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Monday, February 21, 2011

RCR, Hendrick stumble out of the gate in 2011; Gilliland, Labonte surprise

One thing about Daytona is that with all its uncertainty, things get shaken up right off the bat in the points. Teams that usually contend struggle, and vice versa.
On the rough side, we have the Childress and Hendrick teams.

RCR was up front all through Speedweeks, but in the 500 two of their cars blew engines, something unheard of for RCR cars. Kevin Harvick blew up early and was home before the race even ended. He earned a whopping 2 points for his efforts. The same fate came to Jeff Burton later in the race. Meanwhile, “the Big One” came early in the race this year, and collected three Hendrick drivers, who are all mired deep in the standings now (and to make matters worse, the fouth Hendrick driver – Dale Jr. – crashed late in the race, too.)

On the flipside, some teams that did not expect to run up front did great.
David Gilliland came home 3rd, created a Ford podium sweep behind Carl Edwards and Trevor Bayne.

Meanwhile, Bobby Labonte, in his first ride for JTG Daugherty Racing, came home fourth, showing glimpses of the former champion that he is. I doubt these two will continue in this fashion, but it’s nice to see some new blood up front now and again, and Daytona is always good for that.

Labonte said it’s a big deal to get a good finish to start the year.
"It means a lot. People are going to criticize me for not laughing or smiling enough or whatever, but I was still disappointed we didn't win this Daytona 500. That's going to bother me probably for a little bit, but I think by tomorrow morning. These guys did a great job today. We battled back from a near spin over there and we got a top-five out of it. Today was such a wild day. It was just a little bit too wild at times so to survive -- I think, was a big thing."

Kyle keeps it together
I have to give a call to Kyle Busch, whose car was so squirelly all day, I thought he was going to wreck a hundred times. Something was off, perhaps too much tape on the back as Kyle suggested, but in typical Rowdy fashion he managed to keep it in one piece and finish 8th.

"I think TV will sum it up -- pretty crazy day, overall. Everything was just all over the place and pretty nuts. Glad we were able to come out of this with a pretty good finish for our M&M's Toyota. It felt good that we had a really fast race car. There ain't a car out here that doesn't have damage on it, so I don't know that damage was a real factor. Even the 21 (Trevor Bayne) car has got damage and he won the race. It was nuts. It was wild, just as wild as we all expected it."
Emotional Truck series win for Michael Waltrip

The biggest wreckfest of Speedweeks was the Truck series race, but after all the wrecking we saw a great ending and an emotional win by Michael Waltrip.
Amazingly, he won it on Feb. 18, 2011 … exactly 10 years after winning his first Cup race on Feb. 18, 2001 – the day his friend and mentor Dale Earnhardt died.

The race also featured impressive runs by Clay Rogers, Jennifer Jo Cobb and young Jeffrey Earnhardt (grandson of Dale), who survived the carnage to all finish in the top-7. Cobb’s 6th place finish is the best finish ever by a female in the Truck series.

Waltrip had Earnhardt on his mind in Victory Lane.

“God bless Dale (Earnhardt) and his family and his fans. I came here to celebrate his life with my black truck and my No. 15 car, I didn't come to celebrate a win. This feels really good. I'm thankful for this.
"Ten years ago I stood here and I thought it was the greatest day ever and it turned out to be the worst day ever. I just wanted to come back here this year and honor Dale. This is an amazing run.”

Danica leads a lap
It may have been brief, but the TV cameras constantly focused on Danica during Nationwide races were actually there for a reason on Saturday … she was running up front at Daytona and led a lap. (Shocking, I know).

It didn’t last, and she ended up a lap down in the teens in the finishing order, but I have to say that was a respectable run by the media darling. But before we get too excited, this is Daytona, not the best indicator for the future. Let’s see how she does on nonplate tracks before I declare her stock car endeavors a success (Pretty soon, the “I don’t know what I’m doing” excuse will start to get old if she keeps trying to use it).

Speaking of Patrick, she has yet to confirm her 2012 plans, and some people, including former open-wheel driver Juan Pablo Montoya, believe she has to make a choice between the two types of racing.

“I admire what she is doing. But seriously it is way harder than just doing one. The cars are so different. I did the Rolex 24 Hours and I got back in these cars the first time and it was whew, what the heck happened? I think she wants to do it. She just wants to make sure that she is good enough to do it. I think she has the talent to do it. But Dario (Franchitti) struggled when he came here and he has the talent to do it and he struggled. It is not as easy as people think,” JPM said. “I went all in. I said, what the heck.”

Twists in the points
So in case you’re keeping score, the points are all kinds of hard to figure out now.
See, you don’t get points in series you didn’t declare at the start of the season. So that means Landon Cassill is leading the Nationwide points, even though Tony Stewart won the race. Clay Rogers is leading Truck points, though Waltrip and Sadler beat him in that race. And Carl Edwards is leading Cup points, even though he came home second.

Make sense yet? If not, give it time. It’s for a good cause … having actual up-and-comers win the title in the lower series. Ironically, Bayne, who declared for Nationwide, didn’t get any points for his Daytona 500 victory … strange but true.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that the old man that drives the #5 Hendrick Chevy finished 10th (after being 3 laps down!) and is 9th in the point standings after the 500.......need to get your stats straight please!

February 21, 2011 at 2:26 PM 

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