It’s Daytona 500 Day. The Great American Race. NASCAR’s biggest event of the year. Soon after this is posted, forty drivers will take the green flag hoping for the biggest win of their career.
See, much like winning the Super Bowl gets a football player a legacy, winning the Daytona 500 ensures NASCAR immortality. Stock car racing started on the shores of Daytona Beach decades ago, and the building of Daytona International Speedway and the start of the Daytona 500 set NASCAR on course to being one of America’s biggest sporting institutions. No matter how much the sport changes, the Daytona 500 is a link to its past that can’t be broken.
And there are many, many, many changes this season. The Cup Series has a new sponsor continuing the tradition of highly addictive products using NASCAR for advertising. We’ve gone from cigarettes to cell phones to energy drinks. Monster Energy is bringing its branding to the Cup Series, and the main difference we’ve noticed so far is more scantly-clad women.
The usual suspects are complaining, but at least you notice the women now. During the Nextel/Sprint days they were wearing fire suits and you couldn’t tell the difference between them and the rest of the crew members in victory lane. Horrible product placement. Monster wants its brand to stand out, and that’s exactly what it does in that presentation.
It’s good for business. Good for America too, if I say so myself.
NASCAR has also remodeled its point system. Yes, again. And this time they’ve gone all in. Races will be in three segments and drivers will receive points for their place in each one. Drivers like this because a late-race blown engine or wreck won’t ruin their day. Fans are mostly confused, but there will be positive aspects. We should notice some in today’s race…you won’t see guys hanging back in the pack until the end of the race. They’ll be going towards the front right away. I think it will ultimately make for more exciting racing, if confusing the first few weeks.
Drivers you won’t be seeing this year include Tony Stewart & Carl Edwards. Stewart had his long retirement tour last season while Cousin Carl decided to retire during last off-season. Count me as somebody that appreciates Carl’s way, even if it results in less merchandise sales. It’s surprising as Edwards didn’t seem to be going downhill in performance. He has other things to do.
Clint Bowyer replaces Stewart in the 14 car. You may remember Bowyer from when Michael Waltrip Racing was making the Chase & getting caught doing things every team does. He’s done very little since then. The 14 hasn’t been great the last couple of years either, so maybe the change will help both parties.
Daniel Suarez becomes the first Mexican-born driver to race in the Daytona 500 today. He replaces the retired Edwards in the 19 car, and I’m sure NASCAR fans have taken to this change very well, just as they’ve accepted Toyota as a carmaker & other foreign entities with open arms.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be back! The most popular driver in racing, Junior missed most of last season due to concussion problems. He’s back as a new man with a new sense of purpose. Will it lead to him finally reaching the summit of the sport and winning a championship? He admits he doesn’t have many seasons left so now would be the time.
These are all interesting stories. But let’s be honest. With March Madness on the way, followed by the NBA & NHL playoffs, some baseball and then of course FOOTBALL SEASON, most of us won’t have time to keep up with all of them. So to make things easier, I’m going to distill the 2017 NASCAR season into one sentence:
Jimmie Johnson will win the championship.
There. I just saved you ten months.