Thursday, February 23, 2012

The engines have fired

I am a native of Chicago, IL, but I am a gear head.

Yep, I love me some NASCAR.

And I will be on the couch Sunday watching the season opening Daytona 500 like millions of other race fans. Some thoughts after watching the Gatorade Duels on Thursday.

  • I like the return of pack racing, but I am also ready to see the tandems show up at the end of the race. It's just the nature of these cars. The drivers seemed to be a bit wary of the packs, and I think Darrell Waltrip has it right. The decrease in spoiler height makes the cars a bit more unstable. Good for the fans who want to see those close calls, but white knuckle time for the guys behind the wheel.

  • I am still not sold on Danica Patrick's success in stock cars, but she sold me on her ability, and guts Thursday. On the final lap of the first Duel, Patrick was in the wrong place at the wrong time, a victim of some inner-pack shuffling. Aric Almirola got shoved into the side of her car, and Patrick absorbed a violent impact on the inside retaining wall (properly covered with SAFER barrier). Patrick's hit was a passenger side strike, which was a good thing, but her in-car camera showed her releasing the steering wheel before the impact. Sure, lots of drivers do that, but for the spotlight on her constantly, she is showing herself to be far better than her critics are giving her credit for. Good on her, and glad she wasn't injured.

  • Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth won the Duels respectively, and I wouldn't be surprised if Stewart wins the 500 on Sunday. I know, going out on a limb there, but if it's not Stewart, then give be.....Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Yep, the 88 ran pretty well Thursday, and wasn't really trying to show too much. There is a renewed sense of vigor in Dale Jr., something I picked up on during the pre-season media blitz. This might be a good one for him to win, and rejuvenate his fan base. Not they need much of a boost, anyway.

Needless to say, this is just one race. There will be 25 others before the Chase gets underway, and I am looking forward to enjoying as many laps of it as I can.


Mike Solarte

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