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NASCAR Coke 400 postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, July 5, 2010


Kevin Harvick takes the checkered flag to win by less than 2 car lengths
Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR
During the Fourth of July weekend at the Daytona International Raceway we watched a lackluster Sprint Cup race turn into a late race free for all that made Kevin Harvick the hero of the zero. We watched an emotionally charged Dale Earnhardt Jr pay tribute to his father only to follow that up with bizarre comments regarding his beard and beer drinking schedule.

We also watched an equally emotionally charged Richard Childress visit Daytona's victory lane twice in 24 hours. We witnessed a very impressive debut of a new race car and we heard about a young race driver and his lack of respect to a king. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Kevin Harvick for winning Saturday night's Coke Zero 400. It marked Harvick's second win at Daytona, his second win of the season and his 13th career win. But the driver of the #29 Shell-Pennzoil-Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet did not have an easy time of it. With 12 laps to go the race was red flagged due to a "Daytona big one" that impacted 19 cars and forced a late in the race double file restart. Harvick had to respond to another double file restart, green-white-checker, finish after a two car crash brought out the race's final caution flag with only two laps left in the race.

In the process of accepting the beautiful Daytona trophy in victory lane, at 1am Florida time, Harvick said he was more interested in obtaining a large chunk of the track's start finish line. Daytona will now begin a total repaving process to replace the current track surface which is 33 years old.


THUMBS-UP to Dale Earnhardt Jr for winning the Subway Jalapeno 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night in a special retro car in honor of his late father. A special one time partnership between Wrangler Jeans, Sprint Cup team owners Richard Childress and Teresa Earnhardt along with JR Motorsports, co owned by the winning driver made it possible of us to see the retro #3 yellow and blue Wrangler Chevrolet on the track again. It was, of course, the paint scheme made famous by Dale Earnhardt who won two NASCAR titles in the Wrangler #3.

While the members of the Earnhardt Nation cheered wildly and wiped the tears from their eyes, the winning driver made it clear that the moment was a one time event and he was through racing a car with the number 3 on it. During a post race press conference Junior said he always loved the blue and yellow paint scheme on his father's car and that was a major part of his decision to drive the retro car at Daytona. But he again emphasized that fans should not expect to see him in the car again and said "this is it. I just knew before the race, and I said it, I felt 110 percent sure before the race, regardless of whether we finished or even started the damn race. So, yeah, I'm glad we won. It means more to me now, knowing that I won't ever do it again, that I won."

In the spirit of there's a time and place for everything, WHAT'S-UP with those attending that press conference turning an emotionally charged family moment into a question regarding the winning driver's sense of commitment to his Sprint Cup team? Despite celebrating the Nationwide Series win, Earnhardt was quickly reminded that he hasn't won a Sprint Cup since the summer of 2008.

We've all heard and read those criticisms. The statements that has questioned his ability to remain focused on his Sprint Cup team. The ones that said he seemed to care more about product endorsements, his celebrity and hosting the party.

The door was opened wide at the press conference for this topic and, totally out of character, Earnhardt, with comments peppered with some obscenities, replied "I have busted my ass. I mean, I can't drive or work any !@#$% harder than I'm working right now. I can't. This is all I've !@#$% got and I'm doing it hard man. I mean, I cannot work any harder. This year, I mean, we wore it out trying to get back to where we need to be. I'm not burnt out. I still have a lot in the tank. I've got the passion, man I want to win. I want to be here for a long time."

However Earnhardt returned to THUMBS-UP status after relocating his famed sense of humor after he was asked about his beard. "I grew the beard back because I've been running better," he said. "We had those first ten races where we hauled ass. Then I shaved and we ain't running worth a damn. So I grew the beard back and started drinking beer on Mondays. Now the beard doesn't have it's own personality. But the beard does have a "Facebook" page, but it's not a real person just a beard on my face. I quit partying so much. I drink beer every Monday and I grew a beard back. Those two things seem to help me."

The THUMBS-UP for making chicken salad out of chicken do do also goes to Earnhardt and his Sprint Cup team who finished fourth in the Coke Zero 400 despite having to fight a car that often had the handling characteristics of an Army tank. Earnhardt somehow managed to drive his way past the 19 car big one and moved from a 21st place finish to a top five finish. It also moved him from 13th to 11th in the championship points which makes him an official Chase contender.

But WHAT'S-UP with the apology after the race? "I want to apologize to our fans," he said adding "we were terrible all night. I was out of control. I wish we had put a better car on the track. We got really lucky to get what we did."


THUMBS-UP to NASCAR team owner Richard Childress for his outstanding Daytona weekend. He was involved in the aforementioned Wrangler Chevrolet project and greeted Dale Earnhardt Jr in victory lane Friday night. 24 hours later was back in victory lane greeting Kevin Harvick after he won the Sprint Cup race.

When you consider the problems and frustrations that plagued Richard Childress Racing all throughout the 2009 season, this is a remarkable and well deserved turn around.


THUMBS-UP for the on track debut of the NASCAR Nationwide Series' Car Of Tomorrow-COT. The Ford Mustangs and Dodge Challengers were eye popping on the track and seem to be well on their way to massive acceptance from the fans. Obviously, the new stream lined Chevrolet Impalas were strong after winning the race. But I still have to say WHAT'S-UP with General Motors not putting their Chevrolet Camaro in this series? Wouldn't you just love to see those sleek new Camaros mixing it up with the Mustangs and Challengers? I know I would.

Daytona was the first of four races this year for the new cars before they race full time next year. The debut of the Nationwide Series COT sparked an interesting comment from Kevin Harvick who said "the best thing about running the new car is the fact that the Gibbs boys won't be able to use the cars they have been running."


The final WHAT'S-UP of the week goes to driver A J Allmendinger whose frustration, during the Coke Zero 400, led to an angry act of rudeness towards, of all people, his boss: King Richard Petty. Allmendinger was involved in a lap 66 wreck that forced him to the garage area. Prior to the crash his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford was strong and appeared capable of at least a top ten finish. He eventually returned to the race 55 laps down but had to settle for a 36th place finish.

Petty approached his driver in the garage in an effort to calm him down and the result was some alleged verbal rudeness from Allmendinger that escalated into a heated exchange. Allmendinger was reported to turn his back on his boss, pulled away from him and stormed away.

The spin effort later came from RPM Vice President Robbie Loomis who said "I always say the car owner shouldn't talk to the driver anytime after the race especially after an accident. I think Richard Petty has been here so many times, he's been through all of this stuff and he was just trying to get him to loosen up and let the boys do their stuff on fixing the car and getting back out there. Anytime you talk to somebody at the wrong time it always causes discussion that needs to be worked out. That's all that happened."


The final THUMBS-UP of the week goes to NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte who made his 600th series start Saturday night at Daytona. In honor of that impressive milestone Labonte was asked to give the command for the drivers to start their engines from inside of his car. It was a very classy thing to do.

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