Remembering the Greatest and Michael who?

  • Dale Sr.
    Dale Sr.

    Before I talk about the Daytona 500, which is a great story in itself, I would be remiss if I didn’t start off the week by remembering one of the greatest drivers ever in the sport Dale Earnhardt. In my lifetime there are four dates that I can never forget. Watching the first space shuttle take off, watching the space shuttle explode, attack of 9/11, and the day Dale Earnhardt passed away-- February 18, 2001. NASCAR was shook to its roots. The death was one of the most disturbing events to watch and caused grown shirtless beer chugging men to cry as the finality of the wreck was understood. No true fan will ever forget the Intimidator blocking on that last lap to allow Michael Waltrip and his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., to fight it it out for the win. Waltrip said recently about the incident, “I kept wondering and asking where is Dale?” as he stood in victory lane.
    Many fans never returned to NASCAR after the tragic accident. They just couldn’t find it within themselves to ever follow anyone but the greatest. It is hard to believe it has been 20 years ago since that day.
    This year’s 500 was a question from the start with a lot of new drivers and drivers changing teams. Gone were the seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, who moved from behind the wheel to behind the microphone.
    Usually, pack racing gets boring quickly until near the end of a stage or end of the race, but this year showed the impatience of many drivers to be back on the track as they were going hard right from Lap 1--so hard, in, fact that by lap 14, the aggressive style so early on led to a major wreck that probably affected the outcome of the race. Then the rain hit. After a six hour delay, cars were finally able to get back on the track. The last few laps were really good as drivers jockeyed to be in the fastest line and stay clear of the middle. On the last lap Brad Keselowski after a big push from Michael McDowell hit Joey Logano and sent both of them spinning. McDowell then was able to hold on for the victory by inches over Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon.
    McDowell picked up his first win after 14 years in the sport. Although he has never won before McDowell is known for finishing races and not tearing up cars. He joins Michael Waltrip and Trevor Bayne as drivers to pick up their first win in the Daytona 500. McDowell is a well respected driver in the pits even Joey Logano said he was glad McDowell won the race. McDowell said in an interview a couple of days later that he never knew what winning would be like as he has done endless interviews and photo shoots.
    Ben Rhodes swept the Daytona races in the Truck Series. It seemed like Rhodes won the race, but then had to protect it as the white flag was not shown. Questions of fuel and tires became a big concern as the race entered a second overtime. There was a little disagreement about driving styles  after the race with series champion Sheldon Creed. It will be interesting to see where it goes. Since switching over to Toyota, Rhodes has run two strong races to start the season.
    Tyler Gibbs, the son of former football coach Joe Gibbs, won Saturday night in his first NASCAR event since moving up from the ARCA serioes. Gibbs brought home the win in a very contested Xfinity race.  
    On the dirt: Kyle Strickler is the hot driver after joining the World of Outlaws this season he has already picked up two wins. Strickler switched over from the Lucas Oil series because of car performance and chassis build.
    The Lucas Oil Series had to fight the weather in Florida and ended up canceling the main event. Darrell Lanigan finished ninth on February 12.  Both major Dirt Series are off until March.
    Looking at the Sprints I read where Brad Sweet, who drives for Kasey Kahne Racing,  now has more Outlaw wins than any other driver from California . Sweet picked up his first win in 2012 and in 2013 won the King’s Royal at Eldora.