Tag Archives: Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch Won, And It’s A Good Thing

824535378.0

Kyle Busch finally snapped a year-long winning streak, and it’s a good thing for NASCAR.

 

Kyle Busch is off the schneid and now securely into NASCAR’s playoffs for the 2017 season. And with that, NASCAR can breathe a sigh of relief.

The world knows my disdain for Kyle Busch runs deep, very deep. It’s up there with Amazon and the New Orleans Saints, and given the right day, it surpasses them both. I tweeted something out Saturday following the truck race that I perhaps could have worded a little better, but I still stand by. I wish he were no longer in the Cup Series.

His accident in 2015 would humble most people, make them appreciative of where they are and what they have. Kyle Busch is not most people. He briefly flirted with being a changed person during his comeback in 2015, so much so to the point I started to buy in. Well, that didn’t last long. If that can’t humble him, nothing will. For all the talent he has, which arguably is the most among anyone in the garage area, and up there among the most anyone has ever possessed, his attitude towards everyone else and disrespectful arrogance makes me wish he weren’t here. I wish that his wife Samantha had told him then that she didn’t want him to back in a car, and he never did. But that’s me personally.

That said, I’m really glad he won on Sunday. Because at the end of the day, he still is here. And he’s still as good as anyone out there. While the odds of missing the playoffs were long, Kyle Busch was not yet locked into the 2017 playoffs. And it would be a travesty and a farce if Busch were left on the outside looking in.

Today he sits a mere 15 points behind Kyle Larson for second place in the season standings. Even had he finished a mere second place on Sunday, he would still only be 20 points out of second. It’s not unreasonable to think that with Larson’s recent stretch of bad luck and Busch’s stage winning ways that he could eventually move all the way to second in the standings by the end of the night in Richmond, and do so without winning a race.

And if he did that, there would still be a possibility he could miss the playoffs. Just play along for a second, suppose Clint Bowyer wins at Pocono and then A.J. Allmendinger goes and wins at Watkins Glen next week. That’s 14 drivers locked in with a win, leaving two spots open. Yes, at that point Busch would have been in possession of one, but there would still be four races left before the playoffs begin and winless drivers like Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr out there, not to mention the ever improving rookies of Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez. Two of them winning among those final four races would certainly not be out of the question.

And if they did, then what? Kyle Busch, possibly second in the series points, possibly hundreds (he is currently 328 points ahead of Austin Dillon, the lowest ranked driver with a win set to make the playoffs) ahead of others who would be competing for a championship, would be running the final 10 races with no shot at the title.

Is that right? No.

I absolutely love the emphasis that’s been put on winning. I think it’s great. But I also think if you finish in the top 5 in points, that’s pretty great also. At some point, this is probably going to happen. We’re going to have 16 winners and one of them will not be someone who is a legitimate title contender and a strong car each and every week.

Kyle Busch wasn’t in a “slump”. A slump is when you don’t run very well every week. Kyle Busch was marred by a lot of bad luck. Yes, I like to call it karma, but I won’t call it a slump. Week in and week out, the 18 joins the 42 and the 78 as the fastest cars on the track. It would have been a major shame if Kyle Busch had been left out of the playoffs this year.

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about that.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under NASCAR, Sports

The “New” Kyle Busch Was a Myth

kyleflp2ready-300x255

Kyle Busch shows his displeasure, and his maturity, with a NASCAR official after Busch was nabbed for speeding on pit road at Texas in 2010.

Last year after suffering a career threatening injury at Daytona in an Xfinity Series race and after the birth of his first child, it appeared a new Kyle Busch had emerged. NASCAR’s bad boy seemed to have gone through a period of reflection and maturation that brought along with it a new perspective. And along with that new seemingly new mature and more mellow Kyle Busch came a series championship, his first in any of NASCAR’s top divisions, let alone in the Sprint Cup Series.

No, it simply turns out he was just having unprecedented success, and well, everyone can be pleasant when they’re winning. Kyle, ala Cam Newton, is fun, engaging and a treat for his sport when things are going well, as demonstrated in the viral video (carefully orchestrated by his wife Samantha of course) after his Martinsville win where Busch signed a hat for a fan while they were sitting in traffic leaving the race. But Busch, also ala Newton, is an absolutely terrible loser and a horrible example to young fans everywhere. Petulant child and spoiled brat are the first words that come to mind.

