides to clog up the track for so long is the bigger mystery.  That Formula 1 and IndyCar both have their fields whittled because of damaged cars is a positive, regardless of their lack of fenders.  And it doesn’t take much in F1 sometimes for the car to be put in parc ferme.  

While Daytona is its own monster and there is an actual possibility that a car running at less than its intended beauty may win, there are few tracks, especially in this aero dependent age where this may be the case.  And if so-and-so is unable to score 31st-place points because of failure to beat the five minute rule, oh well.  It’s better than that car being a dump truck for debris.  

Happiness Is… Programming.  To hype the racing this weekend, Fox went on a spree, showing a number of shows which focused on racing.  Though Untold Stories: Daytona had premiered last year, the network made sure to keep it in rotation as the 500 approached.  Joining the schedule was Refuse to Lose, the story of Jeff Gordon’s 1997 win, as well as perhaps the story of one of the most wild Daytona races ever, we’ll just call it the Juan Pablo Montoya Jet Drier 500 because that seems to be all anyone really remembers about it.

These shows, along with some of the other programming, not only serve as wonderful lead-ins to the race but they also provide the stories of things we’ve forgotten or also might give them their context with regard to history.  In addition, it is also a time for fans to enjoy reminiscing, featuring a time to encounter and embrace races from yesteryear.  

Watching the show on the JPMJD 500 made me recall spending almost six hour on the phone with my brother as we watched the race with 5,000 miles between us – and made him remember when Happiness Is lost its mind when the local affiliate switching to showing the news as NASCAR inched closer to going back to green.  That’s the beauty of these things.

The question that resides with such programming is: why isn’t there more of it.  There’s got to be oodles of footage for producers and writers to use to put together more memorable races.  Many of the participants are alive and are likely to have some faded memories of the events that are worth telling.  It seems that NASCAR and its broadcast partners are missing an opportunity here, one where the networks, the fans, and the sport would benefits.  

Enjoy the action from Atlanta this weekend.  

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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Sol Shine

Well, your take on the 5 minute rule is one side of the coin. The other side is that a driver can be severely punished by the rule just by being taken out by some other fool’s stupidity. Parked on lap 2 because some other moron did something stupid. What do you think that drivers fans think of Nascar now? Plenty of Earnhardt fans are mighty non-impressed, to start with, then add in the Busch, Kenseth, Johnson, etc. etc. fans and you’ve got just about everyone mad.

Nascar needs to rethink this rule, there are other ways of accomplishing the banning of wrecked cars being out there. Specifically, a meaningful minimum speed rule at 1 or 2% of the leaders speed. But then that would likely take the bottom 25% out as well, wrecked or not. No simple solutions, but this 5 minute rule is not going to be popular at all.

Bill B

I don’t necessarily disagree with you but I have to ask one question.
As a fan of a particular driver does it really matter to you if your driver is running 32nd and down ten laps and still on the track versus just being parked. Personally, if my driver is that far from a good finish it wouldn’t matter to me whether they were on the track or in the garage, I mean, what’s the difference? Either way, there is about the same probability that I am going to leave the track early or turn off the tv whether my driver is on the track 10 laps down or parked in the garage.


The Refuse to Lose film was great. The best part was listening to Ray Evernham B.S.ing the NASCAR officials during inspection, and letting them find one violation just to sneak 8 by. You see where Chad Knaus learned his skills from.


I am not a fan of the 5 minute repair clock. Rolling wrecks are a problem that could be handled in a better way. I think they should only award points for the top 25 (F1 awards points to the top 10, but they only have 20 cars total). This will take a lot of the incentive out of fixing a wrecked car to get it back out on the track. NASCAR kind of did this by only awarding pts to the top 35, but that’s doesn’t go far enough. If someone wants to fix a car let them do it. But if they cause a caution by shedding improperly attached pieces, park em.

Don in Ct

Formula 1 and CART/Indycar have had a traveling medical team attending each race for more than twenty years. It’s about time that NASCAR caught up. A disgrace that it took so long given the kind of money NASCAR and the Frances have.


I’m not worried about the 5 minute clock yet. Wrecks at Daytona are typically pretty cut and dry due to the speeds. The car either can continue or it can’t. There isn’t much wiggle room and you don’t see too many rolling wrecks there. We will have a better understanding how this all works when we get to the other tracks on the circuit.

I do think the clock will have a negative impact at some point when teams rush to patch a car up even though its not safe to go on the track. My thought is, keep the same limits you have for repairs, but allow them to go to the garage and take as much time as they need. Give them one shot to get up to minimum speed. If they can’t do it, park em. And don’t allow any car that is unsafe back on the track. My .02.

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