As Monday turned into Tuesday, you wondered if the bizarre SpeedWeeks at Daytona -- something fans have waited for during what they consider an interminably-long offseason -- would ever end. Finally, it did with a clean sprint to the finish line during a three-lap overtime period with Matt Kenseth claiming his second Daytona 500 win.
Kenseth, an often overlooked talent who has won a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship and 22 races in his career, simply buried his foot on the floor while Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave chase. Neither Biffle or Junior could even make a move to try to overtake Kenseth. That’s how strong he was.
But the bizarre nature of SpeedWeeks at Daytona caused you to think back. Unknown John King won the NASCAR Camping World Series race on Friday night while Plano’s James Buescher maneuvered through a last lap wreck to win Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
And then there was Danica. You would have sworn it was the Danica 500. If she wasn’t here, she was there. She was everywhere. All Danica, all the time, as America’s most recognized female athlete prepared for her NASCAR Sprint Cup debut. She ran in Thursday’s dual qualifying races, Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide race and then the Monday night/Tuesday morning’s Daytona 500. Three race, three wrecks. None, really, of her own doing. Welcome to NASCAR.
But the word “bizarre” is perhaps the most-used word about the first race of the 2012 NASCAR season.
Bizarre in that for the first time in the 53-year history of the Daytona 500, the race was postponed due to weather.
Bizarre in that of the three major races at Daytona, 87 of the 122 cars that raced were involved in a caution, according to NASCAR. That means 71 percent of the cars were damaged in some way. Some were repaired and thus returned to the track, but few got by without any damage.
Bizarre in that the race had a red flag delay of more than two hours after Juan Pablo Montoya's race car hit a jet-drier truck during a caution period. The truck, loaded with 200 gallons of jet fuel, erupted in an explosion. Not since the roof of the Metrodome collapsed under snow last year or an earthquake hit San Francisco's Candlestick Park moments before a game in the 1989 World Series have we seen such a bizarre sporting moment. Fortunately neither Montoya or the driver of the jet truck were injured.
Bizarre in that driver Brad Keselowski tweeted photos of the burning jet truck as he sat parked on the backstretch. Tweeting. During the race. From inside his car (but not while driving). What other sport? As the TV network showed his report and gave his @keselowski handle, the driver’s Twitter followers jumped from some 20,000 to more than 200,000. Amazing.
And then, bizarrely, nobody could pass Kenseth as he took the checkered flag and went directly to Daytona's Victory Lane. Winner. Again.
Sadly, Kenseth’s win comes less than a month after his mother died of dementia.
In 2009, Kenseth won a rain-shortened Daytona 500 that covered only 380 miles. With this morning’s overtime race, Kenseth ran 505 miles in winning the Daytona 500.
He’s the 2012 Daytona 500 champ. SpeedWeeks is over. Almost too much to remember.
So if you only recall one thing other than Kenseth’s triumph, remember the word: