Denny Hamlin’s Most Excellent Day At Daytona

NASCAR prides itself on being unlike any other major American sport. Fact is, it’s right. Example? Consider this:

  • You win the Super Bowl, you go to Disneyland.
  • You win the World Series, you go to Disneyland.
  • You win the Stanley Cup, you go to Disneyland.
  • You win the NBA Finals, you go to Disneyland.
  • You win the Daytona 500, you … go to Atlanta with everyone else.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Atlanta, although I can’t say I greatly enjoyed walking around downtown the couple of times I’ve been there (never have made it out to Atlanta Motor Speedway, alas). Rather, it points out how NASCAR is the only sport that opens its season with its biggest single event. More people at the end of the year will remember who won the Daytona 500 than won the Sprint Cup. This year it’s Denny Hamlin for the former. The latter will be determined the same month we decide who the next President will be. Speaking of such, what are the odds of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders making an appearance at a NASCAR race this year in an effort to convince folk they’re fellow down-home folk? ‘Twould be a sight to see. But I digress.

Today’s Daytona 500, which if you think of it is a bit redundant as there won’t be one any other day for a year, was a mercifully quieter affair than we’ve seen in recent races. No Big One, people for the most part kept their cool, and the last lap thrills came from who won rather than who’s upside down and/or on fire. Which is all you can ask from restrictor plate racing. Tide us over until the schedule sings the sweet short track happy blues.

Denny Hamlin proved (again) he’s pretty good at this restrictor plate thing, dumping Matt Kenseth like a hot potato on the last lap, pinching Kenseth off to where throwing a block was impossible, and then eking out the win over Martin Truex Jr. Before that it was trying to avoid the slip sliding away combining a hot track and this year’s car created. When you’ve got Dale Earnhardt Jr. doing a solo spin, you know it’s slicker than a promise in the year of election. (One can never have too many U2 references.)

The day was noticeable more for who didn’t finish well, or at all, than who did. Chase Elliott fell victim to the pathological inability of most tracks hosting NASCAR events to hire a groundskeeper, thus forcing drivers to cut the grass themselves. Seriously, as long as these cars have splitters, lose the green stuff and slap on some extra pavement so we’ll stop losing cars that nine times out of eight could gather themselves up and re-enter the fray. Rumor has it people who attend races prefer this over a local attempt to recreate Butchart Gardens. Later on in the day, Danica Patrick and Greg Biffle took the foot fight concept to a whole new level, fried chicken and fig bars flying through the air. Along with Danica. Quite fortunately, her car stayed perpendicular when briefly airborne, as the front end could have easily have dipped just a bit, caught the aforementioned grass, and … yeah.

Ah well. It’s done and everyone is in one piece. On to Atlanta.

Photo Credit:  Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Photo courtesy NASCAR Media

It’s Daytona! It’s The XFINITY Series! It’s Liveblogging!

Okay, let’s see if I remember how to do this …

The 35th Annual Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway provides our kickoff for the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series. But of course you know that, or else you wouldn’t be reading this. Or you might, if you’re nostalgic for real blogging. But I digress.

All eyes are on Erik Jones, the wunderkind flying the Toyota flag high. But, since this is XFINITY, in all likelihood it’ll be a case of not paying that much attention to who actually wins, as it’ll most likely be whichever Sprint Cup driver decided they wanted to get out of the motorhome for the day. The driver I’m looking at to make an impression is Darrell “Bubba” Watson Jr. Kid has the skills, the backing, and wouldn’t it be awesome to see a black NASCAR champion? You don’t get a trophy in November because someone in marketing wants you to.

And away we go …

Lap Two: There will always be a twinge seeing the #3 at Daytona. That said, remember there is an entire generation of NASCAR fans to whom Dale Earnhardt is in the same category as Richard Petty: a name from a past of which they have no memory as they weren’t there.

Lap FIve: Already? Be nice if we had seen what happened.

First Commercial Break: Yes, Cialis, hanging drapes always makes everyone horny.

And one-stop portfolio management of multiple stocks. Sponsoring a NASCAR race. Um, sure.

