Never let it be said that NASCAR doesn’t know how to make the seasons interesting. And the first race of 2013, the Daytona 500, is its biggest and certainly lived up to much of the hype; with a historical event that featured new cars, the most famous driver, the winningest active champion and a wild finish. But … the race was boring.
The new cars looked different from each other for a change and that certainly is a good thing. These Generation 6 racecars appeared to be the best thing NASCAR has done in a while and their new shapes have eliminated the dreaded two-by-two drafting. However, we’ll get back to that.
The race featured a historical moment which will undoubtedly be followed by more historical events with a certain driver who arguably is the most famous racecar driver in the United States, if not the world. Danica Patrick was already in the record books for the first female to win a pole position in NASCAR and now she has added another first by leading a lap. In fact, Patrick ended up leading two laps and then again three laps later for a total of five record-making laps during mid-race around Daytona International Speedway.
The Daytona 500 was won by five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson who led the last ten laps, holding off the reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and another superstar, Dale Earnhardt Jr., along with long-time NASCAR great Mark Martin. This load of talent created for an interesting ending that at least made the finish exciting. Yeah, but that leads us back to the new car.
This Gen 6 version doesn’t make for very exciting racing, unless you like watching cars follow each other for 500 miles. It’s not like Cup racing hasn’t had trouble with boring races before, but this racing exhibition was awful. Mile after mile after boring mile, drivers preferred to follow rather than risk trying an inside groove that usually forced them back to the back of the pack. Whether it was the small rear spoiler, the flatter front end or something else, the cars seem destined to follow each other with little chance of making that second groove work.
Realizing that in part for safety reasons, NASCAR has broken up the big pack racing, which at times has endeared stock car fans to NASCAR, but there was little racing going on for much of this Daytona 500. Pack racing may not be popular with the drivers but it’s better than what was witnessed Sunday.
Remembering the good — but get rid of the bad
In the end, the 2013 Daytona 500 will be remembered for Danica Patrick’s achievements and ‘Five-time’ holding off a slew of gifted drivers to win his second Daytona 500 in his 400th Sprint Cup race. Johnson’s other Daytona 500 win was in 2006 – a season which eventually led Jimmie to the first of five championships in-a-row.
However, if not for a little excitement at the end, the usual pileups and a woman leading the pack during NASCAR’s biggest race, the Daytona 500 may have gone down in the history books as the most boring. More work to the Gen 6 car will be needed to avoid further dreadful displays of racing in the future.