Monday, February 18, 2008

Daytona 500 review

Despite a dominating performance by the Gibbs and Hendrick teams in Speedweeks, it was two Penske Dodges that roared to the lead on the final lap of the Daytona 500 golden's anniversary.

Ryan Newman was pushed down the backstretch by his teammate Kurt Busch as the two powered in front of Tony Stewart to capture a jaw-dropping victory and deliver the first Daytona 500 win for owner Roger Penske.

Wow. Can anyone honestly say they saw this one coming?

The Gibbs and Hendrick cars turned Daytona's high banks into their own playground last week by winning the Shootout, the pole and both of Thursday's qualifying races. On Sunday, Kyle Busch led the most laps and was in position to win on the final restart. But Busch couldn't hook up with Stewart on the last lap and the pair were helpless to stop the momentum from the Penske cars.

Toyota clearly had the superior car and engine package for the 500. Near the mid-point of the race, Denny Hamlin pulled out of the draft and drove to the lead with no help from behind. That was impressive.

The performance by Hendrick Motorsports was disappointing as two cars crashed, one had mechanical problems and Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't pit for tires twice near the end and finished ninth. Junior blamed the loss on poor drafting decisions at the end, but the question remains why tires weren't taken on two occasions at a track where a good handling car is paramount?

But for Newman and Kurt Busch, the victory couldn't be sweeter. Newman won for the first time since September 2005 and Busch stuck a dagger in Stewart after more than a few on-track scuffles in recent years.

The Daytona 500 winner said the help Busch gave him down the backstretch was "a push from heaven" and a much different result than in 2003. But one must now wonder if Daytona is becoming a personal hell for Tony Stewart.

Lugnuts and spare tires
-The pre-race show was a little too long and some of the singing acts were bizarre for a NASCAR event, but what a great sight to see the former 500 champions lined up on stage. And what better way to start the race than with Richard Petty and his trademark smile in the flag stand to drop the green. Truly a special moment for NASCAR fans.

-Jimmie Johnson crashed and finished 27th in his bid to become the first pole sitter to win the 500 since Dale Jarrett did it in 2000. Michael Waltrip also started on the front row, but was never a factor and finished 29th.

-Toyota dominated the race, but it was Dodge that stole the show with five Chargers finishing in the top-10. Robby Gordon, who just last month switched from Ford to Dodge, came home an impressive eighth and former Cup champion Bobby Labonte finished 11th.


Kurt Bruner said...

Just like I said: Junior in the Top 10 and John Andretti might as well have stayed at home. Hey Kyle, where are you, brother? Just call me Mr. NASCAR. Whoo!

Greg said...

If you want to watch real athletes race tune into cycling's Tour of California.

Mike Jones said...

It sounds as if Mr. NASCAR is a little sore because his boy, Tony Stewart, got smoked on the last lap by a guy who hasn't won a race since the immediate aftermath of Katrina in 2005. Of course, there's always next year or 2010 or 2011 or 2012...

Brant said...

Ryan Newman, despite having a fabulous last name, couldn't carry Tony Stewart's HANS device. The Daytona 500 is often an anomaly. It's not a very good predictor of how the season is going to play out. Anyone remember Derrick Cope?

Scott Beveridge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Beveridge said...

Well Gregg, televised bicycle racing is almost as exciting as watching bark form on trees.