NASCAR and its tracks have all kinds of contingency plans for emergencies, but sometimes you just have to learn from experience. It seems safe to say all the work that went into dealing with the crumbling of asphalt and the pothole that emerged during the 2010 Daytona 500 played a role in NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway’s ability to deal with the jet dryer explosion and resulting fuel spill on the track this year.
It was surprising how little Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards factored into this year’s 500. The two drivers who battled down to the wire for the 2011 Sprint Cup title had fast cars at Speedweeks — Edwards won the pole for the 500 and Stewart won his 150-mile qualifying race on Thursday. Both were involved in late-race accidents in the 500, and neither ran up front for long.
I don’t know if Danica Patrick is going to be a great NASCAR driver, and neither does anyone else. What she deserves is the opportunity to find out — and without unrealistic expectations piled on her. She also doesn’t need TV announcers who constantly try to bolster her “case” by making outrageous claims. Example: Claiming Patrick, who hadn’t yet run a lap in a Cup race, is the “face” of NASCAR.
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First in-race tweet: Not only did Brad Keselowski have a unique view of the incident between Juan Pablo Montoya’s car and a jet dryer, but once the race was red-flagged for repairs, he shared it with the world via a photo on Twitter.
Unofficially, Keselowski became the first driver to Tweet during a live event.
His Tweet earned him thousands of new followers. Asked how many he got, Keselowski replied: “A lot, but you know I’ll take the win first.”
He finished! Making it through the race unscathed might not seem like a big deal, but it was for Paul Menard, who had been wrecked twice during Speedweeks and was on his third car.
Menard managed to stay out of trouble and finished sixth.
“We just kind of rode around the first half of the race anticipating some big wrecks; there were a couple but not as many as we thought,” he said. “I figured it was time to go about Lap 120 and try to work our way up there. I really couldn’t do a whole lot of passing. It was hard to pass.”
3 keys to victory
1 Driving a Ford appeared to at least give you a head start, and Kenseth and Biffle showed they were fastest. Biffle led 44 laps, mostly in the first half. Kenseth led 50, mostly in the second half.
2 Hamlin led the most laps of any driver, but as the race wound to a close, he just couldn’t seem to get in a good position to work with Earnhardt Jr. in hopes of getting around Kenseth and Biffle.
3 Say what you want about the efforts of Biffle and Earnhardt to get around him, but Kenseth had a fast car. He didn’t lead the final 38 laps — the longest stretch by any driver in the race — for nothing.
The effort by NASCAR and Daytona officials to get the track in racing condition decided the outcome. It was the difference between a shortened race with Dave Blaney as the winner, and 30 drivers still having a shot.
Where: Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz.
When: 3 p.m. Sunday TV: Fox
Jim Utter, Charlotte Observer
StDriverCarLaps*Pts14Matt KensethFord2024725Dale Earnhardt Jr.Chevy2024232Greg BiffleFord20242431Denny HamlinToyota2024259Jeff BurtonChevy20240637Paul MenardChevy20239713Kevin HarvickChevy2023781Carl EdwardsFord20236912Joey LoganoToyota202361022Mark MartinToyota202351130Clint BowyerToyota202331226Martin Truex Jr.Toyota20233137Marcos AmbroseFord202311432Bobby LabonteToyota202301524Dave BlaneyChevy20230163Tony StewartChevy202291714Kyle BuschToyota202271843Terry LabonteFord202271941Tony RainesFord202252021Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Ford20202118Ryan NewmanChevy202232239Landon CassillToyota202222333David GillilandFord20121246Regan SmithChevy200212536Casey MearsFord199192638David ReutimannToyota196182710Elliott SadlerChevy19602834Joe NemechekToyota19402920Kasey KahneChevy189153011Michael McDowellFord189143119Jamie McMurrayChevy188133223Brad KeselowskiDodge187123327Aric AlmirolaFord187113415A J AllmendingerDodge177103540Trevor BayneFord16403635Juan Pablo MontoyaChevy15983742David StremmeToyota15673829Danica PatrickChevy13803928Kurt BuschChevy11354016Jeff GordonChevy8154117Robby GordonDodge253428Jimmie JohnsonChevy124325David RaganFord11
Average Speed of Race Winner: 140.256 mph.
Time of Race: 3 hours, 36 minutes, 2 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 0.210 seconds.
Caution Flags: 10 for 42 laps.
Lead Changes: 25 among 13 drivers.
Lap Leaders: G.Biffle 1-9; R.Smith 10-11; G.Biffle 12-14; P.Menard 15-16; D.Hamlin 17-40; J.Burton 41-57; J.Gordon 58; T.Stewart 59-60; J.Burton 61-67; G.Biffle 68-76; M.Truex Jr. 77-81; G.Biffle 82; T.Labonte 83-85; G.Biffle 86-99; M.Truex Jr. 100-101; D.Hamlin 102-129; G.Biffle 130; M.Martin 131-132; G.Biffle 133-138; D.Hamlin 139-143; J.Logano 144-145; M.Kenseth 146-157; G.Biffle 158; D.Blaney 159-164; M.Kenseth 165-202.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): D.Hamlin, 3 times for 57 laps; M.Kenseth, 2 times for 50 laps; G.Biffle, 8 times for 44 laps; J.Burton, 2 times for 24 laps; M.Truex Jr., 2 times for 7 laps; D.Blaney, 1 time for 6 laps; T.Labonte, 1 time for 3 laps; P.Menard, 1 time for 2 laps; J.Logano, 1 time for 2 laps; M.Martin, 1 time for 2 laps; T.Stewart, 1 time for 2 laps; R.Smith, 1 time for 2 laps; J.Gordon, 1 time for 1 lap.
Top 12 in Points: 1. M.Kenseth, 47; 2. D.Earnhardt Jr., 42; 3. G.Biffle, 42; 4. D.Hamlin, 42; 5. J.Burton, 40; 6. P.Menard, 39; 7. K.Harvick, 37; 8. C.Edwards, 36; 9. J.Logano, 36; 10. M.Martin, 35; 11. C.Bowyer, 33; 12. M.Truex Jr., 33.