The winning of 2015 had just been so much that we sort of forgot who Kyle Busch truly was. We allowed the wool to be pulled over our eyes and to be convinced that Busch had changed, much like Cam Newton had done.

But when the times weren’t so good, both went back to being, in the immortal words of Dennis Green, “Exactly who we thought they were”.

Busch’s rap sheet is well known in NASCAR circles, and arguably, it’s well known outside of the NASCAR world.

Whether its winning the first Car of Tomorrow race (granted, he’s right, those cars were awful) and proceeding to trash the car in victory lane instead of celebrate his win, or it’s melting down on his pit crew, or NASCAR officials, Kyle Busch has a long list of actions and deeds that would cause even the likes of Rasheed Wallace or Lou Piniella to want to grab him by the shoulders and ask him what was wrong with him. I’m sure even Tony Stewart looked at Kyle and thought, “Geez man, you need to chill out”.

While considered perhaps the most talented driver in the garage, many pointed to Busch’s volatile nature as the primary reason that despite having won 28 races in his first nine seasons, Busch had failed to finish any higher than 8th in points.

Struggles in the chase were attributed to the taxation placed on his team and crew chief for having to endure the headache and stress that Kyle Busch was for 9 consecutive months. It got so bad with his first team, none other than Rick Hendrick, that Hendrick let the uber talented, but uber temperamental Busch leave his stable and head over to rival team Joe Gibbs Racing and, Chevrolet allowed him to join the Toyota camp.

Busch’s ways not only did not fit in at all with the Rick Hendrick model, they wore then crew chief Alan Gustafson out to the point he simply couldn’t take dealing with the youngster anymore. It’s amazing he was willing to take on another 20 year old prodigy after Jeff Gordon retired, though, clearly, Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch are not cut from the same cloth when it comes to personalities.

In 2011 everything really came to a head with Kyle Busch, as he not once, but twice, utilized his car (or truck) in extra curricular activity under yellow as a weapon, and then additionally proceeded to endanger lives on pit road by using his vehicle in such a fashion there as well.

First was the Kevin Harvick incident at Darlington, one that regular Bert Show listeners may even be aware of due to Bert’s affinity for Harvick and Harvick’s appearance on the show where he discussed their disdain, and their wive’s disdain, for each other.

Busch not only deliberately wrecked Kevin Harvick after the yellow flag flew and dangerously turned him head on into the wall ruining his night, he also risked ruining the night of many other drivers in the field by sending Harvick across the track. But Busch didn’t stop there, as shown in the above video. When confronted by Harvick afterwards, Busch wanted no part of manning up to Harvick, instead, he chose to recklessly push a 3500 pound racecar aimlessly along pit road where many innocent pedestrians were present. Busch of course had no regard for the safety of those people, Busch was doing what Busch does, seeing red, and reacting, with no concerns for anyone else.

Unfortunately, the Harvick situation wasn’t even the worst transgression of 2011. While running a support race in a lower series of NASCAR (still a heated debate over this practice) Busch reached even a new low for him.

While Busch was just there racing for wins and trophies, though some would argue bullying, against lesser competition, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran Ron Hornaday was racing for a championship as the season was winding down. As sometimes happen in racing, where “rubbing is racing”, Hornaday and Busch got together as seen on the video. While Busch had a right to be agitated, what he did next was beyond deplorable.

What he did to Harvick at Darlington was dangerous, but the speeds were slower and the impact was fortunately lessened and not as directly head on. What Busch did to Ron Hornaday, in yet another case of Busch taking out his frustrations while using his vehicle under caution, was even more dangerous and could have injured Hornaday. But once again, Kyle Busch gave no second thoughts to the well being of others. Once again, Busch saw red, and that was it.

The act was so egregious that sponsor M&Ms pulled their sponsorship for the remaining races of the season and refused to have their name or logos adorn the no. 18 Toyotas for the remainder of the season.

