Posted on: February 28, 2012 11:45 am
Edited on: February 28, 2012 1:10 pm

Matt Kenseth hopes Daytona jumps starts season

By Pete Pistone


Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth is counting on his win in the biggest race of the season to propel him to even better things this 2012 Sprint Cup Series campaign.

Kenseth told SIRIUS/XM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive" program he's also hoping for better things this time around after winning "The Great American Race" when he followed that with another win the next week in Fontana, only to miss the Chase.

Kenseth is on a whirlwind media blitz this week that will see him fly to New York, Dallas (where he'll take part in a ceremony at tonight's Dallas Mavericks game) and then Los Angeles before finally settling in Phoenix, where the Cup Series competes this weekend.

Daytona Speedweeks

Posted on: February 28, 2012 1:38 am
Edited on: February 28, 2012 3:20 am

Speed Read: Daytona 500

By Pete Pistone

  Matt Kenseth, Driver Of The #17 Best Buy Ford, Poses
(Kenseth celebrated his second career Daytona 500 win to cap a wild night - Getty Images)


The 24 Hours of Daytona is annually held in January.

It only felt like it was part of this week’s stock car portion of Speedweeks in Daytona.

A first-time rain out in its 54 year history and a bizarre fire that halted the race for more than two hours were just part of wackiness in this year’s running of “The Great American Race.”

The off-season controversy of whether tandem racing or pack drafting would be the order of the day in the wake of NASCAR’s many rule changes took a back seat to a race filled with weirdness, crashes and in the end a second time winner.

Matt Kenseth held off – or some believe was pushed by – teammate Greg Biffle to score Daytona 500 victory number two, a follow-up to his 2009 rain-abbreviated trip to victory lane.

“I could get a pretty good start on the bottom and either Denny or Dale Jr. could push me for awhile and then they just couldn’t stay attached and I would get away from them just in time to get in front of Greg and the two of us together could make some unbelievable speed,” Kenseth said. “I have to thank Greg. We worked together really good all day long. He had a really fast car all day as well.” 

Kenseth had to overcome troubles of his own including a busted radio that wouldn’t allow him to communicate with his own crew.

But the dry Wisconsin native actually believes that may have been beneficial.

“We had a lot of problems and almost ended up a lap down,” he said. “I had my radio break and my tach break and we pushed all the water out and had to come in and put water in it. These guys did a great job. They never panicked and I think they enjoyed their day more because they couldn’t hear me on the radio with my radio problems.”

However when historians looks back at the 2012 Daytona 500 it won’t be Kenseth’s wit, radio problems, assistance from his teammate or adding another Harley J. Earl trophy to his collection they’ll remember.

No this year’s Daytona 500 will go down in history as the one with fire and rain, when NASCAR held its biggest race on a Monday night in prime time thanks to Mother Nature.

All that was missing was a full moon



Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Kicked off his 2012 with a second place finish, a far cry from when a cut tire ruined his Daytona 500 of a year ago. Earnhardt said all week long how much more comfortable he was in the old pack style of racing at Daytona and it showed. Came within a position of finally ending his long winless drought but added to his already solid confidence level.

Denny Hamlin

His first outing with new crew chief Darian Grubb resulted in a Top 5 finish and had to provide the Joe Gibbs Racing driver with a much-needed shot of confidence. Hamlin desperately needs to put last year’s disappointing season behind as quickly as possible and his Daytona effort is a big help in that department.

Paul Menard

He was involved in two crashes this week and ripped NASCAR for manipulating the rules to bring back pack drafting. But Menard recovered from those earlier altercations to notch a solid Top 10 finish, one of three Richard Childress Racing entries to do so.


Jimmie Johnson

The quest to get back to the top of the Sprint Cup point standings and start a new championship winning streak got off to a rocky start. First the 48 car failed pre-race inspection and crew chief Chad Knaus faces a possible suspension later this week. Then Johnson crashed on only the second lap of the race sweeping up several others in the melee that has put the five-time champ in a pretty big hole with only one race in the book.

