Florida Dreamin Speedweek Winners
February 9, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
So without any further delay (I’d have said adieu but I don’t know how to spell it), here’s who will be smiling wide in Florida. Please remember this is for pure entertainment value only… no wagering.
Daytona 500 pole: I thought I saw someone in a Dodge topping Saturday’s speed charts, but it was just the burrito I ate before dozing off. It’s tough to bet against guys who have always been fast at Daytona come February, and the speeds we saw during January testing mean nothing. I see a new color scheme starting from the pole with a familiar face behind the wheel… Jeff Gordon and the DuPont Chevrolet.
Goody’s Dash Series 200: I’m so glad they scrapped those annoying V-6 engines in this series. Watching a Dash race was like having your head stuck in a beehive for three hours. It may be hard to believe, but these little cars put on a great show on the mammoth Daytona oval and it’s their chance to grab the national spotlight for a day (Oh I forgot, the race will be televised on FX, which means more people will be able to watch reruns of WKRP in Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon). Defending series champion and last year’s race winner Robert Huffman should have enough for a repeat trip to victory lane.
Twin 125 qualifying races: Is this the year that Dale Earnhardt doesn’t win a qualifying race? “The Intimidator” is so synonymous with Daytona I can’t imagine that happening. (I associate Dale with Daytona so much that I swear I dreamed he was in that 24-hour thing last week!). So, put Dale Sr. in the victory lane for one part of Thursday’s twin bill, and I see Ricky Rudd standing on top of the Texaco Havoline Ford celebrating a win in the other race.
Craftsman Truck Series 250: Despite Geoff Bodine’s horrifying crash, this turned out to the best race of last year’s “Speedweeks.” The trucks at Daytona are a return to the good ol’ days of drafting and slingshotting, but there’s a whole new cast of characters pulling the tailgates around the “World Center of Racing” this year. Gone are the top four from last year’s points standings (Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Andy Houston and Mike Wallace) and in their place is a mix of veterans of unproven rookies. I think it’ll take a veteran to pull off a win at Daytona, and I see Jack Sprague doing the trick.
IROC: Does anyone care about this series? I don’t think this race will be televised for at least a month after it’s run, so let me get back to you on the winner.
NAPA 300: This is going to be a critical year for the Busch Series, which has lost a lot of teams for a variety of financial reasons. There won’t be as many Winston Cup carpetbaggers double-dipping this season either, so maybe we’ll have a Busch regular actually win the season-opening race at Daytona. Nah, give it to Jeff Burton.
Daytona 500: I’d have to say this may be the most wide open field for the 500 in a long time. Yeah, the usual suspects will be factors – Earnhardt, Gordon, Jarrett, Stewart, Labonte – but there really isn’t a clear cut favorite coming into “Speedweeks.” I don’t see the Dodge contingent ready to compete right out of the box, although that Evernham-Elliott-Daytona combo platter is intriguing, although I think they will run with the leaders. For whatever reason, I think the Chevrolets will be strong and that leads me to an Earnhardt-Gordon duel. Maybe it’s the chili Fritos talking, but Gordon is my pick for the 43rd running of the “Great American Race.”
OK, so there you have it. Remember, these picks came to me in a road racing stupor at about 3 a.m. with the voice of David Hobbs pounding in my head. You’ve been warned.