Feb 23, 2014; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) leads NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Denny Hamlin (11) on the last restart during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Speed Weeks A Huge Success For NASCAR And Junior Nation


I don’t know about you, but I liked what I saw out of all of the three major NASCAR Divisions during 2014 Speed Weeks at The Daytona International Speedway. The new trucks, the spoiler package for the Sprint Cup cars, and lot of new talent coming up through the Nationwide Series. And hey..the sport’s most popular driver gets his first win since 2012. Everyone went home happy!

I was very pleased with the on-track performance of the Gen6 car in the Sprint Cup circuit on the restrictor plate tracks, and now can’t wait until May for the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega. The Sprint UnLimited, Budweiser Duels, and the Daytona 500 all provided good door to door racing that included drafting, passing, and exciting finishes.

The car was just unstable enough to provide a lot of action in the two and three wide packs, and was able to provide wreck fans some pile ups along the way. You now cannot tune in for the last 10 laps to see the best part of a race, you have to watch the entire race.

We will have to take a wait-and-see approach to the remainder of the tracks on the schedule in order to rate the changes. The test will start this upcoming weekend at Phoenix, and by the time we get to late March, and Martinsville, we should have a good idea how this thing will perform on all sizes of tracks.

The speciality tracks like Darlington, Pocono and Indianapolis always seem to provide their own brand of excitement. The real test comes at ho-hum tracks like Texas, Kansas, Chicagoland, and California. Hopefully NASCAR can make the right calls to provide the same level of excitement we saw at Daytona.

I would love to see this car in a Sprint Cup race at Rockingham. I know that will probably not happen again in my lifetime, but one can always hope.

Not only did the new spoiler package provide us with great door to door racing at Daytona, but is also provided some of the closest finishes in history. Every race was a drag race off of turn four to the Checkered Flag and needing to see the replay for the winner. It doesn’t get any better than that.

The Daytona 500 was rain-delayed, but the finale’ was well worth waiting for, especially if you belong to Junior Nation. Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans alike went home happy after the long day and seeing their hero win his second Great American Race. His first Sprint Cup win since the Quicken 400 at Michigan in 2012.

Little E was like a kid after winning the first race of the new season. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the son of Dale Earnhardt so happy. The job that Crew Chief on the #88 National Guard Chevy, Steve Letarte has done with Jr, is in my opinion the one major reason for the turn around we have seen in the past two years.

I expect Dale Jr. to be very competitive during the 2014 season, and am sorry to see Letarte is moving on after this season to broadcasting. He has worked wonders with Junior’s attitude and I also am expecting the pair to challenge for a championship in 2014.

You can follow Les on Twitter @Spin_47

Tags: Dale Earnhardt Jr Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series