|No safer barrier where Patrick hit is unacceptable|
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s uncontained joy in victory was impossible to ignore and contagious. On Tuesday he compared his victory to the 1979 Daytona 500 that is often credited with making NASCAR a big time sport.
“I think we turned on a lot of people Sunday,” he said in the midst of several days of media stops. “I think that race was destined to do that for some reason. It had kind of that feel, that '79 Daytona that was first live flag-to-flag broadcast that really turned the world on to what we were doing through network television.
“My race might not have had that kind of impact, but it's comparable, I think, in some ways. Yeah, hopefully this is going to be a solid year. NASCAR made some changes to try to kick start some energy and boost awareness and excitement in what our series can do. I think we got a great start to the year, for sure.”
Earnhardt car owner Rick Hendrick summed it up. "It's good for NASCAR. It's good for all of us."
Jeff Gordon, booed loudly by fans of Earnhardt Sr. when he first came up for having the nerve to stand up to “Intimidator,” suddenly found himself a hero on social media for pushing his teammate into the lead on the final restart.
Not even a rain delay of nearly six and a half hours could dampen the euphoria. In fact, it probably contributed to the race as it provided for better handling race cars and the emphasis to be up front in case a race shortening shower hit.
Dale Jr. is even on Twitter.
Can it get any better?
Well, yeah, it could.
In the midst of this all this celebration, I hope NASCAR doesn't overlooked a couple of things that need to be addressed.
There were four “big ones.” The threat of more rain and the urgency to be up front probably contributed to more big accidents than normal for a Daytona or Talladega race. But if NASCAR thinks it has found the right car formula for its superspeedways, it needs to think again.
The third “big one” could have gone terribly wrong as Danica Patrick slammed the wall on the front stretch. Incredibly, the wall at that point is not covered by a safer barrier. If there is anything we have learned – and NASCAR should know it better than anyone else – if there’s a wall around a track, a car will eventually find a way to hit it.
There’s no excuse for the wall not to have been protected. Every inch of wall at Daytona and Talladega – inside and out – needs to be covered by a safer barrier. With taxpayers paying hundreds of millions of dollars of the renovation going on at Daytona, it’s time for the track and ISC to dip into some of those billions of television dollars and complete the safer barrier process. Now.
And don’t forget that a car got up into the catch fencing during practice and tore a couple of small holes in the fence. Speedway officials were quick to say the new fencing did its job, but that’s another area NASCAR needs to continue to evaluate.
Finally, we can forget about a Richard Petty vs. Danica Patrick match race. I can’t think of anything positive that would come of it. It’s a lose/lose proposition. Which would be worse, Petty winning, or Petty losing?