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Random Lugnuts: Let's Race Two

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Gatorade Duel, Daytona International Speedway What is Random Lugnuts?  It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan.  The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop:  you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Random Lugnuts: Let's Race Two

Bill Crittenden
February 11, 2010

Opening Lap

The Gatorade Duels are NASCAR's version of Ernie Banks' famous quote, "Let's play two!"  With finishes like today's, racing two might not be such a bad idea in the future.


How 'bout that?  "Let's race two?"  This event is a lot of fun and gives track time to small time teams and TV time to their sponsors.  Why not race a short last-chance event like one of the Duels for the last 2 spots in the field on every weekend?  The cars qualify as usual, and the top 35 are locked in.  Some of the go-or-go-homers race into the field on time, and provisionals are accounted for.  The rest get 50 miles to grab first or second place against each other for 42nd and 43rd on race day.

Victory Lane

While the first ___ miles of any given race at Daytona tend to be a bit boring, cars driving double file and everyone waiting for something to happen, they sure have the finishes down pat.  Kasey Kahne's victory in the second Duel, putting the #9 Ford (that will take some time to get used to) just a nose ahead of Tony Stewart shortly after Johnson and Harvick's back and forth in the first Duel, both finishes without cars on their roofs or in the catchfence, were the type of finishes NASCAR needs to get the fans attention and keep it this season.

Bad news for NASCAR and its fans:  for those who might have hoped that Jimmie would lose the magic in the offseason and leave the season up for grabs, today is not a good sign.  For Dale Jr. fans, today isn't a good sign, either, not when the name of Derrike Cope occupies a spot above his in the results.

Red Flag

As I'm writing this, the Daytona qualifiers are in the books, some teams are packing up to head home early, and I still haven't a clue as to what really happened during all 300 miles of racing today.  I know unemployment is high these days, and I may soon join the ranks of the unemployed, but for now I still have a job and I didn't get home until 4:40 PM.  Why does NASCAR run two races during the daytime on a Thursday, when most of the country is at work?  I got home just in time to catch the end of the postrace highlights.

I know it's technically "qualifying," but in reality this is an important event in the NASCAR season and it should be available for more fans to watch.  Aside from the Budweiser Shootout, and the ARCA race, this is some of the first stock car racing run since November.  And I've got to wait until 11:30 PM to catch the end of the replays?  Is truck practice really that important that Speed Channel couldn't replay the races earlier in the evening?  Why can't NASCAR run them live when people get home from work?  Or do they count on us all to have TiVo?

Final Lap

The Sprint Cup runs on a wide variety of racetracks, from short tracks to superspeedways and even a few road courses.  Maybe there's a few too many 1.5-mile tri-ovals, but I don't want to get sidetracked.  Even the short tracks have variety, just compare Bristol to Martinsville.

There's a little something for everyone in the course of a 36-race season.  I say that because I want you to understand that this isn't about the other 32 races out of the year.  This is about the restrictor plate superspeedways, particularly Daytona as the Cup season is about to begin there and also Talladega, which comes later in the schedule.

What do fans want from Daytona?  And what can NASCAR do to make as many people happy as possible?

I've heard fans want close racing, but they don't want to see their favorite taken out by "The Big One."  They want to see bump drafting, but they don't want all the cars bunched up so that they're running in a pack all day.  They want cars to break out of the pack but they don't want to see single file racing.  They want their drivers kept safe but hate the current safer Cup car.  Fans want to know that their favorite teams won't be left at the back of the field because of the kind of car they drive but hate the look of the common template cars.  A green flag parade is boring but then so are cautions to clean up wrecks.

Confused yet?  We're just fans, or in my case an unpaid whiner writer from the Midwest.  Each one of us has some idea of what they want out of the Daytona 500 and will know by Sunday night whether they got it or not.  Imagine how the people at the top levels of NASCAR feel, the folks whose very highly paid jobs it is to figure out what fans want and try to provide it at the risk of public ridicule if they fail to meet the fans' expectations while knowing that no matter how many they please there will still be some left disappointed.

So what do we want from Daytona?  E-mail me at admin@carsandracingstuff.com or reply in the Library Lounge at http://carsandracingstuff.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=56&t=3853 before Sunday and maybe get your comments into my prerace column...

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