Daytona Speedweeks 2013

With Daytona Speedweeks done for the year, I’m taking a look back at all the important moments.

1. Danica Patrick

Not sure if you have heard of Danica. She got the pole for the Daytona 500 in the first race of her rookie year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, made history and stuff. Good for her.

She also couldn’t tell the difference between engine failure and just losing the draft in Saturday’s Nationwide race. But, I digress.

In more important news, she is dating a fellow driver and Sprint Cup series rookie, Ricky Stenhouse Jnr, and wouldn’t you know it, Speedweeks’ media day fell on Valentine’s day – making “Stanica” the hot topic. Unfortunately, it didn’t end with Media Day, with Danica nabbing the pole for the 500 and making history she had way more than her fair share of media coverage over Speedweeks, which obviously included Stanica coverage. I’m bored of Stanica already (barely any PDAs, yawn), although I must admit that I am mildly entertained by Darrell Waltrip’s obvious obsession with the couple. He doesn’t seem to believe they can make it work and I think it’s safe to say the rest of us don’t give a fuck.

2. Have you met Kyle Larson?

If you didn’t know who Kyle Larson was last week, I’m betting you do now. He is the only driver who got close to the amount of media coverage Danica received, although for much different reasons.

Kyle is a 20-year-old open wheeling prodigy out of California making his debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2013. I’m not going to lie, I happen to think Kyle Larson is the best thing to happen to NASCAR since Kasey Kahne got his own Instagram account. Larson races hard and he has the talent to back it up. Hard racing is entertaining, so I’m excited to see how he performs this year.

Kyle started Speedweeks with a runner-up finish in the ARCA 200. He then went on to win Monday’s “Battle at the Beach” late model main event by wrecking C E Falk with a “dump and run” manoeuver which had him trending world-wide on Twitter (see footage below). People were outraged, calling the win ugly and unsportsmanlike. Kyle Petty suggested via Twitter that “Wins are important, but respect is a greater trophy”. Uh, really? Respect won’t sit in your trophy cabinet looking awesome. Drivers go out to race and to win, not play it safe and come in second, so let’s all get over it hmmm?

The event that really garnered the headlines was when Larson was thrown into the fence in the final lap of the NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD300 race (see footage below). That was scary. The fence sheared off the front section of Larson’s car and debris (including the engine block and at least one wheel) were thrown into the stands, leaving 28 spectators injured, some seriously. Kyle himself walked away from what was left of his car. LIke I said – scary. I’m sure I was not the only person holding my breath when they showed Larson’s car. Fortunately, he was able to get out on his own although he appeared visibly shocked, which isn’t surprising. I hear now that everyone – drivers and fans involved in the incident are doing ok. Good news there.

3. The Daytona Beach Half Marathon

A few of the drivers ran the Daytona Beach Half Marathon the morning before 500 qualifying. Jimmie Johnson ran it in 1.29.48 and his Hendrick team-mate Kasey Kahne ran it in 1.28.45. As a runner myself, I can tell you that people don’t just get out there and run times like those without training. So well done to them.

If you are interested and since I’m not opposed to shameless self promotion, my best half marathon time is 1:39:11.

4. Carl Edwards

No one had a worse Speedweeks than Carl Edwards. He has wrecked 5 times at Daytona since January testing, and when he wrecked in the 500 with around 60 laps to go you had to feel bad for the guy. That makes 70 races since his last win. Times are tough, and race cars aren’t cheap. Better watch your back eh?

5. Logano loves Hamlin.

I love beefing sportspeople. It’s entertaining as shit, and I like my sports entertaining.

So, after a lack lustre 500 on Sunday when Denny Hamlin took to Twitter to send a message to Brad Keselowski (Logano’s teammate), I was all kinds of excited. Finally, something interesting was happening, or so I thought. It went like this…..

Denny Hamlin: “@Keselowski sorry I couldn’t get close to you cuz your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside line 1 move at a time”

Joey Logano: “@dennyhamlin I remember when you were MY genius teammate #LoveYouMeanIt”

Denny Hamlin: “@joeylogano inside line was doomed every 3 wide move that was made. Nobody who went 3 middle went anywhere”.

That. Was. It. Worst beef ever.

6. The Nationwide Race 1 million times more entertaining than the Daytona 500

There is no way in hell I am the only person to think this. I had my concerns about the Generation 6 cars after the Sprint Unlimited Race which was yawn worthy. I was further concerned after the Budweiser Duel Races were anything but action packed for 98% of the races – and yet, I was unprepared for just how boring the 500 would be.

The Gen 6 cars and their inability to effectively side draft meant single file racing for all except for about 20 laps in the entire race. Lead changes came after pit stops and at restarts only – there was just no racing. I’m not sure if the nightmare wreck the day before was on the minds of the drivers and they were just trying to play it safe. But safe is boring. Boring loses fans.

And it wasn’t just the fans who were hating it. After wrecking, Kasey Kahne said in an interview that he wanted to race and didn’t want to just keep running on the outside, and Clint Bowyer said over his radio “I’m a fan of this sport just like the people in the stands, I want to see some action”. It’s a bloody worry when the drivers who are cruising around at 200 mph are bored….

In comparison, the DRIVE4COPD 300 Nationwide race the day before had over 30 lead changes thanks to tandem drafting. It was really fun to watch (except for that last lap). Drivers were going from 1st to 26th in a matter of seconds. Seemingly, everyone stood a chance. Sure there were a couple of big wrecks mid race, but that will happen when you are all bunched up like that. It was the kind of racing that would make a first time viewer decide to watch again next week because it was entertaining. I couldn’t keep up with who was who and who was where for any length of time, but my attention was totally wrapped in the race. 5 Stars to the Nationwide guys.

7. How bout those ratings

Ratings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 were apparently up 30% from 2012. I have a stong feeling that this can be attributed to  Danica Patrick and the Nationwide “big one”, both of which made international headlines.

8. Kyle Busch is an asshole

Obviously. But when he took out Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, and Tony Stewart (amongst others, but I really like those guys) 33 laps into the 500, I was less than pleased. Especially when his response over the radio was “My bad”. What. A. Dick.

Now, it could be argued that him getting into the back of Kahne was not intentional. But I’m choosing to stand by my earlier statement that he is an asshole.

9. I heart Tony Stewart

In vast contrast to the asshole I just discussed, Tony Stewart is a legend. Not only did he refuse to celebrate following his win in the Nationwide race saying that “As much as we want to celebrate right now, and as much as this is a big deal to us, I’m more worried about the drivers and the fans that are in the stands right now…….. I could see it all in my mirror, and it didn’t look good from where I was at” (referring to the final lap wreck) he then went on to further awesomeness by doing a sneaky drop in on 6 of the fans injured in the crash who were still in Hospital – without the media knowing. Its bloody nice to see someone doing something because it’s the right thing to do and not because of the picture the media would paint had they been invited along.

Good man Tony. Total respect.

Honourable mentions to:

  • Keelan Harvick for being adorable.
  • 50 Cent for trying to kiss Erin Andrews and getting denied. (It was nearly as awkward as that Go Daddy Superbowl commercial….nearly)
  • James Franco for fucking up the drivers command to start the 500, thereby insinuating that Danica may not in fact be a diver. Fortunately she proved otherwise – “Drivers…….and Danica – Start your engines”. Sigh. WTF?!
  • The NASCAR Camping World Trucks for being trucking cool.
  • Martin Truex Jnr and Carl Edwards for missing driver introductions for the 500.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jaimelouisegray

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