(Note to my IndyCar peeps: I'm not abandoning you! I merely invested six hours of my life yesterday to watching this race and want something to show for it.)
Monday Night Racing turned into a ratings winner for NASCAR last night, as the race was the highest-rated show on network television according to overnight ratings. It may have been the first Monday night race, but not the last. Randy Bernard, please tell me you were watching!
As always, craziness ensued. I'm a creative guy, but even I can't make this stuff up. Given the events of the last few years the best thing to expect at Daytona is the unexpected. Welcome to Looneyville.
A few thoughts:
*Of course I'm leading off with Juan Pablo Montoya. The dude just likes hitting stuff! Now, I am only joking because everyone involved walked away from the incident, which thankfully occurred in a place where there were no grandstands. Still, JPM is the poster boy for "checker or wrecker" because of his aggressive driving style, and he took that to a whole new level Monday night when he plowed into the jet dryer and set off a literal inferno. The wreck was the result of a mechanical failure and not on JPM, but I think after this we can replace the saying "only in America" to "only in Daytona". I have officially seen it all...until next year that is.
*As a driver, Brad Keselowski is going to be a superstar. In the world of social media, he already is. His tweet of the view of the fire form his car set off a firestorm (get it?) on Twitter, and as he continued tweeting during the long delay he picked up an estimated 150,000 more followers. He later tweeted moments after being involved in a wreck that ended his night. Like it or not, this is the future. I think IndyCar gets it for the most part, but a presence during the race (not necessarily from the drivers) is huge. People want to feel part of it. One of the things I enjoyed watching the race was sitting on Twitter at the same time and exchanging thoughts and conversations with other people. It was a lot of fun and I am all for fan/driver/team interaction in whatever form it can take. NASCAR does too, as it announced that not only will Kes not be fined for what he did, they are encouraging other drivers to follow suit.
*Danica went 3-for-3. Now, if you added two doubles and four RBIs to that line it would be a heck of a night. Instead, that is the number of races she drove over the weekend, and the number of wrecks she was involved in. She wasn't to blame in any of them and had the misfortune of being wrecked by a teammate in the Nationwide race and getting caught up in the melee on Lap 2 in the 500. Nothing can be done, but it was quite the baptism and a huge learning experience.
*There were times I thought I was watching iRacing instead of the supposed best drivers in the world. I spent a virtual weekend at Talladega and in all five race in which I drove there was a first lap "Big One" that took out a large chunk of the field. I finally posted the following message: "If you can't get through a lap without wrecking don't enter the effing race!" Who knew that EXACT same scenario would happen at Daytona? I'm sure the drivers were amped up to be starting the season and racing after the long delay -- and at night -- but they went less than 2.6 miles before the year's first incident. I think that what was funny was that after Jimmie Johnson was eliminated from the race in the opening melee he still had time to fly home to Charlotte and catch the end of it on TV.
*Oh, and there was a race too. Matt Kenseth won. Lost in all of the extracarriculars and drama was the fact that Kenseth dominated the final 100 miles of the race and won for the second time. I thought the actual "racing" was a bit drab. Just because the cars are racing in a big pack does not make things exciting, and I'm not saying that because I am not a big fan of pack racing. All it contributed to last night was the edge-of-your-seat feeling that a wreck was just around the corner, and the huge power and freight-train noise effect, which yes, is pretty cool. For the most part the cars drove nose to tail and a driver couldn't hook up with someone else and drive to the front like in the past. Plus the high line never seemed to work well so it was hard to change positions.
Even with the dreaded green/white/checker finish there was little drama, as Greg Biffle threw up a huge screen on Dale Earnhardt Jr. so his teammate could win. (My opinion) Biffle and Junior were hooked up, so how did one car break away and beat two that were drafting? I'm not saying that Kenseth didn't have the best car, because he did and deserved to win. But Biffle looked like he was content on finishing second, because his options were a) win the race over a teammate, b) win the race over a teammate and drag Junior to second or c) give Junior enough momentum to pass both of them and win. Guess none of them sounded appealing.
Speaking of the green/white/checker, I'm glad the driver who was ahead at the end of the scheduled distance went on to win the race. Doesn't happen all that often.
All in all it was quite the season opener for NASCAR. IndyCar is going to be hard-pressed to top THAT, but I think maybe they will pull it off.