Danica Patrick

Her much-anticipated first full season in NASCAR began with three different crashes, although none of her own doing. Patrick was clipped by other cars in her Gatorade Duel accident, turned by teammate Cole Whitt in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race wreck and then clipped by Johnson in the lap two Daytona 500 pile-up. Her mettle will be tested early and it may be a relief for Patrick to simply have her Nationwide program to concentrate on for the next few weeks.

Kurt Busch

The new phase of his career ultimately ended up with a poor finish and another crash for Busch, an unfortunate similar fate experienced earlier in the week. Busch showed perseverance in finishing the race for the Phoenix Racing team despite being several laps down but one of his best chances to perform well – at a restrictor plate track – went by the wayside and the reality of the grueling Cup schedule is now about to set in.


(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)

"The thing that comes in my mind is NASCAR just can't catch a break. We've had some unfortunate things happen." – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"They're going to wreck again." – Carl Edwards

"It burned the helmet and everything." – Juan Pablo Montoya after his fiery crash with a jet dryer

“That's the Tasmanian Devil! Mr. Ambrose got him." – Crew Chief Steve Letarte pointing out who spun out Terry Labonte


On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I'll give Monday night’s Daytona 500 a three. There are things out of even NASCAR’s control with weather and fire certainly near the top of the list. Not much anyone can do when Mother Nature decides to intervene and there isn’t a person on earth who could have predicted the bizarre fire scene between Juan Pablo Montoya and the jet dryer. As for the racing itself, it pretty much lived up to what was expected since Speedweeks began with a combo of tandem racing, single file competition and a mad dash to the checkered flag. Unfortunately I’m not sure any of that will erase the memory of a rain-delayed race that took more than six hours to finish on a Monday night and saw two teammates not really challenge one another for the win as they raced to the finish line.


After one of the longest and most bizarre Speedweeks in history the Sprint Cup Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway to begin what many believe is the real season. Last fall PIR hosted its first race on the newly reconfigured and repaved one-mile speedway and produced an exciting event that has drivers anxious to get back to the desert oval. No matter what happens at PIR, it will have to go a long way to beat the Daytona opener.


Daytona Speedweeks

Posted on: February 28, 2012 12:41 am
Edited on: February 28, 2012 1:30 am

NASCAR has long history of bizarre happenings

By Pete Pistone

  Safety Workers
(Montoya's wild accident Monday night in Daytona brought out a two hour red flag - Getty Images)

Juan Pablo Montoya’s
crash with a jet dryer and the blazing fire that erupted and halted the Daytona 500 for more than two hours was just the latest addition to the list of bizarre NASCAR race happenings. 

Daytona International Speedway has seen its share of weirdness over the years racing from Dale Earnhardt hitting a seagull at speed racing down the backstretch to a driver (ok I admit it, my uncle “Tiger” Tom Pistone) actually wearing a mask and bolting an oxygen tank in his car as a precaution to driving into Lake Lloyd. He couldn’t swim if you haven’t guessed by now. 

There was the infamous Daytona pot hole in 2010 that formed in turn two and brought the race – and some say NASCAR’s momentum that season – to a screeching halt. 

Sterling Marlin gave up a chance to win the 2002 Daytona 500 when under a red flag he jumped out of his car on the backstretch and pulled his damaged fender away from the tire. That move resulted in NASCAR penalizing Marlin and dropping him from first to twelfth in the field. 

"I just pulled the fender off the tire, 'cause it was rubbing," Marlin said. "I saw Dale (Earnhardt) do it at Richmond once and NASCAR let him get away with it, but I guess the rules have changed in the meantime.” 

Daytona is not alone in the weirdness department. Other tracks have had their share over the years. 

Indianapolis Motor Speedway endured the tire debacle of the 2008 Brickyard 400, that saw caution flags fly every ten laps when Goodyear rubber literally fell apart after a handful of circuits. 

New Hampshire Motor Speedway ran a restrictor plate race in 2001 after the deaths of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin and fears of high speeds. 

But Pocono Raceway may take the prize on the weirdness awards. 

The rustic track located in the Pocono Mountains has had many incidents of animals wandering onto the track including rabbits, chickens and ducks. 

But nothing can top the time Neil Bonnett once returned to the garage during practice with blood on the hood of his car and the antlers from a deer stuck in the grille.


