Daytona Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on July 6, 2013 | 11:29 P.M. EST
A number of drivers were involved in a crash coming to the checkered flag. (Photo: Getty Images)
NASCAR racing at Daytona in July has a long and storied history. Nearly since “The World Center of Racing” opened its gates in 1959, the annual summer stop has been a staple of the NASCAR calendar.
In recent days there has been some discussion about taking another page out of the sport’s history book and returning the Coke Zero 400 to the 4th of July, as had been the case before it was moved more than two decades ago.
The time has come to put the idea into motion.
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 changed things but with a new network contract on the horizon, a step back in time should be considered.
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 begins in 2015. Why not make it a holiday affair in the middle of summer, one fans can plan vacations around and take part in a wide range of festivities?
The Sprint Cup Series schedule dearly needs an infusion of excitement because there’s a sameness to the proceedings teetering on boredom for some fans. Wholesale changes aren’t needed, but a spark here and there would be welcomed.
A quick fix might be a Wednesday or Thursday in Daytona with Fourth of July fireworks show as the nightcap.
- We all know restrictor-plate racing is an acquired taste for some while others absolutely love when Daytona and Talladega roll around. I’m somewhere in the middle but have to say Saturday night’s race wasn’t one of the better ones in my opinion. Too much single file racing, Jimmie Johnson’s dominance and a series of violent crashes just didn’t add up to an entertaining night in my book. The Gen 6 car still seems to have teams flummoxed on plate tracks, which will hopefully change by the time Talladega comes up on the schedule in October.
- Of all the numerous wrecks on Saturday night the one I held my breath most for was the melee involving Denny Hamlin. The already battered Hamlin had hid FedEx Toyota slam into an area of the wall without a SAFER Barrier in the multi-car accident. Although he didn’t speak to the media after leaving the infield care center, Hamlin did report he was feeling okay after the hit. But with his Chase chances completely gone, if Hamlin truly needs surgery to repair his injured back he’d be well advised to step out of the car and take care of it sooner rather than later.
- Okay, I like having as much fun as anyone but the “Days of Thunder” deal that went down during Friday night’s Nationwide Series race was brutal. Phoenix Racing had the ride for Kurt Busch decked out in the same colors Tom Cruise’s Cole Trickle character piloted in the 1990 movie and for a while it was a good time. Until the movie line references went wild during the ESPN telecast but mostly on Twitter, to the point I heard from more than a few fans who had heard enough only 25 laps into the race. Hopefully the next time folks will remember the old saying a little goes a long way.
- Speaking of Twitter the natives were more than restless about TNT’s telecast Saturday night, specifically about the number of commercial breaks. It’s been a common complaint among NASCAR fans for years but it seems to have reached a crescendo during the “Summer Stretch” for the cable network, which for the first time in several years did not offer its “Wide Open Coverage” for the Coke Zero 400 opting rather for a more traditional telecast with a 30 lap limited commercial run. There’s no easy answer or fix for the issue and in fact I’d expect even more commercial and sponsor breaks in the new TV contract that kicks in for the 2015 season. When networks pay billions and billions of dollars in rights fee, the only way to recoup the investment is through advertising.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.