Tag Archives: Daytona 500

There Were Good Crowds at Daytona International Speedway

The first races of the year for all three of the NASCAR touring series is in the record books at Daytona International Speedway. Here are some observations and thoughts about the events of the long weekend.

Much has been said about reduced attendance at NASCAR races but this weekend’s races at Daytona appeared to have changed that trend. NASCAR and the tracks no longer post attendance figures but from my vantage point the races on all four days were well attended. The Daytona 500 was about as close to a sell out as they could get since the speedway is still under construction.

Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway

In the picture the stands that appear grey are under construction and do not actually have any seats installed. It will be interesting next year to see how the attendance is when all the new grandstands are done.

Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway

The Daytona Rising project is far from complete but it is a great success. I can attest that it was very nice to take an escalator up to my seats. The wide open concourse area was also well appreciated when  walking to and from the food vendors and restrooms.

Women will love the new Rest Rooms. It appears that Daytona installed twice as many facilities for women as men.

The new seats are much wider with cup holders and were a welcome change from the seats that were there and definitely better than the bleacher seats at other tracks.

The Daytona Rising project is a success even though it isn’t complete. The part that is complete provided race fans with just enough to entice them to come back and see it when it is finished. The Daytona International Speedway will be a First Class facility when it is complete.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

 Feature Photo Credit:  Brian M. Berg Jr.

 

Knock Out Qualifying at Daytona is Exciting but Doesn’t Work

NASCAR Coors Light Pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway utilized the knock out qualifying format that was instituted last year. It was exciting but was confusing and convoluted. Much like Talladega last year, it should never be done again.

It seems like it might be exciting. Have the teams run all together, drafting to see who is fastest in order to make the race. It is except when those same drivers use the rules to gain an advantage. During the first session drivers sat on pit road waiting for the last possible time that they would need to get up to speed and post a great lap. The idea was that one wanted to be the car catching the pack and getting the most out of the draft. Then it goes wrong.

There is a big wreck at the tail end of the draft which doesn’t allow the bulk of the field to put up a maximum up to speed lap. Suddenly, what looked exciting messes up a whole bunch of drivers qualifying effort. Suddenly, those who happened to get the draw for the second group have a huge advantage to make the second round.

It wasn’t supposed to be but it ended up looking like simply a timed qualifying race. Why would one have a qualifying race for a qualifying race? Why would one’s qualifying effort be left to the hands of others in the event of a huge wreck?

Well I must say it is more exciting than single car qualifying although I miss the information about each team while they take their 2 minutes or so to make a lap on the big oval. The question then becomes “How do we make it better?”

Well if it looks like a duck then let’s make it a duck. It takes about one minute to make a lap at Daytona. It takes about 2.5 laps to make it up to speed. Line them up by some random draw, bring out a pace car and drop the rag. Then it’s every man or team for themselves, you have five minutes. No boring waiting around pit row gaming the system. Since everyone is out there at the same time everyone will have a chance to get some time in. Some might get seven laps in some maybe only six but at least we have a track full of cars.

It did make for a Story Book ending. Jeff Gordon won the Coors Light Pole Award. His teammate Jimmie Johnson will start outside.

NASCAR either make it what it timed qualifying races or go back to single car qualifying runs.

Photo Credit: 304938 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
Photo Credit: 304938 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

If you cannot make it to Daytona International Speedway for the Budweiser Dual 150’s they will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 Thursday February 19th starting at 7 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 304946 Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

What is Your NASCAR Excellent Adventure?

In 2001 my buddy asked me to go to the Brickyard 400 with him and a couple other guys. I went. Most NASCAR fans will tell you they were hooked when they went to their first race. I was hooked just watching practice from turn two of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I was reeled in watching the Busch Series race at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

One week later my buddy calls me up and tells me his other buddy from Milwaukee got tickets to the Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway. He made me an offer. Since I had a camper they would provide the tickets. I accepted even though it would be the second race weekend in three weeks.

We left the Chicago area after work and arrived at the Brookfest Campground across from MIS at 2 AM to set up camp.  Needless to say the ambiance of camping during a NASCAR race weekend is much different than staying in a hotel in Indianapolis. I really like both but nothing beats an all weekend tailgate party; ah stories for another day.

The next day another group of guys with a pop up set up camp behind us. We got to talking and they told us they were going on after Michigan to Bristol to see the night race. Ever since that day in 2001 I have always wanted to do that, well not exactly that but attend two race weekends in a row; following the series from one venue to another.

