2012 Daytona 500 - A NASCAR race with Fire, Rain, Racing and Crashes
Stock Car Racing
I am what I would describe to be a casual fan of NASCAR races. If I have some free time I will probably watch some of a race but I do not plan my day around them or try to record them for later viewing. Initially I was drawn to the sport because of the wrecks; yes I was one of those fans. Over the years I have matured as a fan of the sport and have grown to understand, and appreciate, the drivers for their skill in operating these powerful machines at the speeds they reach.
Every season NASCAR begins with their biggest race, the Daytona 500. Unlike other sports that have their biggest event at the end of the season (like the Super Bowl or World Series) NASCAR gets their big one out of the gate on day one.
Being the casual fan I really don’t have a favorite driver so my personal vehicle isn’t littered with stickers reflecting a drivers’ name or car number. I’m not knocking the fans that do have these stickers, it just isn’t for me.
Even though I am not a NASCAR diehard I still have drivers that I do not like, just like I have baseball and football teams I do not root for. My public enemy number one is Kyle Busch and his #18 car. Kyle is an incredibly talented driver but the rest of what he does drives me nuts. I guess that is part of the attraction for fans, you can cheer for one driver to win the race while hoping another one blows an engine on lap one.
Daytona 500 Weather
The 2012 Daytona 500 had a memorable weekend for quite a few reasons. I guess the main reason would be that the race couldn’t be contained to the weekend. Storms running through Florida postponed the original early Sunday start until later on in the day. After waiting for the clouds to pass NASCAR made the decision, a first for the Daytona 500, to delay the race and wait until Monday to drop the green flag.
Early Monday the rain problems continued for the race and it had to be moved to an evening start. From a television rating standpoint this was a positive move because more fans could watch the game in the evening than in the middle of the day. I felt really bad for all of the fans that purchased tickets to the event. Having the race move a day probably messed up their schedules and might have soured them on the whole experience; at least they were treated to a good race, if they stuck with it.
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Regarding the race, kudos to NASCAR for making the changes needed to stop the two car racing that dominated last year’s race. Seeing a bunch of two car tandems flying around the track last year was boring and wasn’t conducive to the exciting racing that many fans wanted to see.
Daytona 500 Crash
I am certainly no NASCAR expert but I saw something at the race this year I never thought I would see on a racetrack. During a caution the number 42 car, driven by Juan Pablo Montoya, exited the pits and made his way back to the track. Montoya had been complaining about something not feeling right in his car and that feeling was confirmed when a part failed, causing him to lose control of the vehicle. Many racetracks have vehicles that they deploy to help dry out a wet track or blow excess debris off of the racing surface. One of these drying trucks (they are regular trucks towing a trailer that has a jet engine mounted on it) was doing its job, a short distance in front of Montoya’s out of control vehicle.
You can probably figure out what happened next, Montoya’s sideways car plowed into the back of the trailer immediately igniting the full tank of jet fuel creating a massive fireball and red flagging the race forcing all racecars to stop on the track. Both Montoya, and the driver of the blower vehicle, exited and were OK but the jet fuel started pouring down the angled track. Fire was quickly spreading and it took about ten minutes before fire crews finally got the fire under control.
After additional cleanup the track was finally cleared and the race resumed. Matt Kenseth, who drives the number seventeen car, eventually won the race that was delayed by rain and fire, all in the same day.
The open track racing that I enjoy was evident during this year’s race and I appreciated seeing it again. Sure they had some wrecks, which took out quite a few previous winners and contenders, but overall it was enjoyable to watch and I hope NASCAR continues to allow the drivers to do their thing and thrill their fans.