Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

MR. NASCAR: A Few Observations from Daytona

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

MR. NASCAR: A Few Observations from Daytona

Article excerpt

Since pre-race hype for the Daytona 500 seemed never-ending, I guess it's excusable for the post-race hangover to linger just a little bit longer. Here are some takeaways from the weekend:

n Joe Gibbs Racing is the clear No. 1 in the sport right now. It has Denny Hamlin as the Daytona 500 champ, Kyle Busch as defending Sprint Cup champ and four drivers who were in the Chase last year. As historically strong as Hendrick Motorsports has been, it amassed only nine victories in 2015, compared to 14 for JGR.

Look at it this way: Chose a fantasy racing team with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards or Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott.

I rank the top seven teams as: 1. JGR. 2. Hendrick Motorsports. 3. Penske Racing (Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano). 4. Stewart-Haas Racing (Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick). 5. Richard Childress Racing (Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Paul Menard). 6. Roush Fenway Racing (Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse). 7. Richard Petty Motorsports (Brian Scott, Aric Almirola).

What a fall for Roush Fenway, which has lost Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth in recent years and where Biffle has won only once since Aug. 19, 2012.

-- Hamlin's win was a watershed moment for Toyota, which got off to a miserable debut a decade ago when Michael Waltrip Racing was caught wildly cheating before Toyota's inaugural Daytona race. The company didn't win a race until Gibbs began racing Toyotas in 2008, but even then JGR used its own engines for four years.

"It was a long, tough slog," said TRD president David Wilson. But Sunday brought a win in "the single biggest race in our company's history."

-- Daytona Rising, the $400 million renovation of Daytona International Speedway, was impressive. It's still the same place, but just a lot nicer. Bigger seats, large concourses, TVs everywhere, convenient food and beverage service (so you can buy that $8 beer instead of bringing in a $7 six-pack). There is more to do for fans, all the better considering the early arrivals to avoid traffic. Mostly, it's a lot fancier suites and amenities for top- dollar fans.

-- NASCAR now moves to Atlanta Motor Speedway. …

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