Daytona Rear View Mirror

Daytona

The annual mid-summer trip to Daytona was its usual three days of news, controversy and intense racing.

But after the checkered flag flew on Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 you can’t help but wonder if this July return trip to Daytona can’t be spiced up in the future by taking a page out of NASCAR’s past.

Before lights went up at Daytona and the 400 moved to prime time, the Fourth of July weekend race had a much different look to it. At one time the race was held on the actual Independence Day holiday, whether it was a Saturday, Sunday or fell mid-week.

And it wasn’t too long ago the race featured one of the most unique start times in all of sports – a 10 a.m. ET green flag. You’ve heard of “Breakfast at Wimbledon” of course? Well NASCAR had its own version at the most venue in all of stock car racing.

The early morning start kept competitors and fans out of the hot mid-day sun and allowed things to complete before the inevitable nearly daily showers and thunderstorms hit Daytona.

There was also the added bonus of the race ending by early afternoon, allowing everyone to take in the rest of the day and night around the area with most heading to the beach.

The lure of prime time television money probably means those days are gone forever with no network most likely willing to trade an early morning audience for the much larger one that comes when the sun goes down.

But NASCAR and Daytona should at least explore the idea of running the race on the 4th like in days gone by. There is no doubt in my mind a prime time, mid-week race is going to come to the Sprint Cup Series more than likely with the next television contract that starts in 2015. Why not make it a holiday affair in the middle of summer, one where fans can plan vacations around and take part in the festivities?

NASCAR CEO Brian France said this week he doesn’t expect any drastic changes to the 2013 schedule. That’s a shame because there’s a sameness to the proceedings that is teetering on boredom for some fans.

A quick fix might be a Wednesday or Thursday night in Daytona with Fourth of July fireworks as the nightcap.

  • Saturday night’s race was overshadowed by the shocking news of AJ Allmendinger failing last week’s random drug test at Kentucky. The Penske Racing driver was temporarily suspended and was replaced first by Kenny Wallace and finally Sam Hornish Jr., who made it to Daytona after flying in from Charlotte in time to start the race. The mystery around Allmendinger’s situation will take time to sort out but anyone rushing to any conclusion at this point would be unfair.
  • After a by comparison tame night in Friday’s Nationwide Series race, Saturday’s main event for the Sprint Cup Series turned out to be a demolition derby. Tandem racing was virtually non-existent except for the final lap and in its place was pack drafting, which unfortunately evolved into a series of multi-car accidents. Unlike the Daytona 500, the July Daytona race was short on passing and heavy on crashing.
  • Jimmie Johnson might have been the happiest man to leave Daytona Saturday night albeit a bit early. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was a victim of one of the violent accidents that punctuated the night making it two straight Daytona races Johnson exited early to the infield care center. The good news for Johnson is he won’t have to worry about coming back until next February. The bad news is Talladega still awaits to end the restrictor plate schedule in October.
  • Tony Stewart’s win was the perfect response to the misery he experienced last week with ignition woes in Kentucky. He’s now tied with Brad Keselowski with a series-leading three victories but it’s been a very up and down season for the defending series champion. The old adage is that when the weather heats up so does Stewart. He proved that Saturday night in hot, muggy and typical July Florida weather. With most of the country locked in a torrid hot spell things could be looking up for the head of Stewart-Haas Racing.

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