After some fantastic driving by the wife to get us home from a birthday party, I settled in for the first NASCAR race of the year—the non-points Budweiser Shootout at Daytona Superspeedway.
Gentlemen, START YOUR ENGINES!!!
Oh it was soooooooo sweet to hear.
Dale Jarrett was fortunate enough to draw first starting position. This would put his new Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota Camry on the pole, at least for a minute. In fact, he was lucky to keep up with the Chevy Corvette pace car, for once the green flag flew, Jarrett would disappear like he missed the memo - straight to the back and out of contention. To give a shred of credit, Brian Vickers did get his Team Red Bull Camry out front for a couple of laps, but this too was short-lived, and he would finish eighth. The Camrys are just not up to speed, though they have been improving. Toyota is going to have to wait until after Daytona to be competitive I think.
The first 20-lap segment was good, with a great save by Tony Stewart when Kurt Busch bumped-drafted him going into turn one. I may not like Smoke, as I think he's a jerk, he's a great driver, and has showing maturation over the past couple of years. I still have no reason to like him...too many wounds run too deep.
My man Jeff Gordon ran a car that they specially prepared for this event. With the Car of Tomorrow coming on line this year, the older chassis are going to be relegated to show-car status, after this season. Jeff had an electrical problem, initiated it seems by him accidentally triggering the engine kill switch. It wasn't to be his night. I worry not...Daytona has seen Jeff in victory lane on a number of occasions. So this didn't really mean squat.
But to touch on the Car of Tomorrow...it sucks. Blow it up, throw it out. I have the solution: CASCAR - the Canadian version of NASCAR. They run the cars with the showroom template. Dodge Chargers have flat front noses like the real deal. If NASCAR would pull it's collective head out, they'd do this: Ok manufacturers. We want the Ford Fusion, Dodge Charger, Toyota Camry, and Chevy Impala SS (which will be their COT entry), and you build a racing version of them. (Note on the Impala versus the Monte Carlo SS is this: all other three makes are 4-door cars, the MC is 2). This would take us back to the days before the "aero-coupe" when you could pretty much buy a street-legal version of the winning car from Sunday on Monday morning.
The racing in the Shootout was good, though the pack did string out and the harder tires Goodyear provided gave up grip sooner. I'm leery of this come the 500, as I think the cars sliding all over the track is going to result in disaster. One week and we'll see.
So Stewart made a good move to get Kyle Busch out of his way, and Shrub made a great save to stay in one piece. Gilliland looked good finishing second, and Jimmie Johnson quietly finished fourth. He's the sleeper for next week's 500, and is defending champion.
With the shootout out of the way Sunday brought 500 front-row qualifying, and the week continues with the Twin 150 Duels on Thursday, and racing Friday night for the Truck series, Saturday for Busch, and the season-opening "Super Bowl of Racing" Daytona 500 on Sunday.
Oh thank God football is over and NASCAR is back!
Gentlemen, START YOUR ENGINES!!!