And that brings us to this past Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway where Kyle Busch, fresh off consecutive Sprint Cup wins and dominating the Xfinity Series where for only the second time since Daytona where Busch didn’t race over the course of the weekend.

He bemoaned the fact that neither of the two best cars (alluding to himself and Kyle Larson) won on Saturday, in a typical Kyle Busch whiny kind of way following his second place finish to teammate Erik Jones. So the mood for Busch entering Sunday was already shaky, at best.

Despite having a fast racecar, Busch and his team had problems with tire wear and Busch found the wall early in the race. The team recovered however, only for Busch to be spun out at a later junction in the event. The team recovered from this too, as well as two different pit road speeding penalties incurred by Busch and still found themselves competitive and in the mix as the race passed halfway. It was then that the race’s seventh caution flag flew, and it was the fourth time Kyle Busch was a part of it. This time though, there would be no recovery.

Busch, as evidenced by his comments after the race, was clearly angry and irate following the second tire issue that sent his car careening into the wall. In a hurry to get the car behind the wall, and get himself out of it so he could undoubtedly go pout somewhere and probably throw a few things, Busch took an abnormal route to get behind the wall in the garage area and bring the car to the attention of his team.

Busch’s desired location to park his racecar happened to be one where a congregation of fans had gathered, but apparently this was of no concern to Busch as he entered the area behind the wall.

Obviously, one can find plenty of fault with the woman herself as she was not exactly grouped with the other fans in the area, so I’m not downplaying her role in the matter, and as a fan, you are responsible for being aware of your surroundings and staying out of the way of the cars. However, the driver too has a responsibility to be aware of THEIR surroundings and to be cognizant of spectators, crewmen, reporters and any number of other people, or objects, that may come into their pathway in the garage area. In this situation, it appears both dropped the ball.

But here is where this is a problem for Kyle Busch. His reputation precedes him. When your rap sheet reads like his, you don’t get the benefit of the doubt. His angry comments following the race where he said, “I’m sick and tired of coming here because it sucks to race”, certainly don’t paint the picture of someone in control of their emotions, and certainly do nothing to dispel the notion that Busch entered the garage area ticked off and in his typical aloof and of no concern with anyone else state of mind.

Was the woman in a place she shouldn’t have been? It would appear that way. However, while she was behind a “rope” of sorts, perhaps indicating she shouldn’t be there, let’s not forget that Busch drove straight through that rope. He didn’t enter this area behind pit wall in the normal and designated manner. Could that be because of the damage to his car, or the convenience factor? Sure it could. But going against the norm should mean he was even more cognizant of his surroundings, as doing the unexpected might leave some people not prepared for his actions. Again, he has a responsibility too.

It’s like in a parking lot a supermarket or shopping mall, even if the pedestrian has darted out from a car in the middle of the parking lot, or is crossing somewhere that seems not be designated for that, as the driver of the large, potentially deadly, vehicle, the driver has a responsibility too. Because ultimately, the driver hits the pedestrian, not the other way around.

So while Busch certainly wasn’t aiming to hit anyone, he certainly wasn’t doing enough not to. Once again, Busch’s anger and frustration boiled over to the point that he had zero concern for the well being or safety of anyone else.

I’ve heard the argument that, “If this was any other driver, it wouldn’t be a story”. This is incredibly weak. Because it wasn’t “any other driver”, and it’s never been (at least not to my knowledge though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were past incidents) “any other driver”. And that’s not a coincidence. There’s a reason things like this happen to someone like Kyle Busch and not to other drivers. It’s because they don’t let them happen.

For Busch, I’m curious if a penalty is forthcoming. Earlier I mentioned that Bristol was only the second time since Daytona that Busch failed to win an Xfinity Series race or Sprint Cup race over the course of the weekend. The last time this happened was of course at California where Busch’s anger resulted in him leaving California lighter in the wallet, and perhaps more importantly, on probation through April 27th.

After cutting a tire down while leading on the last lap of the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, Busch complained that no caution was thrown when his tire blew and tore apart the left front of his car. A caution of course would have frozen the field, and Busch would have been allowed to win the race despite having a flat left front tire and torn up racecar that could not run at race speed. The race stayed Green and eventually Austin Dillon came around Busch off of turn four on the last lap to take the victory, though not without Busch making one last attempt to wreck Dillon as he drove by.