Daytona Speedweeks

Posted on: February 27, 2012 2:30 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 3:07 pm

San Diego TV anchor slams Danica Patrick

By Pete Pistone

Forget Ron Burgundy in the movie "Anchorman." San Diego now has a real life television reporter bringing embarrassment to the city.

USA Today reports Fox 5 San Diego's Ross Shimabuku slammed Danica Patrick last week stopping just short of calling her - well a word also meaning female dog.

Shimabuku started his sportscast last Monday calling Patrick a "pretty girl" who makes a lot of "money in sponsorships because of it. But what's not attractive is that she's sexy and she knows it."

The report then cut to a video of Patrick's appearance at NASCAR media day and her discussion of how the media always describe female athletes such as herself as "sexy."

"Is there any other word that you can use to describe me?" she asks, while a Fox headline underneath reads: "Danica Patrick. I'm sexy and I know it!"

Shimabuku returns on camera to say "Oh, I've got a few words… Starts with a 'B', and it's not 'beautiful."

The sports anchor closes by saying Patrick "always has a chip on her shoulder, trying to prove something."

No word yet on whether Shimabuku also plays Jazz Flute like Burgundy. 

Daytona Speedweeks

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 27, 2012 9:12 am
Edited on: February 27, 2012 10:52 am

NASCAR hopes for Monday 7 p.m. Daytona start

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The National Weather Service is predicting more rain for the Daytona area on Monday, which will hamper NASCAR's plans to run the postponed Daytona 500.

A 90 percent chance of rain and thunder showers is in the forecast until 6 p.m. this evening before the percentage drops to 30 percent tonight.

NASCAR president Mike Helton announced the sanctioning body has made the decision to push the hoped for 12 Noon ET start back to 7 p.m. Monday evening.

"Through the evening and as we collaborated this morning with all the stakeholders, (Daytona president) Joie (Chitwood) from the racetrack, weather experts and other industry folks, including the broadcast partners and other representatives, based on the weather forecast that everybody has convinced us of from here through mid-afternoon, 60, 70, 80 percent chances of rain, we're going to wait in announcing right now that the effort to run the Daytona is now shifting from noon until 7:00 p.m. this afternoon," said Helton.  "So we hope to have "lady and gentlemen, start your engines," at 7:02 and then warm up and go to green flag."

The unprecedented rain out the 500 for the first time in 34 years has thrown a monkey wrench into the start of the NASCAR season. In addition to the disappointment of having the first race of the year washed out - and the most prestigious - logistics of the Sprint Cup schedule are also a factior.

The series is slated to compete at Phoenix International Raceway next weekend making turnaround from a Monday - or possibly Tuesday race - difficult.

Daytona Speedweeks

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 26, 2012 5:25 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 7:17 pm

Rain postpones Daytona 500 until Monday

By Pete Pistone

  Cars Sit Covered On The Grid
(Mother Nature had other plans on Sunday and the Daytona 500 was postponed until Monday afternoon - Getty)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For the first time in its 54 year history the Daytona 500 has been rained out.

Showers hit the track just before the schedule 1 p.m. ET start of Sunday's race and despite several attempts by NASCAR to dry the track the rain returned at 5 p.m. and NASCAR officially pulled the plug.

The race will now be run at 12 Noon ET on Monday. However, the weather forecast for Monday is not very promising, with a 70 percent chance of rain predicted.

If rain interferes again on Monday, NASCAR would most likely try to run the race early on Tuesday morning.

The schedule will be a difficult one for teams now with the postponement as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway next weekend.

But other than being somewhat bored waiting around all day, most drivers don't think the delay will be much of an impact once the race begins.

“I don’t know.  I just tweeted that I guess I’m gonna have to win the first Monday Daytona 500," said outside front row sitter Greg Biffle.  "As you can tell, I’m still in my uniform because I was optimistic that this weather was gonna get out of here and we were gonna get this thing going, but I’ll just have to save my energy for tomorrow."

Despite the rain washing off all of the rubber laid down on track from the days of racing leading up to Sunday, there doesn't seem to be any concern in the garage area.

NASCAR and Daytona officials did what they could to keep the race on schedule but simply could no lomgr fight Mother Nature.

