Speed bumps embarrass Daytona

DEAN MCNULTY , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:39 AM ET

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The pothole didn’t get any smaller a day later.

In surely what has to be the most embarrassing moment in recent NASCAR history, everybody in the sporting universe is talking about the Daytona 500 — or as they are calling it: The Pothole 520.

It seems that in the Super Bowl of stock car racing, someone, something or, as NASCAR says, someone else, caused a pretty big chunk of asphalt to come loose between Turns 1 and 2 at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) on Sunday.

The resulting two-hour and 44-minute delay changed the whole course of the race, no matter how exciting the eventual finish turned out. If there is no long delay, the track stays hot and the cars drive differently.

That is a fact, not a supposition.

To put it terms non-NASCAR fans might understand, imagine a divot the size of a cow pie on the 18th green of Augusta National on the final day of the Masters.

Couldn’t happen. Wouldn’t happen.

Yet that scenario played out before a crowd of 160,000 at the speedway and millions more watching on television.

This is NASCAR’s showcase; the richest and most prestigious race of its eight-month, 38-race season.

There were NASCAR and DIS, however, in the aftermath offering up excuses like a ninth grader who didn’t do his homework.

“We’re the world centre of racing,” DIS boss Robin Braig said. “This is the Daytona 500. This is not supposed to happen. I take full responsibility. But we can come back from this. We can fix it.”

Oh, yeah.

It says here it might be too late.

NASCAR had come into the 2010 season with high expectations that a dip in television ratings and attendance in 2009 also could be fixed.

After all, it brought in the 5-foot-nothing, 100-pound human marketing machine Danica Patrick. And she did her job, boosting the ratings by more than 85% for the ARCA race of 10 days ago, and further boosted ESPN’s broadcast of the NASCAR Nationwide series on Saturday.

But Danica was long gone — on her way to sell tickets at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where the NASCAR circus sets up its tent next — when the earth, er, track opened up.

To make matters worse — if that’s possible in this case — driver after driver and all the talking heads on FOX-Sports broadcast team where extolling the fact that Daytona was “unique” and that the bumpy, 38-year-old pavement was “good for racing.”

Try telling that to the tens of thousands of fans who headed for the parking lot rather than wait out the almost three-hours it took to patch the hole.

Adding insult to injury the DIS public address announcer kept saying the problem with the track would be solved in “10 to 20 minutes”, probably hoping that the folks would just go for a pee break and a beer.

And about those drivers — hello Greg Biffle — who saw nothing wrong with holding NASCAR’s biggest audience of the year hostage for six-plus hours.

“It was unfortunate for the fans and the people watching on TV that we had to have that big delay,” Biffle said after the race. “Nobody wants to sit around and wait all that time, but it was nobody’s fault that the race track came apart. It wasn’t neglect or anything else.”

Didn’t anyone tell him that the last time Daytona International Speedway had a facelift was 1978, when the 40-year-old Biffle was in Grade 3.

The last ridiculous word goes to Mr. Braig, who incredibly, is suggesting in hindsight that doing nothing might be the best option.

“It may not need repaving,” he said. “We’ve been told by the drivers, crew chiefs, NASCAR that the uniqueness of this track is special. We saw the many lead changes. We don’t want to paint the whole house when all we have to do is a little touch up.”

Let’s just say I wouldn’t hire him to do work on my house.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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