After the race, Busch seemingly forgot, or didn’t care, about who pays his bills and who enables him to drive cars for a living and blew off the mandatory trip to the media center for the second place finisher. I understand being frustrated after losing, but as with Cam Newton after the Super Bowl, you have a job to do. It’s simply a part of it. If you don’t like your job, or can’t handle it, then find a new one. What makes it even worse though is we’re talking about the Xfinity Series where Busch has made a mockery of the season by dominating with his powerful Joe Gibbs Toyotas. He’s there “just for fun”, making childish reactions like this all the worse.

Busch compounded the matter when on Sunday during the Sprint Cup race he accused NASCAR of fixing the race over his team radio. While running second with three laps to go in the Sprint Cup race Busch again had late tire problems and hit the wall. Busch elected against coming to pit road and by staying on the track forced NASCAR to throw a caution.

This of course eviscerated Busch and led to a tirade over the team radio where, due to NASCAR not throwing the caution for him on Saturday, he accused NASCAR of “fixing races”. NASCAR lets drivers and teams get away with criticisms of officiating that are audible to the public far more than other sports, but even they need to draw a line at accusations of blatant fixing of results.

Ultimately Busch received the fine and probation only for failing to meet his media obligations on Saturday, but you have to wonder if his actions Sunday didn’t impact the punishment to at least some degree.

We’re not even a quarter of the way into the 2016 season and already Kyle Busch has had two weekends of classic Kyle Busch behavior.

There’s no denying Busch’s talent, nor his success and his ability to give his sponsors air time. But there’s a line for everyone. Kurt Busch, his older brother no less, is a defending series champion who was twice fired by big time teams with major sponsors who decided the headache simply wasn’t worth it. M&Ms already drew a line once, and Kyle better think twice before approaching it again.

While 2015 Kyle Busch was a champion on and off the track, 2016 Kyle Busch has quickly reverted back to older versions of the defending series champion. For Kyle Busch’s sake and his fans sake, he needs to find last year’s version. Because this Kyle Busch isn’t a champion in any sense of the word.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under NASCAR, Sports

The Ultimate Hate List

So which athletes did, and do, I openly root against? Who makes me cringe at their mere presence? Who gives me nightmares? Who am I sick of hearing about? With no further explanation, my twenty most reviled sports stars.

20. Ernie Irvan- He wasn’t a bad guy, but he wrecked a lot of racecars, and not just his. Accidents he directly caused ended Neil Bonnett’s career, broke Kyle Petty’s leg, and Dale Earnhardt’s clavicle. He also cost Bill Elliott a potential third Daytona 500 and second championship.

19. Jerry Rice- Without the Falcons, Jerry Rice goes down as one of the greatest receivers in NFL history. The Atlanta Falcons made him arguably the greatest football player of all-time.

18. Kirby Puckett- Game six. That’s all.

17. Bryce Harper- He’s the face of the baseball team I hate the most, idolized by the most moronic and delusional fan base in sports. That alone is enough. The cocky arrogance he plays with that goes above and beyond what’s called for, cement his place.

16. Carmelo Anthony- I don’t know exactly why, but I just do not like him. He’s overrated, if you ask me. Sure, he’s a great scorer, but what else? A great teammate? A leader? A defender? These ideas make me laugh. Yet he fancies himself on the same elite platform as Lebron or Durant.

15. Dale Earnhardt- As a person off the track, there are few better. I have my own personal story from Dixie Speedway in the fall of 1990 to attest to that. But I can’t ignore what happened on the track. He wrecked people, constantly, and intentionally. Some loved the hard charging, rough driving style. I didn’t. To me, he took good hard racing to unacceptable levels of just plain dirty driving. And anybody who was ever anybody during his prime, can cite plenty of examples. Waltrip, Wallace, Elliott, Bodine, Marlin, Labonte, etc…, you name ’em.

14. Eli Manning- I can’t put him here simply because he’s the most overrated quarterback since another SEC quarterback in New York was a part of a monumental Super Bowl upset. No, that alone isn’t enough. But much like John Elway years before, I absolutely loathe the manner he dictated which team he would go to upon being drafted by threatening not to even play if the Chargers drafted him. Who do you think you are? Seriously. What you are is the second coming of Joe Namath. Hype and great moments overshadow what a mediocre quarterback he is.

