Daytona 500: Hamlin wins, Gordon wins, NASCAR wins!

For the record, I don’t dislike NASCAR, I just don’t watch it as much as I used to back in the late 90’s when I was, admittedly, a Jeff Gordon fan and in those days, you had to watch your back if you said that publicly.

I started watching NASCAR with my friend Dave back in the mid-90’s and as a newcomer to the sport, I liked Ernie Irvan quite a lot and this new kid named Jeff Gordon who seemed to me a guy who had massive talent and should have been in F1.

Back then the racing was a lot of fun to watch and being a Gordon fan, I had to deal with a lot of blowback from Earnhardt fans but that’s what racing is about. Every sport needs a villain. Over the years, NASCAR got so huge and changed so much that it had lost my interest by 99-2000 and I was done with the series because I was following F1 so closely that I really couldn’t give both series the attention they deserved.

Hamlin Daytona 500 2016

NASCAR, like F1, is consuming when you want to follow every nuance of the sport and I only had time for one of them. Formula 1 won the race for my attention. You can’t shake a stick without hitting a NASCAR news outlet, blogger or soothsayer and I really wasn’t adding much to that conversation.

One could argue that I add nothing to the F1 conversation either but regardless, I do try. While the Daytona 24 has always signaled the beginning of race season for me, I have always had time for the Daytona 500 because it’s NASCAR’s crown jewel, like Monaco is to F1, and this year’s race was tremendous.

The race itself was a great show and caution-free to the end and not laced with competition cautions and silly nonsense that NASCAR has become known for. They let the race unfold as it may and didn’t feel the need to play Lord Hamfist on the proceedings. What they got in return was an outstanding race. Imagine that.

The fan favorite, Dale Earnhardt Jr, came up short but it was still a terrific race between the Joe Gibbs cars and Denny Hamlin gave the team its first 500 win in 23 years. Denny knows how to plate race. Denny moved out with one lap to go and while his teammate, Matt Kenseth, tried to block him, he pulled a gutsy maneuver and cut back down between Matt and Martin Truex Jr. for the win—a win by 0.011 which is the closest in Daytona 500 history. Toyota took the top five spots.

Jeff Gordon

As a fan of Jeff’s for many years (I’m very biased), I have to say that he is as good out of the car as he is in the car. Jeff has taken to broadcast commentary like a NASCAR driver to a track. He offered incredibly current race strategy insight as well as driving insight and his predictions were spot on. He read the race as it unfolded and knew exactly what was going on.

No offense to DW but having current and relevant race experience is a huge boost to any broadcast. The cars behave differently than when DW drove and Jeff knows that and shared much of it with the audience. It didn’t pander to the least common denominator, didn’t repeat itself and was always digging deeper into the sport and unpacking the nuance.

There was no, “sometimes it rains on one part of the track and not the other” types of dog-eared insight that seems to permeate other broadcasts. Jeff was digging in and even anticipating what the drivers would do and how they would read situations. When listening to team radio, he’d parse the conversation and explain what they really meant. It was bottled lightning to be honest.

Believe what you will but for me, Jeff is a huge asset to the broadcast of NASCAR and NASCAR’s ability to stay the heck out of the race and let them actually race was a very welcome sight. The race was incredibly fun to watch and listen to and I haven’t felt that in a decade.

Well done Fox Sports, NASCAR and Jeff Gordon for giving me hope that NASCAR may save itself and throw the chains of overblown marketing hype and sheer silliness off for the true love of actual racing with commentary that matches the task. Not pandering or patronizing your audience but speaking intelligently about the nuances of NASCAR and what makes it great, not seeking the least common denominator and trying to continually be seeker-sensitive.

Let’s hope NBC Sports was taken notes this year and it manifests itself in the F1 broadcast.

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Paul KieferJr

1. I never thought I’d see the day when you write about NASCAR. :-D
2. Gordon was a natural on the commentary. Well paced, nice even tone, good explanations. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
3. That is definitely the way a Daytona 500 should finish. That’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime event. Also, kudos to Martin Truex, Jr. for giving it everything he had. He has nothing to be ashamed of. That was a battle that lots of people will remember.

Negative Camber

LOL…there was a day, Paul, when I didn’t miss a race. That was a long time ago but still, I have tremendous respect for the sport. I like F1 and road racing much better but still, NASCAR is a terrific sport with great drivers.

Shawn

Not cool man, please don’t put results in your title. I thought it was safe to go to an f1 site (GP today) and not get a race spoiler…. My mistake :( sounds like it was a great race though, I’ll still have to flick through it.

Negative Camber

When social media was in its infancy, people used to get upset about spoilers (and still do) but it’s a 24/7 real-time medium as are websites and any social media or digital content online. Avoiding spoilers is a noble cause, don’t get me wrong, but in the end, it is something that isn’t very realistic in today’s digital world and the way that marketing companies have chosen to monetize content. The two causes aren’t compatible sadly. I am sure it’s no surprise to you that much of our social media content is only commented on by the titles such is… Read more »

dude

Once someone got upset because I spoiled a result of a race happened a decade ago, I want to smack them in the face.

Roger Flerity

I stopped watching NASCAR when they abandoned the use of stock sheet metal to build the car up from – with homologation rules blocking customs and one-off specials. From the whole car built from salvaged street cars, to stripped cars from the OEMs, then body in white only, then roof and rear quarters with floor, then it was just roof/rear quarters, then roof, then… and now… nothing on these cars has anything to do with stock anything. Toyota makes not one V8 rear drive sedan or coupe, nor do they make a 5.7L pushrod V8.. yet they are legitimate NASCAR… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

There was a time when all the car manufacturers threatened to walk out because the “Car of Tomorrow” and other contraptions were too generic. There was no way to salvage brand identity, which was the foundation of NASCAR. Now there’s some differences that shows some brand identity. You see the Toyota Camry, the Chevy SS and the Ford Fusion. Would like to see Dodge get back in the game with its Charger and/or Challenger.

TheWeightTransfer

On MRN’s monday radio show last week the topic of Fiat-Chrysler came up and they said that at this point Honda is more likely to be in NASCAR than Dodge is, that the’re just happy their company is still in business.

Tom Firth

I didn’t realise this article… I watched the race on Sunday like most of you, and whilst I was watching, I was talking to Andy (Frantic) on Skype and overall we both watched the whole race, and thought the ending was fun and enjoyable, but disagreed a little on the race quality up to that point. I didn’t find it to be that memorable personally, however like Todd, I really don’t like the direction NASCAR has taken with gimmicks to spice up the show, and from that perspective, I did enjoy the race and thought it was rather good, that… Read more »

Tom Firth

I wrote a lot… oops. Sorry to all the TL:DR people!

Schmorbraten

I missed the race and wasn’t going to rewatch it, but after this article I probably will – a good commentary makes or breaks sport events for me, and I always considered Jeff Gordon to be a very smart and likeable guy.

Tom Firth

I think it’s Monday that NASCAR will officially upload it in HD.