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Daytona 500 postscript

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

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Jamie McMurray

Over the course of the previous weekend we were treated to a spectacular finish from Sunday's Daytona 500 and members of the "Junior Nation" are smiling again. It was also an educational weekend because we learned how to fix a pot hole. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to that spectacular finish to the great American race and the emotionally charged moments we observed in victory lane afterwards. Jamie McMurray drove his heart out to win the Daytona 500 and that superior effort truly is worthy of the accolades he has received.

THUMBS-UP to Dale Earnhardt Jr for showing us that he is still capable of getting the job done. There were two green-white-checker finish attempts attached to this race. Earnhardt started the first in the 22nd position and started the second one in tenth. Like the proverbial bat out of hell, he charged through a vacant middle line to second and was knocking on the door for first when the laps ran out.

The fans were going crazy. Here in my southern California home the girlfriend, a card carrying T shirt wearing member of the Junior Nation, was jumping up and down while screaming at the television. The family dog and cat elected to escape to a bed room hideaway in sheer fright from this spectacle. But, considering the 2009 season this driver had, it was only natural that the conclusion of the Daytona 500 would create sheer hysteria among the members of the Junior Nation.

THUMBS-UP to NASCAR for last week's announcement regarding their intent to extend their green-white-checker finish policy. That's one of the major reasons why we were treated to the exciting conclusion of the race. It's understandable that many of the drivers are not to thrilled with the new policy but even they admit that it's about the fans and the fans clearly loved it.

Another THUMBS-UP goes to the International Speedway Corporation, who owns the speedway in Daytona, for their decision of many years ago to install lighting around the facility. That's another reason why we all got treated to the spectacular race finish.

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Track workers try to fix hole that developed in 32-year old asphalt surface

WHAT'S-UP with the pot holes between turns one and two? The appearance of those gaping holes in the track surface created two delays in the Daytona 500 that lasted well over two hours. But, in the aftermath, we all need to extend a little more fairness regarding this issue. It really wasn't any one's fault. It was just plain bad luck associated with the inclement weather that fell on the Daytona Beach area during the days prior to the race. Believe me when I tell you that if the powerful France family of NASCAR could actually control the weather we would have seen evidence of it years ago.

You also have to be fair and send a THUMBS-UP to the track maintenance team for having to deal with patching holes under that much scrutiny. Can you image having to do that job under the prying eyes of 175,000 racing fans plus another estimated 13 million watching on television?

That leads to another WHAT'S-UP with the television ratings for the Daytona 500? The pot hole delays apparently had a lot of fans changing the channels. Overnight Nielsen ratings were down 16 percent from the previous year.

A THUMBS-UP definitely goes to Robin Braig, President of the Daytona International Speedway, who had to endure the post race press conference and the pot hole questions that came with it. With a demeanor filled with dignity and honesty, Braig apologized to the fans for delays that were beyond their anticipation and control. He also admitted that the repair process could have gone smoother. When the inevitable question regarding repaving the track's entire surface was presented Braig replied "you don't paint the entire house when all you need is a little touch up."

With the pot hole dilemma came a major upset in the television game plan at Fox Sports. That leads to a THUMBS-UP to pit reporters Dr. Dick Berggren, Steve Byrnes, Matt Yocum and Krista Voda who sped up and down pit road like long distance runners attempting to line up every interview they could to help fill the time.

From that effort came some THUMBS-UPS for the humorous observations by the Sprint Cup drivers who participated in these interviews. Dale Earnhardt Jr said "they should put an orange cone on top of that patch and we'll just dodge it all day long."

Mark Martin, NASCAR's official nutrition and exercise guru, said that he had just eaten four power bars during the delay and added "if I have one more I'm going to throw up."

At the beginning of the first red flag delay Kyle Busch opted to remain in this car and catch a short cat nap. That ended when the Fox broadcast team contacted him for an in car interview which prompted Busch to reply "hey, you just woke me up."

In the aftermath the pot hole jokes just kept on coming such as this observation from my long time racing buddy "Six Pack Eddie" who called me to make raise the question "why hasn't Honda, Mazda and Volkswagen made a move to participate in NASCAR racing? It's because their cars are too small and the pot holes will swallow them."

"Six Pack Eddie" also wondered if "Digger", the official animated mascot of "NASCAR On Fox", was burrowing around Daytona and caused those pot holes. If that turns out to be true then it's an official reason to get rid of that fat rat, (or whatever it is), once and for all.

The pot hole jokes continued late Monday night from David Letterman who actually had race winner Jamie McMurray as a guest on his popular late night talk show. Letterman observed that New York City has so many pot holes in the streets they have practically become an accepted part of the lifestyle there. He then quipped "there's a pot hole on 8th Avenue that's so big it has its own gift shop."