13. Terrell Owens- Does this really require explanation? Arrogant? Jerk? Locker room cancer? Everything you could possibly not want in a teammate. So much of it that the fact he was a great football player hardly even mattered.

12. Roger Clemens- He’s kind of like an Alex Rodriguez light. And not THAT light a version. He’s delusional, arrogant, self centered, and a liar. The stunt with Piazza and his incredulous explanation sums this asshole up perfectly.

11. Kyle Busch- I don’t mind cockiness and arrogance, “I like that in a pilot”. But you can go too far. I’m sorry, what Daytona 500, or Brickyard 400, or Coke 600 have you won? Have you even contended for a championship? Oh, you manage to regularly beat up on guys at the AA and AAA levels? Good for you. And this, “I’ve never wrecked someone on purpose”, bit. I really don’t know why he isn’t higher. Maybe the cease and desist letter from him endeared me to him a bit.

10. Drew Brees- Someone from the Saints has to be on this list, and Brees is as good a choice as anyone. He’s a guy who strikes me as less than genuine, and much more about self promotion than people think. To me, he’s done a fabulous job convincing people he’s this selfless, great team guy. I think he loves the attention all that brings on him. And he regularly kicks our ass.

9. Michael Vick- The despicable dog fighting aside, how many times can a player “rededicate” himself? Vick was given the keys to the franchise, and then spit on the face of everyone associated with it. His admittance that he put in minimal effort? Yeah, I’ll never root for his success on the football field.

8. Reggie Ball- If I didn’t actually number each person on this list, Reggie would have no idea where he ranks.

7. Richard Sherman- I think rule number one in sports and in competition is to respect your opponent. If you two want to talk trash on the field between the two if you, that’s fine. But I take issue when you publicly disrespect your peers. And if you’re going to talk a lot, and talk even more when you back it up, then face the music when you fail to back it up. Richard Sherman ducked the media last year after losing to a team he assured us they’d beat, and being burned by an overrated, sorry, “system wide receiver”.

6. Deangelo Hall- The only reason Sherman isn’t 6th. Hall is everything Sherman is, except a great player.

5. Kevin Garnet- Garnett defines bully. He rarely runs his mouth to people his own size or bigger, but he has no reservations about mixing it up with someone smaller than him. He’s a great player, but he’s an instigative bully that walks around like he’s never done anything wrong.

4. Kurt Busch- He and his brother are similar. The difference is, Kyle pretty much owns his black hat. Kurt pretends it’s everyone’s fault but his. Everything he says that tries to dispel that comes across as fake and contrived.

3. Alex Rodriguez- His own players union wants to expel him. Does anything more really need to be said? He’s the biggest fraud since that guy who nearly bought the Islanders. He’s the most disingenuous public figure I can think of. And to think, he was almost a Brave. Yikes.

2. Ray Lewis- I don’t care what he plead to. Ray Lewis was either partially (to what extent, we’ll never know) responsible for the death of another human being, or in the very least, responsible for the fact the killers never received justice. What makes it worse is how Lewis used this to make himself a victim, and talk about how Good was testing him, and citing this incident as his path to faith. Are you kidding me? People may hate the way Tim Tebow invokes God at every turn, but it doesn’t even compare to Ray Lewis. So spare me the “leadership”, and the theatrics, and dramatic speeches. Ray Lewis knows why a man was killed, but chose rather to cover up what happened to protect his friends, and then call himself a victim. Ok.

