Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: Has Speedweeks Become Diluted?

1. Has Speedweeks become diluted?

When my dad would take work clients to races at Daytona International Speedway in the late 1980s to early 1990s, one of the first things I would gravitate toward was the seemingly enormous souvenir program.

It was not hard, from a quick glance through the colorful pages, to find a few references to someone that made it seem like the most exciting thing ever… Speedweeks.

Even in 2007, when I arrived midweek in the midst of the only time I have been fortunate to cover Speedweeks, it was not hard to miss that you were in the midst of something special, a tempest that had been built up since coming into the previous weekend.

The phrase Super Bowl has been overused with this event through the years, and that’s partially because when you are at the track for a week-plus worth of time, everything seems like a huge deal building up to the Daytona 500.

That is, of course, due to the weekend before the Daytona 500 ushering the offseason away with a practice session that led up to the Busch Light Clash. Perhaps unwittingly, chasing the excitement that comes with moving the Busch Clash around may have taken away from the magic of Speedweeks.

The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s biggest race. Nothing will ever surpass its prestige. It should not be something that feels like it’s just another race. But when you show up for a midweek qualifying race, it does not feel much different than a typical race, and that’s not where the sport should be in the first weeks of the season. Running the Busch Clash on the West Coast certainly makes it hard to run two weeks in a row to begin the season. At some point, NASCAR has to decide what it values more – The Great American Race or the Clash.

See also
Travis Pastrana Snags 11th in 1st Daytona 500: 'The Kid's College Fund is Intact'

2. Should Daytona be about checking off driver bucket lists?

It was certainly a feel-good story for Travis Pastrana not just to race in the Daytona 500, but have a chance to finish in the top 10. It was a great moment for someone like Pastrana to add running the Daytona 500 to his career of racing most anything with an engine and wheels, and if you spend a few minutes close to the action sports star, it’s hard not to love what he brings to the event.

But is that a good thing for the Daytona 500?

Pastrana, who said that Sunday’s race was his first and last time in the event, definitely checked a bucket list off, but is that really what NASCAR needs to be about? Checking off bucket lists? This is the most important race for the sport. More eyeballs are on it than any other year-round. This should be a race for the sport’s best – not someone seeking to check something off a list.

3. Does a Daytona 500 win still make a career?

No matter what Ricky Stenhouse Jr. does for the rest of his career he will carry one title with him – Daytona 500 winner. It’s easy to tout the randomness of that accomplishment, but the heart of the matter is that this is the current style of racing for the Daytona 500. Stenhouse did what was needed to win. But is he getting enough respect?

It’s lazy to call his win lucky, but Stenhouse winning the Daytona 500 was not coincidental. If a driver can win more than once in a style of racing, it’s no fluke. Even some of the other wins of this race, easily dismissed as luck, come with theories that can easily have holes punched in them. Derrike Cope’s 1990 win? It came in a Speedweeks where the Whitcomb team had a strong racecar, and Cope himself had a handful of strong runs at Daytona outside that 1990 triumph.

Like it or not, this is the box that teams are put in at Daytona, and Stenhouse and his team did what they had to do at the right time.

See also
Daytona to Dirt: Dirt Racer Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Elite Company With Daytona 500 Win

4. How impartial can Fox be with Kevin Harvick?

The doubt is gone about Kevin Harvick’s future thanks to his recent announcement that he’ll join the NASCAR on Fox booth next year. That means that for the first half of the season, his future employers are in a precarious position – how critical will they be if Harvick is involved in an on-track incident? Will there be more of ‘looks like racing deals to me,’ instead of blatant finger-pointing?

Obviously, NASCAR’s TV partners have never met a way to slant analysis that they did not like. Rusty Wallace and Jeff Burton have been put into positions of having to weigh in on their own children’s role in causing accidents, and Brad Daugherty’s ESPN role, for example, placed a part-owner in a position to commentate in a series where he owned a car. NBC stands to have a dicey situation to navigate should JR Motorsports ever go NASCAR Cup Series racing.

You can’t change the fact that Harvick is doing TV next year for Fox. Here’s to hoping that nobody at Fox decides that should involve anything related to Digger.

5. Could this be the sendoff that Jimmie Johnson never got?

Sure, in 2020, it was Jimmie Johnson’s last full-time season in the Cup Series. But since 2020 was…well…2020, it was anything but normal, and in an atypical year, Johnson never got his formal farewell. No fans showed up in droves for his final time at many tracks in the No. 48. Yes, many watched on TV, but it was not the same.

While his remaining schedule remains to be seen, it was entertaining to see one of NASCAR’s seven-time champs mixing it up on Sunday.

One of the hardest things to watch in the careers of Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty was how both struggled for results near the end of their careers. And one of the most satisfying things for the sport in the 1990s was when Waltrip filled in for Steve Park and for the first time in a while, looked like he was actually having fun again.

That’s hopefully what fans will get with Johnson in the No. 84 car – Johnson having fun and showing what he can still do behind the wheel.

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It’s unfortunate that Jimmie Johnson sucked driving IndyCar. Now he’s back in NASCAR trying to feed his ego.

Richard Petty ain’t happy with JJ’s rise to power. NASCAR’s media and Jimmie Johnson blamed Maury Gallagher for Richard’s comments. Not true.

Jimmie Johnson is like a sleazy used car dealer. All smiles and a smooth talker. Speaking of used cars, let’s talk about what a scumbag operation Carvana brings to NASCAR as a sponsor. Legal issues, class-action lawsuits, and unhappy customers. A match made in Heaven.

Mr. Vanilla has arrived, or has risen and the creative writing lap dogs are eating it up.

Mr. 7-Time (Free Pass) Champion: Take your snake oil and pony show somewhere else.



Tom B

Well said.


And what was and is Jimmie Johnson without Chad Knaus. Just another race car driver that has a chance to win Daytona because of the type of race it is. Sure he’s a likable guy, well sort of. I’m totally convinced he would not have 7 Championships if not for Knaus and his suspicious ways.


And Brian France.


And what was Richard Petty without Dale Inman? It is a stupid question, just like yours.

Jill P

Kevin Harvick’s company represents several current drivers. Will they get a pass if they are responsible for an incident?


Your segment about impartiality with respect to Keven Harvick may already showing its ugly head. When Harvick got into Tyler Reddick’s back bumper in the corner and spun him, Clint Boyer’s comment was “it looked like he was having trouble holding onto it.” That’s one of two things: FOX and Boyer are already cutting Harvick slack OR it could be another instance of any announcer giving deference to a better known driver when he makes contact with a lesser known one.

Mike Kalasnik

Yes. I’m watching some Speedweeks coverage from 1997. They had second round qualifying for every series. Apparently they even scheduled 3rd round qualifying until rains came. ESPN covered it all, practices and qualifying. It was huge. Now? Its what, a 4 day event?

Bill B

At one time there was a second qualifying session for every race. Main qualifying on Friday, second chance on Saturday. Teams would also have an engine specifically for qualifying which they would replace with an engine for the race once qualifying was over. Of course, back then, there were usually 5+ more cars than spots and those cars would go home after qualifying.

Now, with 36 chartered cars guaranteed to race, and many weeks less than 40 cars showing up, qualifying has become a formality basically to determine starting positions. No need for second round qualifying really.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bill B
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