COLUMN: They all get giddy on a Monday night
One clean, safe lap ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The no-frills Daytona 500 got off to a colorful start on Monday night, mainly because the dude with his hands on the plunger set off the fireworks early.
On the start, Matt Kenseth bump-drafted Greg Biffle while everyone else played nice … for slightly over a lap. The bump draft worked out nicely. Behind the streaking Fords at the front did shortly bounce and carom the five-time champion, the previous winner, the banished bad boy and …
… The Danica.
Contact between Elliott Sadler’s plebeian Chevy – and Jimmie Johnson’s royal one – touched off the bottle rockets. The last time a driver began a championship season with a 500 victory was Johnson in 2006. Since then he has finished no better than 27th.
Next up for the winner of five of the past six titles: He and crew chief Chad Knaus try to duck the book being hurled at them by the always arbitrary NASCAR judiciary.
“I’m really bummed out,” said Johnson, and he wasn’t insincere. He said he had some “help” from behind, which is an odd way for destruction to be described.
Lots of times, rained-out races seem restrained when everyone comes back and reconjures the magic. In particular, it’s usually later than the second lap when someone touches off a brawl of sparks and fire. Rain apparently isn’t calming when it’s the Daytona 500 and first place is worth $1.5 million or so.
Eleven laps later Ryan Newman went spinning down the back straight, but he had a signed excuse because a tire went flat.
Then there’s Danica Patrick, who, as usual, got more attention than Tony Stewart, Lenny Kravitz and Mitt Romney combined. She won a Nationwide Series pole, but otherwise competed in three races – two major-league and one minor – and wrecked a league-leading 1.000.
It will undoubtedly get better, in large measure because it is impossible for it not to.
It seemed like yesterday when Trevor Bayne won the race, but it was last night when Bayne barely made it a lap. The Kurt Busch Resurrection Tour went on immediate hiatus.
It’s one of the reasons NASCAR insists on having 43 cars in every race. Sometimes the big shots charge the barricades too quickly and reinforcements are necessary.
Monte Dutton; 704-869-1841; twitter.com/montedutton