1. Jim Leyritz- I’m not even going here

15 most disliked media members

15. Matt Millen
14. Joe Simpson
13. Shannon Sharpe
12. Charles Davis
11. Joe Buck
10. Harold Reynolds
9. Phil Simms
8. Tim McCarver
7. Mitch Williams
6. Mark May
5. Skip Bayless
4. Donovan McNabb
3. Pam Ward
2. Chip Caray
1. Joe Morgan

10 most disliked coaches

10.Buddy Ryan
9. John Calipari
8. Tony Larussa
7. Barry Switzer
6. Lane Kiffin
5. Nick Saban
4. Bill Belichek
3. Urban Meyer
2. Sean Payton
1. Bobby Petrino

Dishonorable mentions- Yasiel Puig, Danny White, Manny Ramirez, Jeff George, Albert Belle, Jay Cutler, Matt Barnes, Dwyane Wade, Robert Smith, Kent Hrbek, Armando Benitez, Dwight Howard, Milton Bradley, Donovan McNabb, Roberto Alomar, Albert Belle, Ben Roethlisberger, Randy Moss, Latrell Spreewell

*There are obviously a slew of criminal athletes, even murderers, but some were before my time, and others were too inconsequential as an athlete to be considered*

15 Comments

Filed under Baseball, Basketball, College Football, NASCAR, Sports

Ranking the Daytona 500s of the Last Thirty 30 Years; 26-30

2000 Daytona 500

Dale Jarrett captures his third Daytona 500. Only Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough have more

Dale Jarrett captures his third Daytona 500. Only Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough have more

Rules had been changed prior to the 2000 season for NASCAR’s restrictor plate races, and the result was one of the most boring Daytona 500’s in the sports history. For a race that in years since has seen as many as 74 lead changes, a pass for the lead under green flag conditions simply was not going to happen on this particular Sunday. In fact, for the duration of Speed Weeks, the only passes made for the lead were made immediately after a restart.

None of this of course diminishes what Dale Jarrett and his Robert Yates team accomplished. The defending Winston Cup Champion and two time Daytona 500 winner had been the class of the field all week, so it was probably appropriate that he still won the Daytona 500. The only race that Jarrett did not win that week his Gatorade 125 mile qualifier, as he finished 2nd to Bill Elliott, who took the lead on the opening lap and never relinquished it. Jarrett though had already won the pole for the Daytona 500, and won the Bud Shootout as well.

The race was perhaps best known for the frustration and anger expressed afterwards by Mark Martin. With 14 laps to go, Martin was running second to surprise leader Johnny Benson when he made his move to the outside of Benson’s pontiac in turns one and two. Martin was under the impression that Jarrett, along with fellow Ford drivers Jeff Burton and Elliott, would go with him. Martin was wrong.

Jarrett bailed on Martin, and Burton and Elliott had no choice but to follow Jarrett through on the inside, moving Jarrett to the runner up spot in a position to challenge Benson himself. On a restart with just a handful of laps to go, Jarrett would get underneath Benson coming off of turn two and the Ford contingency, including Martin would follow.

The race only had nine lead changes, and just four over the duration of the final 165 laps in an event that would lead Dale Earnhardt to tell reporters that, “Bill France Sr. probably rolled over in his grave if he saw that”. Ironically, it would be this race that would prompt NASCAR to look into a new rules package for future plate events, and it would be those changes in the rules packages that helped contribute to the events of the 2001 Daytona 500.

29. 1992 Daytona 500

Only two of these cars would remain intact for the finish, robbing us of what could have been a thrilling Daytona 500

Only two of these cars would remain intact for the finish, robbing us of what could have been a thrilling Daytona 500

Personally, this probably ranks as my least favorite Daytona 500, ever. I wasn’t but 7 years old at the time, but I think this particular race was the first time I ever wished death upon another human being, or said so aloud anyway.

This year marked the first year that my parents hosted a Daytona 500 party as well, and I remember many of my parents friends and some of their children at the house. I remember being very excited for this particular Daytona 500 as well. My favorite driver, Bill Elliott, had qualified on the outside poll and had won his Gatorade 125 Mile Qualifier on Thursday in his first time out driving for Junior Johnson. It was the first time in his career that Elliott had driven for a team other than the family outfit in Dawsonville, and it was off to a smashing success. Throw in the fact that the last time the circuit had come to Daytona in July of 1991 Elliott had been victorious, and I was feeling awfully good about his chances on this Sunday.

This race also marked the final Daytona 500 for Richard Petty, the undisputed “King” of the sport. By the halfway point of the race, both feel good stories were over.

