By Pete Pistone
COMPLETE COKE ZERO 400 RESULTS
COKE ZERO 400 RACE RECAP
Opinions about the new tandem drafting that is now the norm in restrictor plate racing vary.
Not surprisingly those views are impacted by a driver’s performance.
David Ragan, who won Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, for instance is a fan.
And why not? After suffering major heartbreak at last February’s Daytona 500 when his chance to win “The Great American race” went out the window when he was penalized for changing lanes before a restart, Saturday’s first career Sprint Cup win was sweep redemption for the Georgia driver.
“Sometimes it fits someone's driving style,” Ragan said after his historic victory. “I hated this place the first time I came down here because I didn't like that you could just hold it to the floor and ride around. But once I learned there is a strategy behind the racing, it's actually some of the most fun racing you'll take part in.
“So I had a blast tonight. The racecars are good that I drive. I've been fortunate to have good spotters that have coached me well.”
Then there’s Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s perspective.
Junior has been an outspoken critic of the pairs racing and clearly misses the old pack style of plate racing.
That opinion didn’t change after he was shuffled out of the lead draft in Saturday night’s overtime finishes.
“You guys need to get your own frickin' opinions and write what y'all think about it," Earnhardt said to the media gathered after he crawled from his car. "Because I think (those opinions are) pretty damn close to mine. So stop putting my damn foot in my mouth with y'all and getting my ass in trouble. Y'all write what y'all think, man. C'mon. Y'all are good. Y'all got an opinion about it; I read y'all's (blank).
Earnhardt and the Hendrick Motorsports team was questioned when teammate Jimmie Johnson, who had drafted with Junior all night long, pitted for fuel after the first overtime caution flag flew.
Earnhardt had no idea why the team’s strategy had shifted.
“I'm driving my car, do what I'm told," he said. "They decided to do something different. I can't run the whole damn thing from the seat of the damn racecar. I'm just doing what I'm told out there. I don't know how that affected us, if it did at all. It probably didn't."
There were 41 other drivers outside of Ragan and Earnhardt who had opinions about Saturday night’s racing.
It’s a pretty safe bet all were on one side or another.
There’s no place for anyone to be in the middle when it comes to restrictor plate racing.
On the heels of his dramatic Nationwide Series win Friday night at Daytona, Logano rebounded with a Top 5 run in the Sprint Cup Series effort. Back-to-back strong weekends for Logano should have his confidence rising as he tries to perform under scrutiny and speculation about his future at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Did Team Red Bull General Manager Jay Frye a major favor by hooking up with teammate Brian Vickers and keeping the stable’s pair of entries at the front of the field. Kahne came home fourth to help showcase the team’s potential for possible new investors and along the way notched up a few spots in the point standings.
As he did at Daytona during Speedweeks, Menard proved to be a worthy drafting partner to his Richard Childress Racing teammates and kept himself in the mix as a potential winner down the stretch.
The Cinderella story for Bayne ended early when the clock struck Midnight less than five laps into the race. Got caught by a shot from Brad Keselowski and then into the wall to fall from Daytona 500 winner to 43rd place four months later. A bitter pill for Bayne to swallow but yet another dip in a roller coaster season.
Came into the race as the points leader and poised to make up the one position that kept him from a Daytona 500 win in February. But was the victim of a bad push from teammate Greg Biffle as the duo raced off turn four and Edwards lost his shot at being a contender to win the race when he slammed the inside retaining wall.
Martin Truex Jr.
Spent plenty of time at the front of the field drafting with Michael Waltrip Racing teammate David Reutimann and looked like he’d be in the mix for the win. That is until the night’s first green-white-checkered finish and Truex was caught up in the “Big One” that left him with a destroyed Toyota and an animated description of his feelings.
(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)
“Guys, we'll make something out of this, even if it's just a finish! I appreciate you guys working!" – Carl Edwards after his early exit
“Junior, we're surrounded by a bunch of guys who don't do this all that often. We need to get the (blank) out of here." – Jimmie Johnson
“Morons! How stupid do you gotta be?!" – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"It's always somebody's fault but it's never my fault. I just get (blank-ing) destroyed. I'm tired of this (blank)." – Martin Truex Jr.
On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 a two. Restrictor plate racing has always been an acquired taste but the two-car drafting style is not a pleasant one for me. Since the advent of the tandem draft, races have been nothing more than pairs of cars riding around and swapping positions between one another until the very end when all hell then breaks loose. Sure the multi-car packs had many of the same elements. But whether you loved or hated them, the boredom factor was never an issue. It is now. Spending two-plus hours waiting for a demolition derby to decide the outcome is not the best kind of NASCAR “racing.”
DOWN THE ROAD
After years of waiting and clamoring for a Sprint Cup Series race the fans of Kentucky Speedway finally get their wish next Saturday night with the inaugural Quaker State 400. The race is already sold out and the buzz around NASCAR’s first appearance at the Bluegrass State track is sky high. Now the question is what kind of racing will the 1.5-mile track produce?
|More NASCAR coverage|