I don't often try my hand at poetry, but I was inspired to pen a modest limerick in honor of the 2011 Daytona 500 winner.
There was a young racer named Trevor
Who at drafting was terribly clever
And he drafted so good
For the brothers named Wood
That now he'll be famous forever.
Yes, Trevor Bayne, just one day out of his teens, became the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 in just his second Sprint Cup start. And that was just one of many records set last Sunday. Records also were set for the most cautions and the most lead changes, as two-car drafts swapped the lead constantly, while wrecks and blown engines slowed the pace frequently. The other two NASCAR races also had storybook finishes, with Michael Waltrip winning his first Camping World Truck race on the 10th anniversary of his first Daytona 500 win, and Tony Stewart nipping Clint Bowyer in the closest finish in Nationwide series history, .007 seconds. And, TV ratings were up for the 500 with the largest audience since 2008.
This weekend the NASCAR circus moves to the flat one-mile oval at Phoenix, a very different proposition from Daytona's high banks. Camping World trucks ran Friday night, the Nationwide series race will be televised on ESPN2 at 2:30 p.m. this afternoon and Fox will air the Cup race Sunday beginning at 11:30 a.m. with the green flag scheduled for noon.
This will be the last race on Phoenix Raceway's venerable track surface. When the teams return in the fall, they will have new asphalt to race on, a wider front stretch and dogleg, new pit boxes, and variable banking in the turns to promote side-by-side racing.
A couple of NASCAR's rule changes for the 2011 season have already come into play.
Carl Edwards, who finished second at Daytona, leads the Sprint Cup points because winner Bayne has declared the Nationwide series as his points-scoring venue. Reed Sorenson, who finished fourth at Daytona, was the first of the Nationwide-declared drivers, and so he leads the points in that series. And Camping World truck series Daytona winner Waltrip is a declared Sprint Cup driver and second-place Elliott Sadler is a Nationwide points driver, so the points lead in that series falls to third-place finisher Clay Rogers. And the new points system of 43 to win down to 1 point for 43rd has put a number of drivers including most of 2010's Chase contenders behind the 8-ball. Poor finishes for Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Burton have left them in a big hole points-wise. Johnson has probably the best chance to dig himself out at Phoenix, having won four of the last seven races at the desert track.
I find it interesting that only 41 drivers have declared that they are running for Sprint Cup points, even though 43 cars will start every race. There are 47 drivers running for Nationwide points, and 54 declared for the Camping World Truck series. Some of the 41 Sprint Cup points contenders are part-timers (Waltrip for one), and a number of them are "go or go home" racers who are not locked into starting positions by virtue of their points standings.
In other racing news, Formula 1 fans will have to wait a bit longer for their season to begin. Due to political unrest, the season opener at Bahrain is officially off with a possibility of it being rescheduled for Nov. 20, between Abu Dhabi and Brazil. When the season does get going, Renault star Robert Kubica will be missing, recovering from a horrific rallying accident. Doctors say it will be three months before it can be determined whether he will be fit to race again. F1 veteran Nick Heidfeld will replace Kubica on the Renault team for at least the first part of the season.
And for you straight-line racing fans, the 60th anniversary of the National Hot Rod Association season will be carried live on ESPN3.com, and seen on a same-day delay basis on ESPN2. This weekend the Kragen O'Reilly Winternationals in Pomona will kick off the season with a special tribute to Don "the Snake" Prudhomme.