Elliott and teammate Sterling Marlin (the pole sitter) dominated the early portion of the race, leading a combined 56 of the first 91 laps, with Davey Allison leading 28 thanks to a two tire pit stop. In other words, the Junior Johnson cars were the class of the field, and the world knew it.

But on lap 92 everything changed. First Marlin made a move on Elliott, then Irvan made a move on Marlin at the exit of turn two putting the three three abreast across the track. Calamity ensued. Just about anyone who had any chance of winning this race, and certainly anyone who I cared about winning, was involved. Pick a name, Martin, Earnhardt, Petty, Jarrett, Waltrip, Wallace, any of them, they were involved. The only three cars of consequence not involved were Allison, Morgan Shepherd, and Michael Waltrip. Every other contender was eliminated.

I remember crawling up on to my mom’s lap in absolute tears, yelling, “I wanna kill him, I wanna kill him”. The “him” I was referring to was Ernie Irvan. Two years ago at Darlington, while multiple laps in arrears, Irvan had caused a massive crash that effectively ended the career of Neil Bonnet. A year later, Irvan once again caused a massive crash, this time at Talladega, resulting in Kyle Petty suffering a broken leg. Needless to say, Irvan’s nickname of “Swervin Irvan” was well deserved. Unfortunately, this would not be the final time his wreckless and aggressive driving style would cause a problem.

In any event, the accident left Davey Allison with virtually no competition. He easily led all but 10 of the remaining 109 laps on his way to a Daytona 500 victory. In a season where Elliott lost the championship by a mere 10 points, I think one can see why I’m still very bitter about this race.

28. 2009 Daytona 500

Matt Kenseth won the first of two career Daytona 500s in 2009, and it's almost like nobody knows he even has one

Matt Kenseth won the first of two career Daytona 500s in 2009, and it’s almost like nobody knows he even has one

The previously mentioned two Daytona 500s may not have been a very good show to watch, but for their own reasons, they were at least memorable, even if not for something positive. The same cannot be said of the 2009 Daytona 500.

For starters, this was the third Daytona 500 I’d been to in person, and it was the third time I’d been treated to poor weather. So things were already off to a bad start.

Secondly, Kyle Busch led 88 of the races first 120 laps, and if you know anything about my fandom in NASCAR, you know I harbor an extreme dislike of the Busch boys.

Third, the race itself ultimately wound up being affected by the weather. Rain cut it short after just under 400 miles.

Fourth, the winner, well, he’s about as interesting as a manilla folder. It’s not that I have anything against Matt Kenseth, but he’s not exactly the big name you’re looking to see win if your guy can’t.

As mentioned, Kyle Busch led 88 of the first 120 laps, so I suppose it could have been worse. I could have been forced to watch him win the thing, as it certainly appeared that was going to be the case. However, after a caution on lap 120, Busch found himself out of the lead after pit-stops. And soon after, he found himself out of the race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr had already been having a bad day, the issues ranged from picking the wrong lines in traffic, to errors on pit road, to driver mistakes getting on and off pit-road. Apparently the frustrations affected his driving, and on the restart Earnhardt triggered a massive wreck on the backstretch that took out Busch, ending his day early.

Eventually on the restart, Matt Kenseth would work his way around Elliott Sadler, and when the rain fell following a caution for Eric Almirola with Kenseth leading, his place in Daytona history was secure.

27. 2004 Daytona 500

Few Daytona 500 wins were as popular as Junior's in 2004

Few Daytona 500 wins were as popular as Junior’s in 2004

Did I mention I was three for three when it came to bad weather at the Daytona 500? Fortunately, the race itself wasn’t impacted by weather in 2004, and in fact, once the show got going, the day turned out to be quite nice. But it didn’t start that way. I distinctly remember having to use my shirt as a koozie so my hands wouldn’t freeze while holding my beer can before the race got going.

Once underway though, the race was anything but exciting. A big crash on the backstretch where Michael Waltrip first unveiled his new roof hatch exit was about it for the excitement of the day.

Tony Stewart used the 2004 Daytona 500 to put into full-gear his apparent quest to join Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip as multi-time NASCAR champions who could win any and everything at Daytona, but for years, be unable to claim a Daytona 500 trophy for themselves.

