RACING: Fans treated to 11 extra hours of Daytona coverage
March 3, 2012
We expected a 24-hour race at Daytona in January. What we did not expect was a 36-hour race in February, but that’s what we got. It was almost exactly 36 hours from the scheduled start of the Daytona 500 until the checkered flag flew for Matt Kenseth. It was perhaps the most snake bit race I have ever seen, with an unprecedented cancellation for rain; a second-lap accident took several drivers out of contention – including rookie Danica Patrick and five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson; and the icing on the cake was the most bizarre accident in memory, when Juan Pablo Montoya had a mechanical problem under caution that spun his car into a jet dryer, starting a huge fire and threatening to end the race. However, two hours later, the track was clear and the race resumed, only ending with a green/white/checker after 505 miles. Had the race not resumed, Dave Blaney would have been the surprise winner. Kenseth took home $1,610,412 for the victory, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. pocketed $1,125,200 for second place. The $200,000 halfway bonus went to Martin Truex Jr.
Things got worse for Jimmie Johnson after the race. He was docked 25 driver points, owner Jeff Gordon was penalized 25 owner points, and crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec were suspended for six races. Knaus also was hit with a $100,000 fine. All this was the result of a pre-race inspection that found the C pillars on Johnson’s car to be out of specification. With Johnson’s 500 finish netting him only 2 points, he goes to Phoenix 23 points in the hole. Another bad finish in the next four races could knock the team out of the top 35 in owner points, causing Johnson to have to qualify on time. It’s going to be a long season for the 48 team.
Danica’s initial weekend as a full-time NASCAR driver was nothing short of disastrous. Taken out by her teammates in the Duel on Thursday and the Nationwide race on Saturday, she finished the 500 in 38th place, 64 laps down after extensive repairs. Since she is only running 10 Sprint Cup races this season, she will have to qualify on time, so finishing out of the top 35 in owner points is not a big deal.
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The delay of the Cup race to Monday night caused logistical problems for most of the teams, who had to get back to their shops, unload their speedway cars, load the short track cars, and head west to Phoenix for this weekend’s race. Not only the cars had to be swapped out, but many of the parts carried in the haulers were specific to Daytona, so those also had to be changed. Since the Nationwide race ran on time, teams in that series were not impacted by the delay. Today’s Nationwide race is scheduled for 1 p.m. on ESPN2.
There was bad news last week for Dodge fans, as Penske Racing announced that they are switching to Ford for 2013. The new 2013 Dodge is set to debut in the next week, but with Penske’s departure there are no Sprint Cup teams to race it. Penske has won 68 races in NASCAR’s top division since 1972, with cars carrying the AMC, Ford, and Dodge nameplates. They will run two teams in Sprint Cup with the 2013 Fusion and two teams in Nationwide with the Mustang. Still undecided is whether Penske will use Roush-Yates engines, as does every other Ford team in Cup, or will build their own. Penske currently has 70 employees in the engine shop.
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