Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fan Insight: Trevor Bayne survives the two-car drafts and several wrecks to win the 2011 Daytona 500.


(Credit: AP via Yahoo! Sports)

Welcome readers, as the 2011 NASCAR season kicked off with Speedweeks at Daytona this past week-end (12 days), here at RaceDriven.com, I want to kick off the 2011 season in style with my new column called “Fan Insight”. Fan Insight is a new article/column for me, this fan to give insight into any given subject and in this edition, its NASCAR.

With that said, what a wild weekend at Daytona NASCAR fans saw that ended with the Daytona 500. All three national series kicked off their 2011 season with a bang to say the least. Each race had something different in it from large packages and impatient drivers to smaller packs and two-car break away, but one thing was the same had to be the wrecks including the “Big One” that happen multi-times in each race.

But in and among all of the racing from Michael Waltrip winning in Trucks, Tony Stewart winning the Nationwide race and Trevor Bayne winning the 500, there were several things that caught my eye, here’s my top 5 from Daytona (1).

1. Trevor Bayne wins 2011 Daytona 500: In a race that featured a record number of lead changes, leaders and cautions, one driver, Trevor Bayne driving for the legendary Wood Brothers Racing in the famous #21, not only survived the two-car drafting effect and several big wrecks, but in his second Cup Series start, won his first race, The Daytona 500.

That is incredible on so many levels and it is the Cinderella story sort of speck of the Daytona Speedweeks. I for one when I was watching the Daytona 500, I sat there watching this kid come off of turn 4 leading and I was just shocked. Nothing really shocks me anymore in this day in age, but watching Bayne come across the finish line to win the 2011 Daytona 500 left me speechless and that is hard to do. My father who was in the other room watching it taped delayed by one lap on his DVR was just coming to the end, I stood there and watched his expression as Bayne won. He was shocked and just said “what?”

Neither one of us could believe what we just saw, but one thing was for sure, we were thrilled for Trevor Bayne and the Wood Brothers to see them in victory lane in Daytona.

Funny thing was on Inside NASCAR on Showtime (yes I watch the show because I like the unedited scanner chat), On winning the Daytona 500, Bayne stated, “Coming to the white flag I was thinking, ‘Well, at least we can tell everybody we led the Daytona 500 on the white flag lap.’ Then we got to turn four and I was thinking, ‘I led coming out of turn four!’ Then you cross the finish line and its like, ‘Wait a minute...we just won this thing.’” (From Inside NASCAR on Showtime)

2. Top Drivers starting out in the hole: A lot of big top drivers were wrapped up in one of several wrecks that happened during the Daytona 500 and as a result of finishing outside the top 20, now have a lot of work to do to climb to the top 10 to make the chase. The new points standings look like this:

22 -Dale Earnhardt Jr. -21
23 -Kasey Kahne -23
25 -Jimmie Johnson -25
26 -Jeff Gordon -25
27 -Brad Keselowski -26
31 -Matt Kenseth -32
32 -Greg Biffle -33
33 -Jeff Burton -33 (Engine Failure)
37 -Kevin Harvick –39 behind (Engine failure)

Even Denny Hamlin finished 19th, so he has some work to do as well.

3. Two-car drafting effect - It's just different, but not boring: Two-car drafting showed promise in both the Nationwide Series race and the Daytona 500. The two-car drafts while insane at times did in fact at least split up the huge packs and that’s a good thing. But in the Truck Series, NASCAR is going to have to install a lower bumper in the rear so the trucks can bump draft too. My hope is that after a while, the two-car drafts will spread the field out enough so that they wouldn’t have these giant packs that seem to caught all of these big crashes namely “The Big One”. There is nothing worse during a race then watching half of the field gets taken out as the result of one wrong move. And that one wrong move happened in all three races. Enough is enough.

4. The controversial finish in the Truck Series race: Michael Waltrip in a last lap pass off of turn 4 blows by then leader Elliott Sadler to win the Truck Series race at Daytona. But the problem was, was that a part failed on Waltrip’s truck that helped him win the race namely half the rear spoiler fell down.
Personally this happened on the last lap, there was nothing NASCAR could do nor anybody for that matter could do and it was what it was.

* Do I believe Waltrip should be striped of the win? No, it’s a simple last lap parts failure that every now and then happens.

* What Waltrip have won the race even if the rear spoiler had stayed up? All I can say is, I believe he would have, but it would have been a photo finish.

* Did Waltrip get penalized by NASCAR for the infraction? Yes, on Tuesday, NASCAR announced that the #15 truck driven by Michael Waltrip was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-J (any determination by NASCAR Officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20B-3.1.2E (rear spoiler did not meet specifications in post-race inspection) of the 2011 NASCAR Rule Book. As a result, crew chief Doug Howe has been fined $25,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. Owner Billy Ballew has been penalized with the loss of 25 championship owner points. (From NASCAR PR)

I believe that Michael Waltrip won the race fair and square and I congratulate Michael Waltrip and the entire team on a good victory.

5. David Regan sees hopes go out the window at Daytona: Finally to cap of Daytona with a little insight into the David Regan penalty, it seemed to me that NASCAR warned both David Regan and Dale Earnhardt Jr. once before for passing before the start/finish line on a restart, but I did hear on the scanner chat before that first G-W-C restart that David Regan’s spotter or crew chief did warn his driver not pass before the start/finish line. I have to say that after hearing the scanner chat, David Regan made a mistake and NASCAR penalized him for it plain and simple. NASCAR had every right to penalize Regan for it and did, he got what he deserved and will learn from it (yes I agree with NASCAR). Regan would go on to finish 14th. It is what it is.

Picks for Phoenix:
* Cup Series race: Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Jimmie Johnson. These two drivers know exactly how to win at Phoenix, but for Dale Jr., he has a new crew chief and something to prove and after Daytona, Dale Jr. is hunger for a victory.
* Carl Edwards in the Nationwide Series
* Kevin Harvick in the Truck Series race. Harvick just seems to be that damn good at Phoenix in his own truck and its hard to bet against him.

Next is Phoenix for all three of NASCAR’s national series.