February 17th, 2013
“Start Your Engines”
Written by Rick A. Talford
DAYTONA, FLORIDA- The first race of the 2013 season was held on the famous beaches of Daytona. It was unseasonably cool at the Superspeedway, as temperatures were only in the low fifties at the start of the race. Most of the drivers and other members of the racing community were wearing heavy winter clothing. The temperatures were going to drop into the forties before the end of the race.
The season is starting out with new body styles with Ford Fusion, Chevrolet SS and Toyota Camry. Dodge has dropped out of contention as a sponsor this season. The new GEN6 cars are made lighter and faster than last years’ cars. These cars look very close to the cars that you and I can drive on the street. Another feature that the drivers like is the better ability to view out of the rear windows. They state that they have more vision, which can make for safer racing. One downfall seems to be, the cars do not bump-draft well. In practice, they were not able to get ten laps, before a wreck would occur.
This race used to be called the “Bud Shoot-out”, but now they have changed the name to “Sprint Unlimited”. The first race of the new season has all the pole-sitters from the previous year, as well as the past winners of this particular race. There were twenty-one eligible drivers, with nineteen of them accepting the invitation.
The fans were able to get involved this year, helping set a couple different aspects of the race. They chose the starting line-up via the internet. The fans chose the format, having the race ran in three segments. The first segment was thirty laps, the second was twenty-five laps and the final segment was twenty laps. The fans made the choice to not eliminate any drivers after the first segment. They also chose what uniform the Miss Sprint Cup was to wear in Victory Lane. Another choice made by the fans, was when they made their pit stops, they would take four tires instead of two. The race was scheduled to run seventy-five laps on the two and a half mile track. A total of 187.5 miles were raced, with RPM’s being held at 8500 constantly.
During the pre-race ceremonies, Sonny Gallman provided the invocation. Melica Tenbroek sang the “National Anthem”, and Charles Young was the Grand Marshal. The drivers involved with this race were: Kevin Harvick (29), Dale Earnhardt Jr.(88), Matt Kenseth (20), Tony Stewart (14), Mark Martin (55), Denny Hamlin (11), Carl Edwards (99), Kasey Kahne (5), Greg Biffle (16), Jeff Gordon (24), Jimmie Johnson (48), Aric Almirola (43), Kurt Busch (78), Kyle Busch (18), Martin Truex Jr.(56), Marcus Ambrose (9), Juan Pablo Montoya (42), Terry Labonte (32) and Joey Lagono (22).
The race began with the pole-sitter Carl Edwards, and front row starter Mark Martin being forced to go to the rear, due to a practice accident. Matt Kenseth started a five-car accident in practice the day before the race. The first lap was completed with Greg Biffle leading the way. By lap four, Matt Kenseth took the lead, and looked like the strongest car on track. Just as Kenseth was able to take the lead, Terry Labonte took his car to the garage because he could keep up with the pack. On lap fourteen, Tony Stewart had hit a top speed of 202 mph on the backstretch. On lap fifteen, Stewart attempted to shoot to the bottom of the track in front of Marcus Ambrose. He clipped the nose of Ambrose’s car, and that started a seven-car wreck. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr., and Kurt Busch were all taken out of the race. All but five cars then made a pit stop, and the race re-started on lap twenty. Kevin Harvick was the first to get off pit road. The race ran green until the last lap of segment one. Tony Stewart won the first round, as he showed that he could drop to the rear, and race right back to front at will.
Segment two began with Stewart leading the first lap. By lap thirty-four, Kevin Harvick took the lead. Harvick dominated the race from this point forward, only giving up the lead for two laps. He led twenty-one of twenty-five laps in segment two. Again, Stewart had incidents with other cars on track. He got into the rear side panel of Earnhardt’s car, creating damage that sent Earnhardt to the rear, of the twelve cars left on track. On the final lap of segment two, Harvick was the leader.
Segment three began with the drivers starting in the spots that they finished segment two in. Harvick started on the pole for the final twenty-lap shoot-out. During the final segment, Only Kenseth was able to take the lead away from Harvick for one lap. The rest of the shoot-out was all Harvick. He took his Red and White Budweiser Chevy SS to the winners circle. They would have to push his car there, due to an engine break after he crossed the finish line, and began his celebration. The 37 year old driver is expected to leave the team at the end of the season, but says he is going to be running for wins all year. Prior to the race starting, Harvick put his son into the race car. They were hoping for some good luck, as the infant crawled for the very first time, earlier in the day. Harvick took home a $200,000.00 prize and a very cool trophy. Over-all, Harvick led 40 of the 75 lap race.
The rest of the drivers finished as follows: Biffle, Lagono, Stewart, Kenseth, Truex Jr., Kahne, Almirola, Ambrose, Earnhardt Jr., Edwards, Montoya, Kurt Busch, Johnson, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Gordon, martin and Labonte.
One other note on the day: Danica Patrick (10) in her first race at Daytona, as a full time Cup Series Driver, set the fastest speed in practice. She ran a lap over 196 mph. The Sprint Cup qualifying will be run on Sunday the 17th of February. The Daytona 500 will be run on Sunday the 24th day of February, starting at noon on Fox.