Good racing despite pothole

Published 8:58 pm Friday, February 19, 2010

In what most likely will be known as “The Pot Hole” race, Jamie McMurray earned a bit of vindication last weekend at Daytona. McMurray, in his first race at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in the Bass Pro Shop car, won the Daytona 500 by edging out Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a great finish.

Junior Nation was on its collective tiptoes during the final lap of the race, on the second attempt for a green-white-checkered finish. From 10th place to second over the final two-plus miles of the race is what Junior is supposed to do at Daytona.

Despite starting the race a smidge after 1 p.m. EST, the race still ended under the lights, thanks to two red flags totaling more than two hours to repair a hole that developed in the track between Turns 1 and 2. Despite that little snafu, I thought the racing was great and hopefully, a sign of things to come throughout the season.

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I must say that the response of the competitors during the race surprised me. Not usually ones to hide their feelings about such competitive matters, the drivers interviewed during the telecast were unexpectedly understanding, if not subdued about the track problems. Remember the uproar from the drivers when the Las Vegas track was repaved? There were no reactions like that this time.

In fact, many of the drivers made the point that they hoped the track would be repaired without a total repaving. They like the racing the way it is at Daytona.

The track has not been repaved since 1978 and although nothing like this has ever happened at Daytona, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Asphalt is not a permanent material and I would say that 32 years is a pretty good life expectancy. The hole in the track has been repaired with a large square of concrete and there should be no issues going into the next race at Daytona in July.

Back to McMurray, you have to give the guy credit. The odd man out at Roush Fenway Racing last year when that bunch was forced to shrink from five teams to four by NASCAR mandate, he made a deal with EGR at the last minute and got a pretty good ride.

Chip Ganassi is the guy that brought McMurray up to cup racing to replace an injured Sterling Marlin in 2002, the year he won his first cup race at Charlotte. That would be the only race he would win with Ganassi until last week at the Daytona 500. In 2006, McMurray joined Roush Fenway Racing, winning two races in four years before being squeezed out last season.

This win at Daytona could revitalize his career and, with Juan Pablo Montoya as his teammate, springboard EGR to a fairly competitive season.

Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, California is the second, and next, race on the schedule. Look for Carl Edwards to accomplish two big feats in the coming days. First, becoming a father for the first time and second, winning at California.