The Daytona 500 & Speedweeks: The Presidential Address

“America is all about speed – hot, nasty, badass speed”

– Eleanore Roosevelt or maybe not Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Its that time of year when the sounds of revving motors, burnt rubber and giant turkey legs fill the air.  Yes, Matty D the Daytona 500 and the events leading up to it called Speedweeks have arrived.

Here is a breakdown of what the Saturday to Sunday of Daytona look like:

Saturday February 15th, the Sprint Unlimited

The field of cars is determined by the Coors Light Pole Winners (drivers who win qualifying) from the previous Sprint Cup Season as well as former winners of the event.  This year the field consisted of 18 cars, the likes Danica Patrick, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth as well as the Ice Man, Terry Labonte a former made the field.  Two other living drivers that have won the event, Ken Schrader and my man, Mark Martin were eligible, but choose not to compete.

The Busch Clash…nope, the Budweiser Shootout…nope its Unlimited now

In only what can be described as a demolition derby, the field was whittled down to eight cars. At the end of the night only 5 of the eight that finished did not have damage.  Most car owners tell their drivers come home with either the trophy or the steering wheel, so wrecking a $200,000 car is OK!

Your winner: Denny Hamlin after winning the season ending race, Ford Eco Boost 400 at Homestead- Miami Speedway in November Hamlin came back out of the gate in style.  As he crossed the finish line he simply asked “Any questions?”  to those who doubted the team.  I give the race a 3 of out 5 lugnuts.

Update: The pace car decided to catch on fire during the race.  NASCAR and GM said that a “pinched wire” connected to the Caution Lights caused the flame.  I heard that Brett Bodine, former Cup Regular, was heard yelling into his headset, “I’m on fire…help me Tom Cruise!”

Sunday February 16th, Qualifying for the 56th Daytona 500

Pole day was crisp and clear and the wind was blowing down the backstretch causing the cars to lose some speed.  Fox Sports 1 debuted Fox Wind Trax or something similar to show the wind direction on the track.  Cool to see, however was used too much during the telecast.  Who doesn’t want to show off their new toys.  Speaking of new toys all of the new teams, paint schemes, sponsors and driver changes were displayed as forty-nine drivers tried to qualify for the 43 car field.  Since Daytona is the grandaddy of all NASCAR races we have to have a different qualifying procedure.  Normally the best of two laps around the track of the fastest 43 cars will be how you start.  Drivers points and past championship spots also determine, however I will no bore you with that….  Only the first two spots are guaranteed for the race.

The New #3, Austin Dillon

The story of the day was not that Morgan Sheppard was trying to qualify at the age of 72 on time it was that the #3 was back on the track for the first time in over 100,000 days since Dale Earnhardt Sr. passed away on the final lap of the 2001 500, I remember watching that.  Austin Dillon, grandson of car owner Richard “Pop Pop” Childress was attempting to make the field.  He did it in grand style by taking the pole, which I was happy to see.  The bridged the gap between most old Intimidator fans and the new generation of Earnhardt faithful.  4 of 5 lugnuts.

Front Row for the Daytona 500:

Pole Austin Dillon #3 Dow Chemical Chevrolet, Outside Pole #78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet

Between now and Thursday is a bunch of practice runs that no one other than myself watch…except for a big wreck that took out 7 cars in the Wednesday practice and sent #30 Parker Kilingerman upside down.

Thursday February 20th, The Budweiser Duels at Daytona 

I like to refer to these races as the Gatorade Twin 125s as I knew them, however a few years ago they became the 150s then the Duels at Daytona…regardless here is the scoop.  These two races split the field in half, odd qualifiers in one race, the even spots in the other.  The top fourteen finishers n each race make the field.  If the front row finishes in that the 15th place car gets in, then it goes to fastest speeds and then a Champions Provisional (one former champ, the most current gets a sport in the race).  It really takes someone with a college degree or one that has had a few ‘adult’ beverages to understand how it makes sense but it does…ITS DAYTONA!  I will admit I did not watch the races due to class but here are your winners:

I am flying through the air…this is bad -Ricky Bobby

Race One Winner: Denny Hamlin (Again)  Race Two: Matt Kenseth his Joe Gibbs racing Teammate.

A big wreck on the final lap took out a bunch of the field, Clint Bower once again flipped over and Martin Truex Jr. has to now go to the back of the field in a back up car due to his wreck.  So the field is now set…now what do we watch?

Friday Night February 21st, Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250:  Who doesn’t like racing trucks?  They are mean and built to hall 250 pounds of gravel and yes they do flip.  I may enter my ’93 F-150 into next year’s event…maybe.  I still call it the Craftsman Truck Series.  Update:  After watching the race…WOW Kyle Busch came out of turn four on the final lap to win the race in the #51 Toyota Tundra to win the race over Kyle Peters by 0.17 of a second!  An instant classic and making Busch the only driver in NASCAR history to win at Daytona in the ARCA, Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Series.

Saturday February 22nd, NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300:  I would have a hard time breathing too is Tony Stewart aka Smoke since 2005 has won the event seven times.  If he were in the race again I see him winning it, he is just that damn good.  Lots of young drivers in the event tomorrow,  stay tuned for the NASCAR stars of tomorrow.  Update: An eventful race with really no big wrecks, giving tomorrows race some light.  Regan Smith driver of the #7 Ragu Camaro…yes they driver muscle cars…redeemed himself after being taken out on the last lap of last years event.

It all comes down to Sunday and The Great American Race, the Daytona 500.  Win and you are a legend, lose or finish second and you should be last.  I see a ton of great racing coming this weekend.  The Big One or the massive wreck will have about 17 cars in it this year with one car flipping over.  The race will end in a 2nd Green-White-Checker finish and the possibility of winners is endless.  Denny Hamlin may be a good choice because he has won everything down there.  Hell, he even won the drivers golf classic this week.

Yet, I feel that Austin Dillon in the #3 car has good shot.  Think about it, first time since Dale Earnhardt Sr. passes away and the car is back on the pole, seems like destiny to me, similar to when Jr. when the Pepsi 400 in the summer of ’01, my Pap called it before we even went to the race….  Checkers or Wreckers will be Sunday, it always is and always will be.  Enjoy the race my friends. Boogity Boogity Boogity Let’s go racing boys and girl!

Agree or disagree this has been the Presidential Address, thank you for your time, God Bless these United States of American and most importantly this ThunderBlog.

I am Jarred S. Barnes and I approve this message.

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