After having ample time to digest what we all witnessed on Sunday, here are a bunch of random thoughts about the season opening race.
Good for Kurt Busch, he certainly deserved the victory after three runner up finishes. That includes pushing teammate Ryan Newman to the 2008 victory. Other years he finished second were 2003 and 2005. It was also a feel good story for crew chief Tony Gibson and team co-owner Tony Stewart.
It was not stages that caused all those wrecks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it was just impatient driving by all. In the Truck and Xfinity Series, you can chalk it up to young and inexperience. I don’t know what to chalk Sunday’s major wrecks to other than impatient. Had the entire race been side by side racing, I would have said it’s a product of restrictor plate racing and moved on. Instead at the end of the race, everyone ran single file and didn’t make many moves (other than dodging cars running out of fuel) so clearly it was by driver choice to run like fools. I used to enjoy the unpredictability of plate racing, but now I’m disgusted on how it’s simply survival of the luckiest.
And don’t be fooled, stages had nothing to do with the crashes. The first real test of how this stage situation plays out will be at Atlanta. It should make for some interesting strategy, but it certainly won’t feel as organic.
The new points system is confusing, but actually looks like it will work for what it’s intended for. A perfect example is Kevin Harvick, who ran upfront, but was taken out during one of those wrecks and finished 22nd. Instead of being penalized for something out of his control, he’s actually still near the top of the standings, fourth place to be exact.
The 5-minute rule is fine, until it’s your favorite driver who needs repairs. Like all the examples that have been made, there’s hardly ever been a car that’s been nearly destroyed that came back and placed well in a race. Fans were upset that Dale Earnhardt Jr wrecked and could no repair his car, even if he did, he wouldn’t have gone for the win. I like this rule, while I appreciate the hard work by the crews to fix cars, honestly there’s no point to it.
With 42 cars at Daytona the hope was finally we might have better car counts. That hope was dashed on Monday when only 38 cars were entered at first for Atlanta. Now it’s up to 39, since BK Racing saw they had a guaranteed spot and brought another car. It might get to the point where they should have 40 charters and just call it at that, because it’s obvious the system now is not that inviting to anyone on the streets to come race.
Here’s some stats:
AJ Allmendinger picked up his first top-5 since Watkins Glen last season. It was also his first top-5 at Daytona since his first visit there in 2009.
Aric Almirola finished fourth, his first top-5 since Dover late in 2015. As for Daytona, his only other top-5 there was his win in July of 2014.
Paul Menard was in the top-5 for the first time since Talladega in 2015, this was also his best finish at Daytona.
Michael Waltrip competed in his 784 and final Cup Series race on Sunday, scoring a top-10 finish. That was his first since Daytona in July of 2013.
Trevor Bayne got a much needed top-10 finish, only his 11th in 131 career starts. That was his first since Watkins Glen last season.
Kurt Busch’s win was the 29th of his career, and fifth for Stewart-Haas Racing, since joining them in 2014.
Next up for the Cup Series is the Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500 from the Atlanta Motor Speedway.