This year the new schedule presented a possibility. The second race of the season will be at Atlanta Motor Speedway. So unlike the many times I drove through Atlanta to go to Daytona International Speedway to see the Daytona 500, I could, on the way back, stop and watch the races. Such is the beginning of an excellent NASCAR Adventure.

The logistics of the both of us making this happen was such that we won’t be able to be in Daytona for the qualifying races. We will be watching them on TV somewhere between the Chicago area and Daytona. We will make the rest of the races that weekend and the races at Atlanta. NASCAR dream fulfilled.

I get to fulfill my NASCAR adventure, what is yours? Take time to tell us about it in the comment section below and who knows maybe we will see you along the way on your adventure.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 295405 Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images

Can Dale Earnhardt Jr Sweep Daytona International Speedway

This week NASCAR returns to Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 this season. Will he be able to achieve a season sweep at Daytona?

The Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway is the third of four restrictor plate races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Daytona is a 2.5 mile “D” shaped extremely high banked superspeedway. The banking of 31 degrees in the turns allows drivers to run around the race track without backing off the gas pedal. In order to keep the cars from running too fast, NASCAR makes them reduce engine horse power by limiting the air to the engine via restrictor plates.

Every week we use driver ratings to help dial into the driver or drivers that will do well. That statistic is very good at every track except the restrictor plate tracks. If a driver hangs around at the back of the pack and does not race, his driver rating, even if he wins, will be very low. That alone is why driver ratings do not work for restrictor plate tracks. Kyle Busch has the highest driver rating of 97.1, he seldom ever hangs around the back of the pack.

This race is also known from time to time to be won by someone totally off the radar but that doesn’t mean the usual suspects won’t be there either. In July those drivers are beginning with last year’s winner Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Kevin Harvick.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is having one of the best seasons of his career. His win in the Daytona 500 appeared to be done in a fun and natural way. His second win at Pocono was a team effort to get up to the front and be there in order to capitalize on another driver’s problem.

Dale Jr will have to fight Tony Stewart who has never won a Daytona 500 but has four wins in July.

This race is the last race of the NASCAR an American Salute program where cars will have special paint schemes supporting the United States Armed Forces.

If you cannot get to the Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola it will be broadcast by TNT on Saturday July 5th at 7:30 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 287693 Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Daytona
Kyle Busch…………………………… 97.1
Matt Kenseth………………………… 92.9
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 92.0
Tony Stewart…………………………. 90.0
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 89.0
Kurt Busch……………………………. 88.9
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 88.0
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 85.5
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 83.5
Kevin Harvick………………………… 83.1
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Daytona International Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has Been Released From Points Racing to Have Fun

Speed Weeks at Daytona International Speedway for NASCAR is over. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was slicing and dicing in every race he was in much like he did 10 years ago when he dominated racing at Daytona. His hard work culminated in winning his second Daytona 500.

To say that Dale Jr. was happy after winning the Daytona 500 is a tremendous understatement. Dale Jr. was indeed happy, excited, relived, and perhaps overwhelmed with all that happened. The smile on his face when he got out of the car was almost big enough to explode off of his face.

Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing
Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing

One could tell that Dale Earnhardt Jr. had taken the momentum he had from last year to an even higher level. One that brought back some fun to the sport he loves.

I know I’m the first feature winner and we are in the Chase.  I’m pumped up man.  Trust me man we are going to have a blast this year.” Dale Jr. said,

He knew right away that he not only won the Daytona 500 but also is all but assured a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He has been released from point racing. Dale Jr. and his Crew Chief Steve Letarte can race for wins.

No more trepidation, no more apprehension or anxiety, no more conservative racing to save a top ten.

If they are running in the top five and Letarte thinks they have enough fuel, no worries, go for it. If they are deeper in the field and tires matter they can short pit and steel a win. If it doesn’t work, no worries. On a short track Dale Jr. can be more aggressive, no worries.

Steve Letarte said, “I don’t think it changes much before you win.  I don’t think anybody can take any bigger chances we already take to try to win.  I think once you have won one, it gives you an opportunity to really take borderline ridiculous chances.  It really does.  If there is a slim chance, that’s really all the chance you need.

Watch out but NASCAR just might have created a Championship that suits Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his style of racing.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Featured Photo Credit: 295434Tom Pennington/Getty Images