Lap Ten: Mom! Mom! WAKE UP! Anyway, back to the race.

Lap Twelve: Well, they’re trying to make three lanes work.

Lap Thirteen: Oops. They are going to have to sell some extra boxes of Reser’s macaroni to pay for that. And will FS1 ever show us a replay of what happened?

Okay, they showed it (sort of). Chase Elliott bumped the 18 (Bobby Labonte), there wasn’t enough room because they were doing the accordion dance up front, then the 43 got caught up in it behind, and things went rapidly downhill from there.

Lap Eighteen: And we’re back. Can we actually race for a while?

Lap Nineteen: Middle is working pretty well. So is the outside lane. And the inside lane. What can go wrong?

Lap Twenty-Two: Oh goody, another caution. At least this time it wasn’t a multi-car melee.

Lap Twenty-Three: Interesting … everyone can make it from here on one more stop. One would assume one and all will take advantage of this.

Um … one would assume incorrectly were one to assume this.

Hey look – kids are at the race! Hey look – SOMEONE BOUGHT A TY DILLION T-SHIRT!

Lap Twenty-Seven: And we’re back (again). Have at it, boys … sort of.

Lap Twenty-Eight: I wish Kevin Harvick did every NASCAR race. He brings a world of knowledge to the broadcast booth, and he’s not afraid to share it.

Lap Thirty-One: Tire rub. Might want to go grab a new shopping cart wheel, Kyle Larson.

Lap Thirty-Three: Looks like things have settled down. Not surprising. Probably stay that way for sixty laps or so. Saying that should bring about five-wide for the lead in a lap or so.

Lap Forty-Three: Everyone has taken the chill pill. More or less.

Yet Another Commercial Break: Time to announce my Unpopular Opinion Of The Day: I believe Amy Schumer is seriously hot. Okay, back to racing.

Lap Fifty-Five: Single file slip ‘n slide.

Lap Fifty-Seven: So if you didn’t pit on lap 23 or thereabouts, you’re pitting now and will have to pit again, but if you did pit on lap 23 or thereabouts you can make it on one more stop after running another ten laps or so, therefore … if the race stays green throughout this cycle it’s not going to make a lick of difference provided there is a caution after this set of stops to bunch up the field.

Lap Seventy-Four: No caution, so everything is as it was, more or less. String up front (four cars), a small gap, then two abreast. Which will join the front four shortly.

Lap Eighty-Three: To the surprise of approximately no one, Joey Logano is leading. Five-car train up front. Five or so car train running well behind. Might be able to catch the front line, but it’s not a given.

Lap Eighty-Eight: Second train is getting closer. Should catch the first train in a lap or so. Question is how long will everyone be content to run in a single line. Also, one more pit stop for everyone.

Huge shoutout by Harvick for my man Bubba. #ThumbsUp

Lap Eighty-Nine: Stratergy talk!

Lap Ninety-Five: Pit stops. Don’t screw up, boys.

Lap Ninety-Nine: I’m thinking that if it’s a last lap duel between Elliott Sadler and Joey Logano, advantage Logano.

Lap 100: Sadler may or may not be presently thinking it’s good to have a teammate who’s racing more or less for the fun of it.

Lap 101: Caution. Insanity looms.

Lap 106: Um, Danielle Trotta? You are a very attractive young woman. But that outfit is, shall we say, kind of distracting. Be a bit more professional next time, please. Anyway, back to racing once again.

Lap 109: I doubt anyone is all that interested in pushing Logano to the front, because should he regain the lead it’s most likely game over.

Lap 110: Front six are now the front nine.

Lap 111: Or not.

Lap 112: Getting antsy up front.

Lap 114: Not much breathing room. Logano trying to make it happen from the outside lane.

Lap 116: Waiting for Suarez and/or Wallace to dive in front of Logano.

Lap 118: Anyone going to make a move?

CHECKERED FLAG: Whew! Chase Elliott holds off Joey Logano for the win. Impressive. Even more impressive: no last lap mayhem. Think the Sprint Car crew can do the same? (Probably not.)

Wrapup in a bit.

Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images
Photo courtesy NASCAR Media