As a hole, the weekend was pretty good
Well folks, we are back from Daytona for only a couple days and then we head to California for this weekend’s race.
But before moving on to California, I can't help but think that we were on the verge of having what I believe was going to be one of the greatest and most memorable Daytona 500s of all time this past weekend. All the stars were lining up to have a great race. Things up to that point simply could not have been any better.
When the race started it was all pretty much going the way we all thought it would. We had an early breakaway of two or three cars because the track was still pretty hot and slick, but then as the track cooled down it drew the cars closer together. So there we were with some great side-by-side racing again. The action became just as good as it had been the entire time we had been down there.
But then all of a sudden, we had a pothole developing in the track in Turn 1 and it kept getting bigger. Finally a yellow flag had to be thrown so NASCAR and track officials could go look at it and that was followed up with a red flag stopping the race so the track could be repaired.
I think initially everyone was in shock because that pothole had effectively stopped one of the greatest Daytona 500 races we had ever seen. For us in the TV booth, it was similar to the race being stopped because of rain. We had to fill the time on-air with interviews and updates on the track repair. Basically it got to the point where we were filling time and killing time to hopefully keep the folks at home happy and entertained.
This truly was the worst case scenario for a TV network because you don’t want your viewers leaving and going to another channel. Unbelievably, we lost an hour and half in the first red flag situation. Now that’s a long time for zero action on the track and to expect our viewers not to get restless.
So the pothole got repaired and we finally got back to green flag racing. It was like a halftime of a football game — yes, a long halftime — but we thought folks would understand. Things were really starting to look good and we got 30-some laps in. But wouldn’t you know it, the patch job failed and the pothole was back.
So unfortunately, the red flag flew once again and the action came to a complete stop. Luckily the track folks were more prepared for this second stoppage and it didn’t take nearly as long to fix the track this second time. But let’s be honest, another delay is just that another delay. It affected the folks that stayed in their seats in the grandstand and the number of folks watching at home.
So the race started up with 35 laps to go and folks, it truly was worth the wait.
What we saw at the end of the Daytona 500 was as good of racing as you will ever see in my mind. It just seemed in that final segment that everyone had a shot at the lead and the win. They all were just up there fighting for the lead and doing it in an aggressive style.
The finish of the race was just great. It capped off a long day but golly it was well worth it. NASCAR’s new rule for three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish came into play and that paid dividends.
Jamie McMurray won the 52nd running of the Daytona 500 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home in second spot. For Dale Jr. sure, one race does not turn your season around. He did look mighty good at the end of the Daytona 500. He drove up through there with a lot of flair and aggression. We hadn’t seen that in a long time from that bunch, but that’s what it takes. It was fun to watch, I know that.
All the accolades need to go to Jamie McMurray though. I am so excited for him. Believe it or not, this was Jamie’s second chance with that race team.
At the end of the 2009 season, having left Roush Fenway Racing, Jamie had no idea what he was going to do. The boy didn’t even know if he was going to have a job or not. When you leave a team and then attempt to come back, that can be really hard. But give credit to Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates for their willingness to give Jamie a second chance. Look at the dividends that decision just gave them.
That’s why Jamie was so emotional. If you don’t even know you will have a job, let alone driving in the Daytona 500, imagine your feelings if you win it. That’s why we race. You can’t predict who will win it. I tell you all the time that at Daytona and Talladega it literally isn’t over until it is over. You never know who is going to win. This time though, it was the right guy in the right place at the right time driving the right car.
That’s as good as it gets when it comes to the Daytona 500.