NASCAR's biggest race is it's first. The Daytona 500. With all the hype over the $400 million Daytona Rising Project, you'd think a 500-mile race would be as exciting.
It was not. 200 laps of single file racing is what FOX had to deal with as they introduced Jeff Gordon as a broadcaster.
Yes, there were wrecks but not "The Big One". The wrecks consisted of single car spin outs coming out of Turn 4, or as the late Chris Eckonomaki named it, Calamity Corner. Pole sitter, Chase Elliot spun out within 24 laps. Brian Vickers (filling in for Tony Stewart) and Dale Earnhardt Jr also wrecked in the area with no help.
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Though there were lead changes due to Cautions and Green Flag Pit Stops, the only Green Flag action at the front came on Lap 199 as Denny Hamlin, winner of the Sprint Unlimited, made a move on race leader and JGR teammate, Matt Kenseth. Hamlin's win was his first in 11 attempts and the first for Toyota. It was the second Daytona 500 win for Gibbs Racing who won in 1993 with Dale Jarrett.
The race itself, was quite uneventful. Drivers would get to the front and ride along the bottom lane as other drivers attempted to pass on the top lane, but couldn't gain momentum. In years past, up to three lanes were able to use to advance to the front.
One significant obstacle appeared to be the grass as the aforementioned Elliot, Vickers and Earnhardt Jr sustained significant damage as they spun into the grass, ripping the front ends off of their Chevrolets.
While NASCAR can join the group of sports who struggle with grass, NASCAR can actually claim that the ground cover grass is the problem over the inhalable kind. Last February, Kyle Busch sustained two broken legs when his Xfinity Series Car slid through the grass and into a wall, down the front stretch.
NASCAR removed the grass and installed asphalt to help decrease the speed of spinning cars. The grass that runs between the pit lane and the track was the undeniable culprit Sunday as the low fronts of the cars catch the grass and are ripped off. Thus ripping off victories of top contenders.
While Daytona Rising was a hit for fans, the on-track racing was not. NASCAR has many improvements to make to ensure the desirable racing that has made Daytona famous. One lane will not cut it.
As the 2016 Sprint Cup Series leaves Daytona, fans are hoping improvements can be made before the July race at Daytona. Denny Hamlin leaves happy as he has notched his spot into The Chase and several other drivers will have to make up the ground lost Sunday at Daytona. Next week the series heads to Atlanta. Another fast track with grass, and hopefully more than one lane of racing.
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