SPORTS

DAYTONA 500 – Three for the Road

2/8/2007

To win the Daytona 500 it takes equal parts cunning and courage. Drivers don’t only need a lead foot but they must also be a master drafter. The horse-power-pacifying restrictor plates (limiting acceleration and top speed) keep cars clumped t



To win the Daytona 500 it takes equal parts cunning and courage. Drivers don’t only need a lead foot but they must also be a master drafter. The horse-power-pacifying restrictor plates (limiting acceleration and top speed) keep cars clumped together in tight packs. This makes it next to impossible to get to the front without slipstreaming behind the vehicle in front of you and then using the reduced drag to slingshot ahead. This buddy-up technique was dubbed “shake and bake” in the blockbuster smash Talladega Nights. We salute two speed demons and one car company that pray they only have to count to #1 once the checker flag has flown.

1) Tony Stewart
He may have missed the cut for the Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship in ‘06 but Stewart certainly didn’t finish out of sight. The veteran Home Depot hard-charger stole the title contenders thunder by winning in Kansas, Atlanta and Texas—three of the seasons last ten stops. A 500 win is one of the few racing milestones that still eludes the two-time Cup champion. Stewart qualified second in his first Daytona in 1999 and ran up front for most of the race but mechanical problems eventually derailed his effort relegating him to a 28th place finish. Since then he’s been in the hunt on a couple occasions including a second place finish in 2004 and a fifth place finish in 2006. But Stewart knows how to win on this Superspeedway—he’s won the last two Pepsi 400’s at Daytona—he just needs to learn how to win here in February.



2) Jimmie Johnson
Spill a litre of the reigning Nextel Cup Series champ’s wherewithal into a gas tank and stir in an ounce of his driving ambition and you’ve got yourself hell on wheels. In the past five years,
Johnson has established himself as NASCAR’s most tenacious driver, weaving and bumping his way to 23 wins and 66 top-five finishes. But Johnson’s Daytona win last year was tainted by scandal. A NASCAR inspection following Johnson’s qualifying run found an illegal adjustment had been made to the #48 car’s rear window and as a result Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus was ejected and suspended for four races. “Did they find a rocket, a jet engine or something in your automobile?," David Letterman joked to Johnson after the season. A repeat victory here will silence any critics J.J. has left.

3) WILD CARD-Ya’ll Ready Toyota
It’s rare in motor-sports for a new manufacturer to start winning right out of the gate. And despite popular perception, spending your way to the Championship isn’t always a formula for success. Toyota discovered this in 2002, their debut year on the Formula 1 circuit. Despite having one the richest budgets on the series Toyota’s drivers seemed stuck in neutral, managing to collect a measly two points all season. But in its brief tenure in stock car racing, the Japanese auto has fared much better. Toyota trounced the competition in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2006 edging out Ford by 13 points to take top spot in the manufacturer standings. With experienced drivers like Michael Waltrip and Dale Jarrett, who between them have five Daytona 500 victories behind the wheel, seeing a Camry in victory lane when the “Great American Race” is done would not be shocking.

This Article First Ran in the February 2007 Edition of Bell T.V. Magazine

Copyright © Mike Dojc 2007

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