Saturday night’s Bud Shootout was an interesting race, and for me, at least, entertaining as well.
The racing itself was good, what I would consider to be an improvement over last year’s race. There was quite a bit of passing, especially back in the pack, and the larger restrictor plates appeared to allow greater throttle response than in past plate races. This all adds up to more exciting racing.
Kudos have to go to NASCAR as well for retracting the rules for bump drafting. Any driver who gets pushed too hard into a corner is gong to complain about it, but it just makes for better racing when the drivers are free to bump and bang a little. Drivers at the Sprint Cup level are among the best in the world, and if they couldn’t handle a little physical contact, they would be doing something else for a living.
The bottom line is that the changes that NASCAR has made for racing at Daytona appear to promise a good Daytona 500 on Sunday. A better race means fans see a better product, and that’s really the most important priority.
Congratulations to Kevin Harvick, who, after being sick much of the week, pulled out the win on Saturday in a car in which he had not driven one practice lap. Perhaps Richard Childress Racing will turn a corner in performance in 2010 and get back to victory lane in the points racing.
One major disappointment was the performance of the 88 Chevy, driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. After running strong for a few laps, the 88 car faded back and Dale Jr. was complaining about a problem that plagued his team’s efforts in 2009. In Junior’s words, the car was “wrecking loose.” Though the Shootout is only the first race of the season, and fortunately carries no points considerations, the Junior Nation has to be somewhat dismayed by the handling problems on Saturday night. It’s not time to panic yet, however. Dale Jr. will be starting on the outside pole on Sunday, so he’s definitely got the horsepower to get to the front. Hopefully crew chief Lance McGrew and the team will get a better handle on the handling problems by Sunday.
With the Budweiser Shootout out of the way, and the twin qualifying races coming up later in the week, it finally feels like the long off season is indeed over.
I, for one, couldn’t be happier.