March 3, 2012
By Donalde z Smith
To say that the Daytona 500 finished in a spectacular manner would be an understatement.
Although NASCAR Race Mom (NRM) was in Florida; I was not there to attend the prestigious NASCAR opener at Daytona. I was in Orlando to attend the NBA All-Star game.
However, thanks to modern technology, namely my smart phone, NRM was able to follow both weekend events closely.
Photo from Matt Kenseth's Facebook page
Kenseth's Daughter Helps Daddy Celebrate
It was obvious all weekend that the Roush Fenway Fords were the “cream of the crop.” Roush Fenway drivers, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, helped kick off the Roush Fenway 25th Anniversary Season by sweeping the Daytona 500 front row on pole day. Biffle, who started the race second, finished third. Carl Edwards, who started the race on the pole, overcame a late accident to finish eighth.
The season could not have started better for Roush Fenway driver Matt Kenseth. The race winner started from the fourth position on the starting grid. Later in the race, Kenseth beat everyone off pit road at the start of lap 159; however, four drivers had remained on the track. Therefore, when Juan Pablo Montoya spun and crashed into a jet dryer* -- Kenseth was in fifth place.
Montoya’s crash resulted in a spectacular fire and the 200 gallons of burning jet fuel marred the track. No one was sure if that race would continue or be halted due to damage to the Daytona International Speedway surface and SAFER Barrier.
Everyone (with the possible exception of the top four drivers when Montoya hit the jet dryer -- Dave Blaney, Landon Cassill, Tony Raines and David Gilliland) wanted the race to end under the green. However, fuel is one of the worse things that can happen to a track.
NASCAR red-flagged the race as safety vehicles arrived on the scene to respond to the unforeseeable hazard of a burning jet dryer on the track. The fire safety crew was obviously prepared and the expertise to tackle the potential race ending danger was present.
The race resumed after over two hours of track repairs that included clearing the scene by hoisting the remains of the jet dryer on a tow truck with a boom to prevent further damage to the asphalt.
According to Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood, the fire safety crew took care of both the driver of the Jet Dryer and race car driver Juan Pablo Montoya; they suppressed the fire; applied quick dry/oil dry to soak up the spilled fuel; watered down the track; soaped the track (with Tide); then watered down the track again to remove any remaining soap; applied a street bond to insure that excess stone was covered; and dried the track with blowers; sweepers and jet dry.
Before the race could continue, the track had to be patched. Many feared that the patch would not hold; however, it did and the race continued.
Dodging three more wrecks, Kenseth’s Best Buy No. 17 demonstrated that a two car tandem was not the key for his second Daytona 500 win. To add to his amazing feat was the fact that he was “pushing water” the entire race and yet kept his car from overheating. Additionally Kenseth’s radio malfunctioned and his tachometer broke.
“Yeah, it feels great. We even went overtime a little bit since we didn't quite go the whole distance the first time we won it. Feels great," said Kenseth. "We had a really fast car all day, had a lot of adversity to overcome, a lot of problems with the car. We were able to get it figured out and had a great pit stop at the end that put us in position, and it feels great. I wasn't expecting to win when I woke up this morning, so it feels good to be sitting here.”
This writer was fortunate enough to meet Matt Kenseth -- twice last year. He was dedicated, knowledgeable and friendly. It is not a surprise to see him on top of the point standings. Mayhap 2012 will be his year. In 2003 Kenseth dominated in the point’s standings for almost the entire season and became the 2003 Cup Champion.
NASCAR Race Mom is sure that Jack Roush is pleased that his promise to run Kenseth’s No. 17 team, even if it remained unsponsored, has proven so rewarding! Kenseth’s Daytona 500 win represented the 300th NASCAR win and second triumph in the Daytona 500 for the Roush Fenway organization.
“It’s very fitting that Matt won the 300th victory here,” co-owner Jack Roush said. “It’s been quite a run. (Crew Chief) Jimmy Fennig has been with us most of the time and Matt has been with us most of the time as well.
"It’s great to celebrate our 300th win with the 54th Daytona 500. Of course, being Matt’s (and RFR’s) second 500 win makes it special as well.”
The Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup races last weekend saw a large number of race cars sidelined due to accidents. The fact that no-one was seriously injured demonstrates NASCAR’s determination to safety innovations. When they introduced the C.O.T, (Car Of Tomorrow), a few years ago, carefully designed improvements to enhance driver safety was their main motivation.
*Duane Barnes the driver of the Jet Dryer was taken to nearby Halifax Medical Center for further evaluation. The 52-year-old Barnes, of Addison, Mich., was one of two Michigan International Speedway employees working the Daytona 500.
Barnes returned to the track in time to see Matt Kenseth take the checkered flag.
If you would like to learn more about Donalde z Smith, please check out her web site at NASCAR Race Mom.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.