By Peter M. De Lorenzo
Detroit. After an uproarious week at the Daytona International Speedway, Joey Logano won the Daytona 500 for Roger Penske and Ford in grand style, holding off Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Budweiser/Jimmy John's Chevrolet SS), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Nationwide Chevrolet SS), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing FedEx Express Toyota Camry) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Lowe's Chevrolet SS) to the final caution for his first win in NASCAR's biggest race.
Logano - aka "The Kid" - who came on the scene with great promise and hype and who floundered at Joe Gibbs Racing - has found a rejuvenated spirit at Team Penske and has distinguished himself as a force to be reckoned with from the moment he got behind the wheel of the No. 22 Team Penske Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion last year. Logano, who is brimming with pure talent and ability, drove a shrewd, calculated race while never losing his cool, keeping his focus on the prize in the midst of the "formation flying" that masquerades as racing on NASCAR's restrictor-plate tracks, and keeping his yellow-and-red-liveried Ford out front of the pack when logic would suggest that's not the way to win at Daytona.
It was a great win for Logano and Team Penske, and it capped-off a weekend sweep for Ford, with the manufacturer winning in Friday's Camping World Truck Series race, Saturday's XFINITY Series race and Sunday's Daytona 500. Congratulations to all.
For more Daytona coverage go to The Line. (For commentary about what transpired at Daytona, see below.)
(Photo by Matthew T. Thacker, NKP ©2015)
Sheer jubilation for Joey Logano, Ford and the entire Penske team in Victory Lane at Daytona.
NASCAR may have dodged another bullet at Daytona - if Kyle Busch "only" suffering multiple injuries to his lower extremities in Saturday's XFINITY race that will probably sideline him for a couple of months can be termed dodging a bullet - but once again the stock car racing organization looked foolish, touting its $400 million reimagination of the Daytona International Speedway while clearly ignoring glaring safety issues that could have a deeper impact on the sport. Yes, the fact that there are any "bare" - meaning non SAFER barrier - walls at any speedway NASCAR runs on is inexcusable, but that's not the real issue here. And suggesting that the Daytona International Speedway was solely responsible is inaccurate as well, even though the track's top executive - Joie Chitwood III - quickly fell on his sword and took full responsibility.
The real issue is that the NASCAR brain trust rigidly refuses to deal with the fundamental problems associated with the way they approach running on their super speedways. I took particular offense with Darrell Waltrip's comments during the race, listening to him shriek that, "These are the greatest drivers in the world!!!" for their ability to run three abreast in formation at 200 mph. I would agree that it is a particular skill, but ask any NASCAR driver if they like it - if you can get them to level beyond their pre-programmed corporate speak - and I would bet they would say no, that they absolutely hate it. But they do it because they have to, and they're just glad to come away from competing in a restrictor-plate race in one piece.
The NASCAR mindset is notoriously a reactionary one, and its history is marked by grandiose pronouncements followed by concrete actions only after the fact, as witnessed by the total safety immersion and redirect after Dale Earnhardt's tragic death. Like him or not, Kyle Busch is one of NASCAR's biggest stars and the outcome from his devastating crash at Daytona could have been much worse, and the honchos at NASCAR know it too.
The best thing that the powers that be in Daytona Beach could do right now is to embark on an immediate, deep-dive research program to fundamentally alter the way they approach superspeedway racing. That means altering the cars and the tracks. They need to investigate everything, from more power and less down force and a complete rethink of how catch fencing is engineered, to even ripping out rows of seats all the way around the tracks for an extra margin of safety. Any less of an effort at this point would be flat-out criminal.
A few of the NASCAR beat writers suggested that Joey Logano's victory was a magical elixir, sweeping all the bad stuff that went on over the weekend under the rug. As much as I was thrilled for Logano and loved seeing his pure jubilation after winning the biggest victory of his life, it in no way, shape or form glosses over the fact that the powers that be in NASCAR continue to play Russian Roulette with their drivers because of their steadfast refusal to deal with a festering problem that threatens to blow up in their face at any moment.
It's the quintessential definition of Not Good.
Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD
(Photo courtesy of the Ford racing Archives)
Rockingham, North Carolina, October 30, 1966. Fred Lorenzen in Victory lane after winning the American 500 at the North Carolina Motor Speedway. Lorenzen drove his No. 28 Holman-Moody Ford to a four-lap victory over second-place finisher Don White (No. 31 Ray Nichels/Nichels Engineering Dodge). Ned Jarrett (No. 11 Bondy Long/Abington Motor Co. Ford) finished third.
Publisher's Note: Like these Ford racing photos? Check out www.fordimages.com. Be forewarned, however, because you won't be able to go there and not order something. - PMD