Many of you probably don’t know this but clear back in 1991, Peabo Bryson had a No. 1 single on the R&B charts titled, "Can You Stop The Rain?" Obviously, the answer is no. Neither you nor I nor even NASCAR can stop Mother Nature when she decides it’s time to rain.
Unfortunately this Fourth of July weekend at Daytona was a lot like it was in February in Daytona, where the rain played the role of the villain. At least in February we only had to stop the race, get everything restarted and then had an exciting finish with Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the season’s first race, despite trash on his grille.
We’ve had a lot of weather issues this year. Brian France referenced that in his State of the Sport message over the weekend. Obviously, the schedule is the next big item on the list that needs to be addressed and fixed. We always go to California during their rainy season. It always rains in Daytona in July. That’s not breaking news, folks; we all know it and we all accept it. I remember years ago telling car owner Junior Johnson, "Junior, there’s a chance of rain today." He cocked his head at me and said, "Boy, there’s a chance of rain every day."
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I do want to congratulate Aric Armirola, Trent Owens, naturally Richard Petty and the whole Richard Petty Motorsports organization. You all know that I love irony and NASCAR is full of irony. How cool was it 30 years from his 200th win at Daytona, Richard Petty is back in Victory Lane at Daytona, this time as a car owner?
Also think about that iconic picture of the No. 43 car 30 years ago going down the backstretch of the Fourth of July race with Air Force One in the picture. Fast forward 30 years and here is Aric winning in the No. 43 car with Air Force as his sponsor. That’s just cool stuff that Hollywood can’t even make up.
I’m also so thrilled for crew chief Trent Owens. I’ve always been a big Trent fan. He’s a cool guy and great crew chief. It was special to see him and Aric both get their first wins together. Naturally, Trent’s connection to the Petty family is well-known. He’s kind of been there, seen it all and done it all.
I think we had a pretty good idea it was going to be a wild race, whenever Mother Nature decided to let it be run, when we had David Gilliland and Reed Sorenson on the front row. That’s no disrespect to either of those drivers, but those aren’t every day names you see at the top of the starting grid.
What a crazy race it was, with huge wrecks. I know there is a group of fans out there that seem to get frustrated when we talk about "The Big One" when we are at Daytona or Talladega. I’ve been going to both tracks since 1972 and it’s not like we are making this stuff up. Hardly a year goes by at either track that we don’t wad up a bunch of cars.
It’s expected and anticipated. We all know it’s coming. It’s more a question of "when" than ever a question of "if." So when we go to those two tracks and talk about "The Big One," it’s not like we are trying to create some type of false drama. It’s just one of those givens that we all have become accustomed to at both tracks. I bet if someone went back and counted up all the "Big Ones" at both tracks over the decades, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that it would be in the thousands of cars that have been torn up. I mean we had 26 cars in a wreck this past weekend alone.
It’s the nature of the beast. With any type of pack racing you simply don’t have the reaction time to get yourself out of trouble. The cars are running too fast and running too close together. You could be minding your own business and having a great race but in a split second your day is ended through no fault of your own. You do have to tip your hat to Austin Dillon and Danica Patrick. Both those drivers, I thought, did an amazing job, along with some others, getting through some of those wrecks.
The Carpenters had a hit called "Rainy Days and Mondays" and, to be honest, there were a few points when Saturday racing turned into Sunday racing that I thought it was going to turn into Monday racing. Fortunately, they were able to get 112 laps in before the rains returned and then wouldn’t stop, so NASCAR was forced to call the race.
Remember back in 1969 when Robert Redford and my buddy Paul Newman starred in that iconic movie, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"? B.J. Thomas wrote a song for that movie that honestly is probably our theme song this year — "Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head."
I think back to 1992 in the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington when I did my best Gene Kelly impression. When they put the red flag out, I was "Singing In The Rain" — literally. I was sitting in a captain’s chair on pit road. I was leading the race and I wanted it to rain all night if it wanted to. By the way, if you ever want to get a rise out of my buddy ol’ Larry Mac, ask him to tell you the story about that race, Davey Allison running for the Winston Million and Larry Mac sending a crew member over to the NASCAR hauler to look at the weather radar. It’s one of those classic stories that, again, Hollywood couldn’t even script.
Trust me, Sunday at Daytona young Aric Armirola was channeling Naomi and Wynonna Judd and "Rockin’ With The Rhythm Of The Rain" hoping and praying it wouldn’t stop. It didn’t. He won and the No. 43 was in Daytona’s Victory Lane once again. It was just meant to be.
It’s hard to believe, but Sunday was the first time the No. 43 has won a race since John Andretti did it in Martinsville in 1999. Still, though, it’s just amazing when you stop and look at the success that No. 43 car has enjoyed over the decades. The No. 43 has 199 wins and Richard Petty had 192 of them.
We also saw the end of an era with Barney Hall calling his last race on the Motor Racing Network (MRN). The man is a true legend with 50 years in our sport. Barney Hall calling a race is smooth as silk and strong as steel. Barney’s been a friend of mine for years, and I wish him so much love and good luck in retirement.
It was also announced that longtime Charlotte Observer reporter Tom Higgins was named the fourth recipient of the 2015 Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. Tom was the first writer to cover every race on the NASCAR schedule. He did that from 1980 until his retirement in 1997. For 34 years, Tom covered NASCAR and motorsports for the Charlotte Observer. So a big congratulations to Tom for all he’s done for me over the years and for our sport as a whole.
It sounded like from the comments Brian France made in his "State of the Sport" message that things are progressing nicely on that front. Of course the news came out at the beginning of the week that a group of nine multi-car owners in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series had formed a collaborative business association called the Race Team Alliance (RTA). And it was big news. They say they want to create an open forum for the teams to explore areas of common interest and to work collaboratively on initiatives to help preserve, promote, and grow the sport of stock-car racing.
So it sounds that while Brian France and his group were having robust discussions about the future of the sport, nine car owners were having their own robust discussion of the future of our sport. That will definitely be a storyline everyone will be following.
So it’s on to New Hampshire, where folks will be looking for some lobsters, and there is a group of drivers desperately looking for a win. The clock is ticking, as they say. The sands in the hourglass are running out.
Richmond in September isn’t that far away, and I keep saying there are going to be some big names that, if they don’t get moving, are going to be on the outside looking into the 2014 Chase. Aric Armirola surprised everyone Sunday in Daytona and is now in the Chase picture, so let’s see what surprises come out of New Hampshire.