Commentary: NASCAR off to bumpy start

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. | JAMIE MCMURRAY IS a nice guy. He's unpretentious, happy to be racing for a living and thrilled to be the winner of the 2010 Great American Race.

So don't blame him because Sunday's Daytona 500 was not the Great American Race, the Good American Race or even the Fairly Decent American Race.

McMurray won the Great American Park & Ride. The biggest names in NASCAR spent more time with their engines off than they did flying three-wide around 2 1/2-mile Daytona International Speedway.

The culprit was a hole between Turns 1 and 2. As track officials groped to fill it, the race was postponed for more than an hour and half and then postponed again for 44 minutes.

More than six hours after the 500 began, it ended. So did NASCAR's effort to begin the 2010 with momentum and credibility.

Look, the unforeseen occurs at sporting events, and we want it to. If we knew what was going to happen, we'd have little reason to buy tickets.

But athletes are entitled to a level playing field.

That Daytona International Speedway officials ultimately filled the hole with Bondo - quick drying putty that goes for about $10 a quart and probably is stuck in a corner of your garage - attests to their ingenuity, or lack thereof.

The track didn't send a representative to the news conference at which McMurray spoke Monday morning. But NASCAR did.

Ramsey Poston, the managing director of corporate communications, said that officials, as always, walked the track before Sunday's race.

"There was nothing to suggest there would be any problem," he said.

The unseasonably cold Florida weather undoubtedly contributed to the conditions that created the hole. You wonder if there was an engineer who could have anticipated what happens when cold weather, a lack of sunshine, hard driving and ancient asphalt meet.

The track was last paved in 1978.

Poston said, however, that the majority of the drivers with which he's spoken prefer the surface as it is.

He said he does not know how much repaving would cost or how long it would take.

Poston also said the hard-core fans he's talked to since the 500 via e-mail and Twitter praised the quality of the racing and did not complain about the delays.

On Sunday, the hole was big enough to swallow a tricycle. Late Monday morning it could have swallowed a Mini-Cooper. A trail of dirt ran from the hole to the bottom of the track, where it covered both yellow lines.

I stood and watched for about 10 minutes. The sun was shining, and Monday was a slow news day. After being around thousands of people all week, I was finally alone.

Then I wasn't. A security officer drove up on a motorcycle and, a few seconds later, another security officer pulled up on a cart.

As much difficulty as the hole has caused, you'd think they'd want somebody to take it.

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