Harry Hogg: “Okay, while we’re under caution I want you to go out and hit the pace car.”

Cole Trickle: “Hit the pace car?”

Harry Hogg: “Yeah, hit the pace car.”

Cole Trickle: “What for?”

Harry Hogg: “You hit every other goddamn thing out there I want you to be perfect!”

[Days of Thunder Clip]

That was from Days of Thunder where Robert Duval’s character was chiding Tom Cruise for his poor driving in a NASCAR race. I was reminded of those words after several replays of an initially horrendous appearing crash during the rain delayed Daytona 500 run on Monday night.

During a caution period about 43 laps in to the Daytona 500 Juan Pablo Montoya came on the radio telling his crew chief he felt like he had a vibration. He came around the track and there were sparks flying from under the car like he had a tire going down. The car spun sideways and he slid up the track and hit one of the Jet Dryers being used to clean the track. It caused a huge fireball initially then blew itself out. Montoya’s car was on fire and he was able to get safely out, because of the dryer being hot and there was jet fuel leaking on to the track the jet dryer caught fire again. [See Video] The crash caused a two-hour delay in a race that had already been delayed almost 36 hours for a training rain storm over Daytona Beach. Every driver was excited to get started and get the race going. With Phoenix next week, there couldn’t be too much more of a wait to get the season opener underway.

In it’s 54 year history the 500 has been rain shortened and rain delayed but never canceled. They were confident they would not have to cancel and would move heaven and hell to get the race in. Between the rain delays and Montoya’s Cole Trickle impersonation, the race that began around 7pm on Monday the 27th and ended after 1am on the 28th. It saw,as usual, a great race.

NASCAR reconfigured the cars to try and break up the big group of cars drafting around the track, but everyone found out that even two cars weren’t really that good together. In the end Matt Kenseth edged Dale Earnhardt Jr by .210 seconds. The Daytona 500 holds many different memories for many different people. I remember feeling the elation when Dale Earnhardt Sr won the 500 after 20 years of trying. I saw him lead the race on lap 199.5 and be in second on lap 200. He had cut a tire one year, ran out of fuel in another try and even hit a sea-gull one year taking him out of the lead. Then I remember watching the 2001 Daytona 500 when Dale was killed on the last lap. When Mike Helton. NASCAR President stood before the assembled press, raised his hand and said; “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have lost Dale Earnhardt.” It was a dark day and I have to admit I had lost some interest in watching NASCAR after that. My wife Michelle however got me back in to watching and I do enjoy it again. I like Dale Jr, Tony Stewart, Jeff, Jimmy, Mark Martin and those types of drivers. I hate the Busch Brothers and anyone who uses their cars as a lethal weapon. Of course that is what makes NASCAR what it is.

To conclude, the top 10 in the rain delayed Daytona 500 are as follows

1. Matt Kenseth

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr

3. Greg Biffel

4. Denny Hamlin

5. Jeff Burton

6. Paul Menard

7. Kevin Harvick

8. Carl Edwards

9. Joey Logano

10. Mark Martin

Congratulations to all the drivers and good luck to a great and safe season. I’ll blog more on up coming races and maybe have an on the scene report from one later in the season… Until then.