Monday Night Daytona 500 Gives Us Much To Talk About

Insane.

That’s the only word that can sum up the 54th Daytona 500 perfectly. After being delayed Sunday and Monday afternoon, we settled in to watch the first ever 500 that took place on a Monday night. It was also the first 500 to end on a Tuesday morning, and that was caused by a match-up between Juan Pablo Montoya and a jet dryer. But, let’s get down to the first official race recap of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series.

Starting third, Matt Kenseth was a decent pick to win the first race of the year; he won the second Gatorade Duel, and he had a Roush-Yates Ford engine under the hood. The Fords proved to be strong in the practices and Duels, so it was no shock that Kenseth would start the race behind his two Roush Fenway Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. As the race went on, he stayed near the front. He sat right behind the hopeful Go-Or-Go-Homers on the restart that was scheduled to happen on lap 160. A bigger incident occurred, and a two-hour red flag dragged the anticipation out. When the racing finally resumed, the Go-Or-Go-Homers had to pit for fuel, and the racing began again. There were two more cautions, setting the field up for a green-white-checkered finish. Kenseth’s car took off, and the rest is set in burnt asphalt (don’t worry, I’ll explain.) The driver of the #17 won the rain-shortened Daytona 500 back in 2009, but victory is definitely sweeter this time around. Now leading the points, Matt is backing up his strong fourth place finish in last year’s Chase. Congrats to Matt Kenseth on the win.

Carl Edwards sat on the pole for the historical race, showing no signs of a slump after coming in second for The 2011 Sprint Cup Championship. Yet, when the race started, it was obvious his teammate Greg Biffle had the stronger car. He ran a good race, staying out of trouble . . . Until the red flag. During the red flag, Edwards pulled a tear-off of his windshield, as did Kyle Busch, so they restarted in the back. But, in the end, Carl pulled off a top ten for his team. I expected him to make a lot more noise, but he’ll shine at Phoenix, where he won the fall race in 2010.

Now we move on to the more shocking stories of the weekend. First, the rain pushed the 500 to Monday for the first time in 54 years. Many NASCAR fans were upset with Mother Nature, especially after dampening a few races last season. It didn’t turn out to be a bad thing in the end; a Monday night race to kick off the year was cool to experience. Move over, Monday Night Football, there’s another sport taking over primetime. Something else that stuck out to me was how the outside line couldn’t get going. Unless you had a strong duo, you were going nowhere fast. Also, the last lap was anything but exciting. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle were teamed up, but they couldn’t catch Kenseth no matter how hard they tried. NASCAR attempted to get rid of the two-car tandem, and I can see why; how thrilling is one car beating two cars hooked up? I would’ve liked to see a better balance between the tango and the pack racing, and it’s something everyone should work on going to Talladega. Yet, the biggest event had to be Juan Pablo Montoya versus a NASCAR jet dryer. While under caution for David Stremme’s motor blowing up, Montoya stopped into the pits because of a vibration. I must note that there weren’t any NASCAR officials standing in his pit, which is required. He went back on track, trying to catch up to the leaders, when something broke in the back of his car. The car took a hard right up the track and slammed into one of the jet dryers working to clean up the surface. In case you didn’t know, ‘jet’ dryers utilize ‘jet’ fuel to help the process. Fuel ran down to the apron, and it soon ignited. Both Juan and the driver of the jet dryer are okay, but the track was coated with the gasoline. So, NASCAR threw the red flag, and workers proceeded to wash down and dry that section in turn 3. After two hours, we went back to racing. I have to applaud NASCAR for sticking with it and pushing to get the track fixed; angering us fans even more would’ve been bad. All in all, this was the craziest Daytona 500, and it will definitely go down in the history books.

We’re off to Phoenix this weekend for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series’ races, which was newly configured last season. The returning race winner is Kasey Kahne, and the Spring winner in 2011 was Jeff Gordon. My picks for the Nationwide race are Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or Elliot Sadler, and I choose either Kahne or Edwards to win on the Sprint Cup side.

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