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NASCAR Daytona postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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Former IndyCar champ and open wheel star Tony Stewart is the best NASCAR driver, proving once again where the best race drivers in America race
For you fans who were getting restless because NASCAR races were turning into long green flag runs with very little yellow flag action, you got your money's worth at Daytona didn't you? Granted, you had to wait until lap 82 to see the first yellow light moment but they came pretty frequently after that.

Also during the Daytona weekend we watched the "Smoke" rise to the top for the third time in the Sprint Cup Series. In the Nationwide Series we watched "The Little Engine That Could" prove he can. We experienced the shock and sadness over the news that a popular driver may be dealing with a career threatening situation. Then we experienced the joy of hearing that there's brand new members in the NASCAR family. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Tony "Smoke" Stewart for a brilliant performance that led to winning Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. THUMBS-UP to this accomplishment after having to move from the outside pole to the 42nd starting position after the car failed post qualifying tech inspection. It seems there was an uncapped hose lurking in the cockpit of the car.

THUMBS-UP to Stewart for making that race winning move that put him in the lead during the final lap. By the way he made that move all by himself, without the help of a tandem partner. That was one very powerful super speedway car that Stewart Haas Racing prepared for him.

THUMBS-UP to Stewart for winning his third race of the season and putting a virtual lock on a starting berth for this year's Chase. Now that his Chase aspirations have been settled, can you imagine how aggressive and competitive this team is going to be throughout the remainder of the season?

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Now, with all due respect to the NASCAR fans who yearned for the return of the yellow light moments, WHAT'S-UP with the Coke Zero 400 having two major crashes, less than ten laps apart, that involved an astounding total of 29 cars? I've never really cared to see the so called "big ones" because they often resemble million dollar junk yards. I generally get my thrills from the sight of hard, door to door, racing to the checkers.

However, once again, NASCAR gets a THUMBS-UP for their implementation of safety equipment inside of the cars as well as the SAFER barrier walls. This point was proved by the massive crashes into the wall sustained by Jimmie Johnson, in the Sprint Cup race, and Danica Patrick, during the Nationwide Series event. 

Having said that, it's time to award some THUMBS-UPS to the individuals who went the extra distance to make chicken salad out of chicken do do. That first honor goes to Jeff Burton, and his Richard Childress Racing team, who made a brilliant defensive move, following that final lap big one crash, that allowed him to follow Stewart under the checkers. That runner up spot was sorely needed by this team.

Let's send some chicken salad to Joey Logano who, despite being caught in the middle of a seven car crash on lap 125, raced his way back to the front for a fourth place finish. He has now, at least for this week, reclaimed the second wild card berth that could possibly lead him to the 2012 Chase line up.

Also, serve up a chicken salad sandwich to Ryan Newman. After getting caught up in some contact on pit road, he spun around and collected the car of Brad Keselowski who was parked in his pit stall getting service from his crew. Newman's team made some minor repairs to their car's sheet metal and then the driver charged his way to a top five finish.

Keselowski and company deserves one of these THUMBS-UPS as well. First off when his crew saw Newman's car spinning their way, they made quick work of getting out of the way and then completed the service on their car. By the way, did you know a NASCAR official could move that fast and then jump over a concrete wall? Later in the race, on lap 146, Keselowski found himself involved in a single car spin. Despite all of this he left Daytona with a top ten finish.

The same THUMBS-UP goes out to drivers Michael Waltrip and Bobby Labonte. Both drivers were caught up in multi car crashes but managed to recover and raced to impressive top ten finishes.

You certainly have to give some chicken salad for Jeff Gordon's 12th place finish under the most trying circumstances. When a seven car crash erupted on lap 125, Gordon was coming down pit road only to get hit by another car that spinning through the infield grass. Gordon also suffered some contact during Ryan Newman's pit road spin. Then, on lap 154, he was caught in the 14 car big one.
       
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THUMBS-UP to Kurt Busch, and Phoenix Racing, for winning Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Daytona. Do you recall that classic children's book "The Little Engine That Could?" It certainly applies to this James Finch owned race team. You could almost hear their Chevrolet whispering "I think I can-I think I can" during the final laps of the race.

It's very likely that Kurt Busch will tell you THUMBS-UP to Ricky Stenhouse Jr who gave him the push to the front that he needed on the final lap. Stenhouse finished second in the race.

THUMBS-UP to Austin Dillon for setting fast time during Nationwide Series qualifying. WHAT'S-UP with Austin Dillon starting 42nd after the car failed a post qualifying inspection due to an uncapped cooling hose in the car's cockpit? WHAT'S-UP with this team failing a tech inspection for the second time in six days, and the third time this year?

THUMBS-UP for Dillon driving hard and making his way to the front of the pack during the waning moments of the race. WHAT'S-UP with contact sending Dillon's car into a spin leading to a crash that took out the cars of Kyle Busch, Johanna Long and Jason Bowles? THUMBS-UP to Dillon's fourth place finish after spinning backwards under the checkers.

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Okay, let's get to it. WHAT'S-UP with the shocking, and sad, news regarding driver A J Allmendinger failing a NASCAR mandated drug test? It still seems hard to believe. Allmendinger was placed on temporary suspension Saturday afternoon a short matter of hours prior to the start of the Sprint Cup race at Daytona. He was tabbed for a random selection urine test the weekend before at the Kentucky Speedway. His urine was divided into A and B samples. The A sample tested positive for an undisclosed banned substance, a violation of NASCAR's strict substance abuse policy. On Monday, Allmendinger exercised his option to have his B sample tested in hopes it will turn out a better report. The result of that test won't be completed for approximately five days. Another test failure will put the driver on indefinite suspension.

THUMBS-UP to Roger Penske Racing for their grace under fire while dealing with the Allmendinger situation. They had to fly their Nationwide Series driver, Sam Hornish Jr, from North Carolina to Florida on virtually no notice. Hornish made it to the track approximately 18 minutes prior to the start of the race. While Hornish was flying in, the team was extremely busy making adjustments to the car, to fit a new driver, such as the seat, seat belts, and the height of the pedals on the floorboard among many other items. Despite being in a state of shock, over what happened to Allmendinger, this team performed their tasks flawlessly.

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In some final thoughts lets send a six pound, eight ounce THUMBS-UP and GOD BLESS to Kevin and DeLana Harvick who welcomed their first born child, a boy named Keelan Paul Harvick, on Sunday.

The same goes to Darian Grubb, crew chief for Denny Hamlin's #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Yolanda Grubb gave birth to the couple's second child, a girl named Gabriella, on Monday.

Finally, there's a reluctant WHAT'S-UP for the TNT Network's Wide Open Coverage experiment they launched during the Daytona Sprint Cup race. While, in all fairness, the project does have a lot of potential, there were aspects to it that just  didn't work for me. This was especially true of the network's post race interviews where the audio and video were completely out of sync. It resembled one of those old Japanese horror movies that was dubbed into English. You know the ones where a guy yells "look Godzilla is coming" and then his mouth keeps moving long after the sentence is over.

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