Dale Earnhardt Jr led the first 29 laps, and the last 20. In between though, Stewart led 98 of 151 laps, and during that stretch, the nine laps led by Jimmie Johnson from laps 44-52 were the most consecutive laps led by anyone not in an orange chevrolet.

The race itself saw the final caution flag fly on lap 72 with the previously mentioned massive pile-up on the back stretch being the final wreck of the day. That, coupled with a rules package that much major emphasis on tire wear, resulted in the field becoming exceptionally spread out.

In fact, for the first time in about ten years, there was no lead “pack” fighting it out for the win. It was just Earnhardt and Stewart. Earnhardt had followed Stewart for much of the mid to late portion of the race, but with twenty to go, and with Stewart’s tires fading, Earnhardt seized the lead and never let it go. In fact, Stewart hardly even was able to put up much of a fight, doing all he could just to keep Earnhardt’s Budweiser chevrolet within reach.

For Earnhardt, winning the Daytona 500 obviously carried special meaning, and perhaps due to that and the popularity of his  victory, this could be ranked a little higher. But those things don’t make up for the fact that the race itself really stunk.

26. 1995 Daytona 500

Sterling Marlin became just the third man to ever win back to back Daytona 500s, joining Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty.

Sterling Marlin became just the third man to ever win back to back Daytona 500s, joining Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty.

Not since the Elliotts in the 80s had anyone been as dominant at Talladega and Daytona as Sterling Marlin and his Kodak Chevrolet were during the mid 90s. If there was a restrictor plate race to be run, you could bet your bottom dollar that Marlin and his bunch were going to be among the favorites. The Runt Pittman built engines in Marlin’s cars even sounded different, in addition to clearly just being better than anything else on the track.

The year before, Marlin had won his first career race, in the 1994 Daytona 500, marking the 2nd time (Ernie Irvan, 1991) in four years that the Morgan-McClure Racing team had won the Daytona 500. Marlin didn’t visit victory lane again that season, and finished only 14th in the final points standings. He did however finish in the top ten of both Talladega races and also led six laps in the July race at Daytona.

In 1995 however Marlin and the team would take steps to becoming a more complete team, and a true championship contender. And it started with the Daytona 500.

Marlin’s victory in the 1995 Daytona 500 was the most thorough victory by anyone in the Daytona 500 since Bill Elliott’s wins in 1985 and 1987. A late caution and mini-charge after getting on four fresh tires by Dale Earnhardt were the only things keeping things interesting, and even then, you had to force yourself to believe Earnhardt had any real shot at getting by Marlin.

I remember running across Bill Elliott at an autograph signing a few days after the race, and I asked Elliott if he hadn’t had a flat tire that cost him a lap if he’d had anything for Earnhardt and Marlin. His reply, “We coulda beat Earnhardt, but I don’t know about Marlin”. In other words, the four car was in a whole ‘nother zip code.

Marlin though wasn’t entirely alone in that zip code however. A flat tire didn’t only claim Bill Elliott, it also eliminated the only car that looked like it could run with Marlin; Jeff Gordon. Gordon suffered a flat tire, and on the pit stop to change tires also had the car slightly roll off the jack curling back the left front fender behind the wheel. Those two things combined were enough to eliminate Gordon from contention as he, like Elliott, was never able to make up the lap he’d lost while dealing with his tire issues. Gordon was however, the only guy not named Marlin to lead more than 23 laps. In fact, Gordon led 61 of the races first 98 laps.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t Gordon chasing Marlin at the finish, and we were denied a battle between the two best cars on the track, as with Gordon and Marlin leading a combined 166 of 200 laps, we were also denied a show worthy of watching at all.

There were only two green flag passes made for the lead all race long, both of them coming when Dale Earnhardt was passed by Sterling Marlin. Marlin passed him on lap three, and then passed him for good on lap 181. In between, every lead change came during a caution period. Thrilling right?

Earnhardt’s continued quest to finally snare a Daytona 500 was at this point, reason alone to watch any Daytona 500, and the fact that he made something resembling a charge at Marlin late in the going is pretty much all that keeps this from ranking as perhaps the worst Daytona 500 of the last thirty years.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daytona 500, Sports