But the pot hole jokes on the Tuesday morning edition of ESPN's "First Take" gets the grand prize. The show presented an interview with the "Geico Pothole." This is from the very popular Geico Insurance commercial that features an automobile getting a flat tire after hitting a pot hole. All of a sudden the pot hole, in a very high pitch feminine voice, says "oh hey, did I cause that?"

During the interview on "First Take" the "Geico Pot Hole" insisted there was no need to repave Daytona and she felt like the pot holes and the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers should be able to co exist. She further pointed out "Max Papis, driver of the Geico Toyota, and I are very good friends but even he knows better to mess with me because, after all, I'm a pot hole."

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Turning now to the Nationwide Series, THUMBS-UP to Tony Stewart for his rock solid performance that led to Saturday's win in the Drive 4 COPD 300. That race was Stewart's only scheduled appearance in the series for this season and he clearly made the best of it in his Kevin Harvick Inc Chevrolet.

WHAT'S-UP with Dale Earnhardt Jr, and his JR Motorsports teams, who had to endure a very expensive Saturday afternoon at Daytona? Driving his own car, Earnhardt found himself up on his roof following a very savage wreck in the race. With a sense of humor in tow, he said "if you're going to roll over make it something spectacular." He also later said that JR Motorsports balances its books at the end of the month and he would know by then what will be needed to recoup the loss of a race car.

But from that wreck came two THUMBS-UPS for great one liners from Nationwide Series drivers Joe Nemechek and Brian Vickers. Nemechek said "apparently I just kept going underneath him because I have tire marks on the roof of my car." Vickers later commented "It's the first time I've ever seen a drive shaft travelling at 195 MPH."

But the expensive afternoon didn't end there. JR Motorsports driver Danica Patrick got caught up in a multi car accident midway through the event and had to settle for a 35th place finish in her official NASCAR debut. That leads to a WHAT'S-UP with the commentary and published reports that said her debut fizzled out? She got caught up in an accident not of her making. Her presence in NASCAR at the moment is about seat time and the education that will come from that.

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THUMBS-UP for young Timothy Peters and his Daytona victory in Saturday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season opener. Peters passed pre race favorite Todd Bodine on the final lap of the race to earn his second series win. In victory lane he said "this thing ran like a Lexus tonight. We just won Daytona: I'm going to Disney World."

THUMBS-UP to ex Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr for his sixth place finish in his NASCAR debut for Red Horse Racing.

But WHAT'S-UP with all of those wrecks in this truck race? 33 of the scheduled 100 laps were ran under the yellow caution flag. The process started with the opening pace laps of the race where there were two different minor collisions. That was followed by an eight truck pile up, triggered by series rookie Austin Dillon, on the very first green flag lap of the event. Even on the final lap of the event there were cars spinning out including second place finisher Todd Bodine who slid backwards across the start finish line to keep his position.

One of the wrecks greatly impacted four time and reigning series champion Ron Hornaday Jr who finished 27th, 18 laps down, in the race. It was Hornaday's debut race with new crew chief Dave Fuge. That leads to a WHAT'S-UP with Kevin Harvick Inc releasing Fuge from his contract right after the Daytona race? No official reason has been announced so, for now, the issue remains both a surprise and a mystery.

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We have a trio of GOD BLESS items this week. The first is for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Donny Lia and his fiancé Nancy who welcomed the birth of their son, Dominick Anthony, on February 12th.

NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Elliot Sadler and his wife Amanda welcomed their son, Wyatt, on February 15th.

We again ask you to keep sending good thoughts and prayers to Lynda Petty, the wife of King Richard Petty, who is in the Duke University Medical Center undergoing treatment for central nervous system lymphoma which is a form of brain cancer. The good news here lies in the fact that her doctors are saying they're confident they will be able to wipe out the cancer.

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The WHAT'S-UP of the week concerns the recent announcement that yet another NASCAR team member has been indefinitely suspended due to violation of the sanctioning body's substance abuse policy. This time it was William Wheeler, a mechanic working for the #57 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. Here's hoping that Wheeler takes advantage of the rehab option offered to him and finds his way back to racing.

That also leads to a THUMBS-UP to NASCAR for once again exercising their zero tolerance stance regarding substance abuse within the sport.

The final THUMBS-UP of the week goes to CBS late night talk show host David Letterman. Commenting on the VIP appearance of former Alaska Governor, and Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin at Sunday's Daytona 500, Letterman said "at the end of the race she was standing at the start/finish line waving her checkered past." Ouch!

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