Sunday, February 26, 2017

Roush And Reed Get Lighter At Daytona

NASCAR's Busch/Xfinity Series debuted a lighter downforce package and wound up raising more of the same questioning that has permeated NASCAR for the longest time as Daytona's Powershares 300 exploded and for the second time in three years Ryan Reed stole the win.

The two Daytona wins are the unquestioned highlight of a youngster whose overall career has yet to truly take off, with just eleven top-tens in 106 starts - though what this says about Roush Racing's collapse as a NASCAR power, especially since taking in John Henry as a team partner, is also worth keeping in mind.

The racing proved to be very competitive - when it appeared several times it would be an Elliott Sadler romp the yellows and the draft rolled back up and pushed into a spirited fight for the lead - but NASCAR's obsessions with loose racecars, stifling push-drafting (seeming to ignore of course that the drivers keep at it given it's the strongest power to pass one can ever get), and lack of downforce (the lightness of the cars and the shape of the bumpers of course is alluded to by Kevin Harvick above) bit in a big way as half the field failed to finish and the yellow flew a whopping ten times all told, with two red flags by the 30th lap.

Of course drivers cannot be let anywhere off the hook for causing these wrecks, best shown here when Scott Lagasse - who finished sixth, continuing a Speedweeks trend of eye-opening darkhorses grabbing quality efforts and results - tried to kick Tyler Reddick in the Ganassi-SABCO Chevy for a field goal; Spencer Gallagher wound up being one of some twenty swept up entering Three - you could call it a costly, unwanted, and futile Cris Dishman imitation blocking a kick.  

The wrecks didn't end there - Daniel Hemric didn't impress anyone at the end of the first race segment as he got involved in the next big melee.  

When it was all over the above-mentioned Speedweeks trend of eye-opening darkhorses showcased numerous quality finishes and also quality runs snuffed out by one reason or another.   Consider good old "Smut" Means and driver Joey Gase finishing seventh - old-school NASCAR fans remember Jimmy Means as the ultimate hard-luck independent, his #52 always there, always sporting as much of a quality preparation as his seemingly-perennial limited resources could allow.   Consider also Garrett Smithley and Harrison Rhodes in Johnny Davis' Chevrolets (teammate Ross Chastain was less fortunate), both quietly grabbing the top ten.    While 14th may not be that spectacular, Michael Annett's 14th after major damage constitutes something he shouldn't be ashamed of - especially given how seriously injured he was in 2013's running.

NASCAR's bonus point structure for race stages made its Busch Series debut and as in the Truck 250 the previous night Segment Two was the calmer of the first two.   In all it was somewhat hard to gauge how much more incentivized the drivers were to lead simply because the race flow was so ragged in Segment One - nonetheless it's clear the concept has indeed added needed incentive to go for the front and sooner rather than later.  

So for the coming Atlanta NASCAR weekend racing has some answers regarding NASCAR's new bonus point structure - and reason for optimism for better competition as a result down the road.   As for the Xfinity Series as well as their Truck brethren it was another slam-bang Speedweeks, another exercise in opportunity and frustration.

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