"We hate it for our fans," said Daytona president Joie Chitwood III. "It's hard to believe we've been so fortunate over the years to not have this race ever postponed by rain and our luck just ran out today. "NASCAR did as much as they could and we had extra jet dryers from other tracks around the country here this weekend to help us with a situation like this one but at the end of the day there was just too much weather ahead of us to get the race in today."

Although the Tuesday back-up plan exists, Chitwood is focused on trying to get the race in on Monday.

"It's tough to even talk Tuesday until we get into tomorrow," he said.  "I think the plan with a noon start, I think there is inclement weather in the a.m., but by noon, it looks like the weather is better.  We'll play it out best we can.

No different than what we did today.  We'll wait till the last possible minute that we would not run the race.  We want to exhaust every opportunity of getting the track dry and running the race.  I would anticipate 5:00, 6:00, if there was rain on the track, you will see us play out some decisions.  I don't even want to talk about Tuesday right now."

Chitwood understands the Monday date means some fans will not be able to return to the track with work or other responsibilities. Although he's not sure just how many will come back, he assured those that do the track will be ready to accomodate.

"That's a great question," he said.  "We don't really know.  For us, we have to staff and be prepared that we're going to have a lot of folks show up.  The last thing I would want to do is be understaffed, have a lot of folks show up and we can't take care of them properly.  We have to be prepared most of them are going to show up.

"Whether it's the buses that we use to get people here from lot 7 and lot 10, ushers, gates, ticket takers.  The last half hour I was meeting with my team to make sure what areas we're covered, and what support we might need to so that we're fully staffed to handle that crowd.  That's the key.  It's not how many show back up, it's that we can handle those that do and they have a good experience."

Everyone is hopeful the weather cooperates as soon as possible.

"I will stay here all week to have a shot at taking that trophy home,” Jimmie Johnson said. “We will just play it by ear. One thing about this track that is nice is even if it does rain, a green race track isn’t a problem here.

“We don’t have a lot to worry about from a handling perspective or a safety perspective, wearing a right front out or anything like that.”

Daytona Speedweeks

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 26, 2012 6:43 am
Edited on: February 26, 2012 9:39 am

RaceDay: Daytona Pre-race chatter

Keep it here for updating news, notes and other nuggets ahead of today's race.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 25, 2012 3:04 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 3:10 pm

Johnson unsure of Daytona strategy

By Pete Pistone

  Jimmie Johnson, Driver Of The #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Joey Logano, Driver Of The #20 The Home Depot Toyota, And Greg
(Johnson believes the No. 48 Chevrolet will be in both pack draft and tandem situations in the Daytona 500)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson is ready to begin his quest to climb back on top the Sprint Cup Series mountain but he’s not sure what to expect in the first race of the season.

Johnson knows pack racing will be back in play for Sunday’s Daytona 500 but doesn’t believe we’ve seen the end of tandem drafting either.

He’s been intently watching the races that have gone on during Speedweeks to try and gauge how Sunday’s 500 may play out.

“It’s been fun,” Johnson said Saturday at Daytona. “When I’m watching points races like I watched the Truck race last night.  You can see the range of emotions of what happens.  We will have that same type of thing in our race.

“The Shootout is fun because there aren’t any points and you can just have at it.  But, when the points are on the line the pack racing can be frustrating.  The tandem racing can be frustrating; I think it is plate racing.  We are at a plate track and tomorrow afternoon throughout the race you will see a lot of emotions that aren’t excited about plate racing.  Fans love it, it puts on a great show and that is what you have to do to win the Daytona 500.”

While his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. has publicly dismissed the idea of hanging back in the field for most of the race before hooking up with Johnson in a two-car draft to the front, the five-time champion won’t completely rule out that strategy.

“That chance is there,” Johnson said.  “The one thing about this package is that track position is important from a handling perspective and a cooling perspective.  I think on any restart you will see a lot of activity just trying to get track position and be in the right scenario for those reasons.

“Once we settle into a groove I would expect a lot of patience out of people.  We know that you can’t win the race in the first 499 miles.  That element could be there.  The one thing that does change that is the deeper in the pack you are the easier your car is going to overheat.  It can go either way I just don’t know at this time what to really expect.”

Daytona Speedweeks
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com