Finally, the NASCAR season has begun. Cars are out on the track and not just testing or practicing, they are racing! The Sprint Unlimited began back in 1979 as the Busch Clash and then to the Bud Shootout in 1998. No matter what it is called it is the start of the NASCAR season for us in NASCAR nation. This was the first race in which we would see how the Generation 6 car would respond to race conditions. In order to be eligible for the race, drivers had to have won a pole in 2012. Unfortunately this left out the NASCAR champion, Brad Keselowski and runner-up Clint Bowyer. If you didn’t win a pole last year, you had to been a past winner of the race as well to be eligible. This left the field with only 19 drivers for the race even though 22 drivers were eligible. Three drivers who did not race was AJ Allmendinger, Bill Elliot, and Ken Schrader. This race was also fan driven (no pun intended). Fans got to decided the length of each race segment (we chose 30/25/20), the number of tires to used during the pit stop after the first segment (we chose 4 tires) and if any drivers would be eliminated after the second segment (we chose none). And finally those fans who were attending the race we able to set the starting lineup by choosing from 3 choices and we chose the number of poles each driver won from 2012. With all that being said, the Sprint Unlimited started out with a bang and then a whimper.
I was anticipating a good race even with just 19 drivers in the mix. The Gen 6 car was untested in race conditions. Everything was looking good for segment one Tony was moving through the field and heading to the front. Matt Kenseth was in the lead. Tony saw a chance to move down the track through a window of an opening and boom. Tony didn’t quite clear Marcos Ambrose and this set off a 7 car crash which pretty much took out most of the field. Tony was able to save his car, but took out most of the competition the rest of the night. I guess that’s one way to win the race. All kidding aside Tony was able to win the first segment. I thought this was a good sign. After coming down for the mandatory pit stop after the first segment, Tony, I believe, came out of the pits third with future teammate Kevin Harvick coming out first. Segment two wasn’t much to talk about. There was a dicey moment when Joey Lagano’s car got loose and bumped Tony who in turned got into Dale Jr. But other than that, it was pretty much dominated by Kevin Harvick. As we headed towards the end of the last segment, I thought the drivers would turn things up. I mean this was Daytona and this was a non-points paying event and well, as I mentioned this was racing at Daytona. Tony tried to make a move on Kevin with a few laps left, but Kevin came down in front of Tony. I thought those two were going to the front. Greg Biffle then started to make his move and Kevin moved back up the track to get in front of him. This caused Tony to lose the momentum he had gained. Then it was over with Kevin Harvick as the winner.
I have to say I thought the race was anticlimactic. I had planned all week for this race. I carved out my time for Saturday. I had my little media area prepped for the race. I was even going to send the kiddos away for about 4 hours so I could enjoy the race. But just like racing, a yellow flag was thrown because of debris. We got a last-minute birthday party invite that would run close to the start of the race. I got home but missed all the pre-race stuff and the first laps. Just as I hunkered down for the race, it was over. Well, at least for me it was when half the field was taken out. Tony was very aggressive early, perhaps too aggressive. It is what I like about Tony, but dang it Mr. Stewart…ugh! He didn’t mean to come down and take out half the field. It was just a racing deal. Tony did take responsibility for the crash.
Sunday is qualifying for the Daytona 500 where the first two positions will be determined. On the one hand Tony heads out first for qualifying, but on the other it might not bode well for him on winning the pole. Of course if he isn’t on the front row I am ok with that. He will still have a chance to get on row two come Thursday with the Budweiser Duels (formerly the Gatorade Duels). For where you start isn’t as important where you end up. This is Daytona…anything can happen.
If you haven’t noticed NASCAR.com has redesigned their site. I have to say I am not all that thrilled about the change. For one it seems to take a long time to load up, of course this could be caused by my internet provider. It has been somewhat daunting to navigate around the site. For example, I wanted to find out the results of last night’s race and well frankly I couldn’t find them. I didn’t spend all that much time trying to find them, but it should be that difficult. I am also a Raceview subscriber. The site was having difficulty with the Raceview last night. I didn’t use my Raceview last night because of the message I saw on Twitter. NASCAR.com did offer a way for you to view it last night while they were working on fixing things. I am sure it will be fixed come Sunday if not before.
Some final thoughts…
- I love social media. Yeppers…I love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s fun and entertaining. If you aren’t on Twitter get on it…open an account…follow people. If you love NASCAR, I highly recommend The Orange Cone. Yes, it is an inanimate object, but some of the funniest stuff comes from his feed. If you are on Twitter, check him out @TheOrangeCone.
- NASCAR Commercials are funny. There are three commercials that sort of introduces the new car. You see the cars sitting in regular car showrooms. My favorite is the Clint Bowyer one. AT the end when the salesman says I will get the keys, Clint utters… “She don’t take keys”. Brad K. is using his phone to take pictures of him in front of the Ford and Jimmie utters “I love new car smell” in his commercial. NASCAR commercials just make you giggle at times.
- Tony had an awesome car last night. He posted some of the best speeds yesterday in the last practice. This bodes well for today, the duels and next weekend. I want Tony to win the Daytona 500. But the Daytona 500 is tough to win. It took Dale Sr. 20 tries and some drivers have tried, but never won. Hoping this is Tony’s year!
- I was able to help out a fellow Tony fan. I managed to find a copy of NASCAR Illustrated with Tony Stewart on the front. I mentioned this to her and well, she was a little sad because as a NASCAR Illustrated subscriber she got the one with Denny Hamlin on the front. This is where I was determined to get her a copy of one with Tony on it. I accomplished this feat and she is now the proud owner of a NASCAR Illustrated with Tony on the cover. That’s what it is all about my friends. NASCAR Nation is not just a bunch of people who love NASCAR, it is a family.