|Kyle Busch nips Tony Stewart at the line|
When the 34th annual Budweiser Shootout received the green flag, it was immediately apparent that the overall scope of restrictor plate racing had changed dramatically. Virtually gone were the two car tandems from the recent past. That was replaced by a return of the more traditional pack racing from years gone by. The final result of the 75 lap Budweiser Shootout was a very exciting finish peppered with the presence of three separate "big ones."
However, with a million dollar purse on the line, with $200,000 plus going to the winner, combined with no championship points implications and a winner take all mentality, how could the Budweiser Shootout not be exciting? With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:
THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch for scoring his first ever Budweiser Shootout win in a highly dramatic fashion under green-white-checker conditions. Using old school drafting tactics, coming to the checkered flag, Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota pulled a perfectly timed "sling shot" maneuver, another old school racing tactic, to pass Tony Stewart for the win. The margin of victory was a mere 0.013 seconds, a new race record.
The fact that Kyle Busch was even around for the finish of this race is amazing. He more than deserves a never before issued MAJOR THUMBS-UP for saving his car not once, but twice, during some very tense on track moments. With approximately 28 laps remaining in the event, Busch was tapped by Jimmie Johnson and spent several nail biting moments gathering his car in and avoiding a major crash. It was a stunning display of car control and you'll be seeing that piece of video a lot during the days to come. Then, with two laps remaining, the last of the three big wrecks erupted. Busch, tapped by Jeff Gordon, again launched a stunning display of car control to again steer his way through a potentially bad scenario.
On the topic of the race's three "big ones," once again a THUMBS-UP goes out to NASCAR and their mandated safety improvements implemented in recent years. During the Budweiser Shootout there were three major examples of issues that could have impacted driver safety. From the severe crash damage to the cars, the two cars that caught on fire and the one car that landed on its roof, all of the drivers walked away from it unharmed.
This was especially true of Jeff Gordon. With two laps remaining in the race, the final "big one" erupted. Gordon's Chevrolet went up on its side and then barrel rolled two and one half times before coming to a rest on its roof. The following day Gordon commented that he felt more physical discomfort trying to climb out of the car, while hanging upside down in the cockpit, that he did during any portion of the savage wreck. Again, that's a testimony to the outstanding safety features placed within these NASCAR stock cars.
Okay, let's get to the big story from the Budweiser Shootout weekend which actually had nothing to do with this race. WHAT'S-UP with Jimmie Johnson's Daytona 500 car failing to pass the first round of the NASCAR inspection procedure?
The problem centered around the C posts, a piece of sheet metal that attaches the car's roof to the rear quarter panels. During the course of attaching their templates to the #48 car, NASCAR tech officials noticed that the C posts had an unusual curved design to them. The C posts were ruled as being unacceptable and were removed and confiscated. Because the car had yet to go out on the track, the team was informed that they still could race in the Daytona 500. However, the team had to make quick of fabricating new C posts that satisfied the inspectors.
In the aftermath, NASCAR official spokesman Kerry Tharpe said that "any sanctions are unlikely until after the February 26th, (Daytona 500), race." John Darby, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director, called the incident "a major violation of NASCAR's policy banning alterations" and added "suspensions are not out of the realm of possibility."
Are you surprised that a race team attempted to slip something by the NASCAR tech team to gain an advantage in the Daytona 500? I know I wasn't. We're you surprised that this particular incident had the name Chad Knaus attached to it? You shouldn't, we've heard this story from the past.
So, what's the big deal here? According to reports, the curve design of the confiscated C posts could have deflected air flow away from the rear spoiler of the car. That would have created less drag on the rear of the car which could have led to a very slight increase in speed. In the world of restrictor plate racing, is a few minor ticks on a stop watch an advantage in the Daytona 500? You bet it is.
A GOD BLESS goes out to the family of NASCAR on FOX television host Chris Myers over the recent loss of his son. 19 year old Christopher Myers was tragically killed in a February 16th automobile accident in the southern California community the family resides in. Our heartfelt condolences and prayers goes out to the Myers family during this truly tragic time in their lives.
Also a GOD Bless goes out to the family of Bob Osbourne, and his family. The crew chief of driver Carl Edwards' #99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, had to leave Daytona Raceway last week following notification that his father had passed away. Our condolences and prayers also goes to the Osbourne family during their time of loss.
A GOD BLESS goes out to the newest member of the NASCAR Nation as well as the new member that's on the way. Kelley Earnhardt-Miller and husband L W Miller welcomed the arrival of their new baby son. Wyatt Wayne Miller arrived on February 16th weighing in at eight pounds 13 ounces. Mom is the manager of her famous brother's racing career as well as overseeing the J R Motorsports' NASCAR Nationwide Series teams which she is also a co-owner. Dad is a prominent race driver currently campaigning in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
A GOD BLESS also goes out to Kevin and DeLana Harvick who recently announced that their first child was going to be a boy. Overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from the fans, the always fun DeLana has created a special Internet blog to keep us all updated on the arrival of the baby. You can find "Delana's Baby Blog" at www.kevinharvick.com.
We have a trio of final THUMBS-UPS for you this week with two of them featuring some one liners that we felt deserved to be repeated.
The first THUMBS-UP goes to SPEED Channel reporter Danielle Trotta. In a televised report, Trotta was previewing the winning contenders of the Budweiser Shootout. At the conclusion of an interview with Kevin Harvick, she said "we know he's not shooting blanks because he has a baby boy on the way."
During the Friday night Budweiser Shootout qualifying draw program, aired live by SPEED, Kyle Busch was introduced and the giant bushel basket of boo berries instantly followed. With a big grin on his face, Busch said "haters are motivators." I wonder if he learned that from counseling sessions with Coach Joe Gibbs. By the way, following his outstanding driving display in the Shootout, those boo berries seemed to be nonexistent.
The final THUMBS-UP goes to the country music group Little Big Town for their outstanding performance of "The National Anthem" prior to the Budweiser Shootout. I've always been a huge admirer of layered harmony singing and this group nailed the song like they wrote it themselves.
The final WHAT'S-UP, for this special Budweiser edition, has nothing do with the Shootout or, for that matter, the Daytona International Raceway. It actually concerns "The General Lee," the #01 bright orange Dodge Charger from the hit CBS television series "The Dukes of Hazard," which aired from 1979 to 1985. The car is now owned by famed PGA professional golfer Bubba Watson who bought it at an auction for $110,000.
It seems that Watson was recently named as an "honorary official" for the upcoming, March 4th, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Phoenix International Raceway. Everyone thought it would be a great idea if he drove "The General Lee" around the speedway during the pre race ceremonies.
Unfortunately, NASCAR wasn't too thrilled with the plan and expressed concern over the presence of the confederate flag prominently painted on the roof of the car. Following a meeting ,between NASCAR and Phoenix Raceway officials, it was determined that displaying the car on race weekend was "not in the best interest of the sport." In a more detailed statement, NASCAR said "the image of the confederate flag is something that shouldn't play an official role in our sport as we continue to reach out to new fans and make NASCAR more inclusive."
In a less than detailed report, Watson issued a "Twitter" message that read: "dream crushed !"
So, why do I have a problem with this story? Like many of you I still haven't found a way to get comfortable with living in the age of so called political correctness. I'm now old, and I'm old school. Someone who subscribes to the theory that says: "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck then it's a damn duck."
Yeah I know, I'm probably going to receive a nasty note from PETA for making fun of a duck.