BY CHUCKS ENEIP
Since we have some big NASCAR fans on the Poor Scholars staff — I mean we cover wrestling, what did you expect? — we gave them a space to write about America’s favorite left-turning athletes. This week Poor Scholars’ Chucks Eneip recaps the Daytona 500, and an awkward exchange between Erin Andrews and 50 Cent.
The opening week of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NASCAR’s main event) season concluded Sunday with the Daytona 500 and, already, it looks to be a season of excitement. Rookie driver Danica Patrick took The Pole position in the time trials, followed by my personal favorite Jeff Gordon. Although Danica has raced in 10 Sprint Cup Series events, this is the first season we will see her race full-time in the series. She joins another rookie driver, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in battling for Rookie of the Year honors and the battle should see increased interest due to the recent news of their relationship.
The weekend began with much drama as a horrific crash on the final lap of Saturday’s Nationwide Series race left cars torn in half, barriers separating fans from the track destroyed and 28 fans injured — some critically. As of race time Sunday, five of the twelve admitted to Halifax Medical Center had been released and the remaining injured race-fans had been upgraded to non-life threatening injuries. Crews worked throughout the night to fix damages and the race began on time.
The twenty minutes leading up to the green flag could be the most interesting 20 minutes of television each and every week. One of the unique things about NASCAR is the seemingly unlimited access for fans and it is this access that makes it entertaining. The infield was swamped with people listening to the Zac Brown Band concert. There are so many people that it is hard to discern who works on a crew, or who is belligerently drunk trying to obtain as many autographs as possible. This year, drivers were announced from back to front as they walked out from tunnels spouting fireworks and epic battle music. After introductions, FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews looked completely lost trying to find Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick for pre-race interviews.
Luckily just before giving up on the shot and the sound-bite, Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) emerged from a herd of people to give her one of the most awkward kisses on the cheek ever recorded on camera.
After the invocation, Zac Brown Band member Clay Cook sang The National Anthem, and it was seriously not good. Rounding out the pre-race festivities was Grand Marshall, actor James Franco saying some of the most sacred lines in racing…and he ruined it. Franco yelled, “Driver and Danica, start your engines!!” and I truly am unsure whether he meant Gentlemen and Danica, or if he blatantly called Danica a non-driver. The green flag dropped with Darrell Waltrip’s traditional boogity boogity.
Green Flag – Gordon shot out of the gate and led until lap 32.
Lap 14 – Debut of an amazing new “gyro-cam” that shows the driver’s view as they hit banked turns reaching 31o.
Lap 33 – The first wreck of the race came on when Casey Kahne spun out, taking notables Montoya, Harvick, Stewart, Keslowski and 3 others with him.
Lap 90 – Danica Patrick re-took the lead and became the first woman to ever lead a lap in the Daytona 500 and the first to lead a lap in Sprint Cup history.
Lap 63 – The second wreck occurred when 2011 Daytona winner Trevor Bane as well as the entire Front Row Motorsports team were taken out.
Laps 149/151/175 – Toyota proves their factory sucks. Race leader Matt Kenseth had smoke billowing out from his car from a blown engine and after two more laps the same issue occurred with Kyle Busch. The two Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota drivers had felt vibrations in their cars earlier in the race. Martin Truex Jr., another Toyota driver, blew his engine out with 25 laps to go.
Final Lap – A large wreck in the middle of the pack restricted the driving of nearly half of the field. Jimmy Johnson won the race holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. in an exciting finish that saw Danica Patrick drop from third to eighth; but her finish is the highest finish for a female ever at the Daytona 500. Junior’s second place finish is his third in the last four races, proving his “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” status. Mark Martin, in his 29th Daytona 500, rounded out the top three.
The Daytona 500 did not disappoint this year and hopefully the remainder of the season will be just as exciting. Poor Scholars will be back throughout the season to fulfill all of your NASCAR needs. Next weekend the series moves to Phoenix for the Subway Fresh Fit 500.