No. 946
May 16, 2018
 

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Fumes


Tuesday
Feb102009

FUMES

February 11, 2009

Three good reasons to watch this Sunday.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit.
Thanks to NASCAR's obsession with achieving parity - which has resulted in a bland sameness to the cars and a boring predictability to the races - the days of auto manufacturers forging their reputations on the high banks of Daytona are well and truly over. Sure, certain NASCAR loyalists roaming the halls of the manufacturers will insist that they're still getting something out of being in NASCAR - the TV "eyeballs," the opportunity for them to "connect" with consumers on a more intimate basis through displays and promotions, the chance for dealers in the regions to create local promotions around the races, etc. - but the days of "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" have long been relegated to the dust heap of a simpler time, when the headlines across the country would scream "Ford wins Daytona!" and it actually meant something to the manufacturer in question.

Today, the rationale for the manufacturers being in NASCAR is based as much around the fact that "we've always been there and our dealers won't let us leave" as anything at this point, and whoever should win on Sunday I guarantee that it will be about the driver first, followed by the mention of the team and the principal team sponsors, with the mention of the brand of car lost in the victory circle shuffle.

With that in mind then, is there a reason to watch the Daytona 500 this Sunday? Absolutely. I'll give you two good reasons why, as a matter of fact - Mark Martin, 50, and Bill Elliott, 52 - two drivers in the twilight of their careers who are still hankering for one more shot at glory. Martin is running the full season in a front line ride from Hendrick Motorsports, in an attempt to capture his first NASCAR championship after a stellar 26-year career. And Elliott, a two-time NASCAR champion, is running a 12-race schedule for the famed Wood Brothers operation.

Martin would be the oldest driver by five years to ever win the NASCAR Cup championship (Bobby Allison was 45 when he won in 1983), and no driver over the age of 36 has won it all since Dale Jarrett did it in 1999 at the age of 42. The idea that Martin might be being "gifted" a good car by Rick Hendrick out of courtesy and respect for his career couldn't be further from the truth. He's still one of the best drivers in NASCAR, and he still keeps up a consistent workout regimen that puts drivers half his age to shame. Martin has a real shot to not only win on Sunday, but he could very well win the whole thing with the resources of Hendrick Motorsports behind him.

I'm pulling for Bill Elliott for different reasons. He's still blistering quick (he was fastest in practice going into qualifying for the 500), and he's driving for the Wood Brothers - the legendary team that wears its loyalty to Ford on its sleeve - and the team that's also facing this season being seriously underfunded.

It would be a treat to see either one of these men come through for the win in the Daytona 500 Sunday, because even though the sport is crawling with "young guns" now, there's still a lot of life and maybe even the possibility of one more turn in the spotlight for these guys.

Add to this the fact that the Daytona 500 is the one "stock car" race you should watch (if you watch only one NASCAR race all year), and you have three good reasons to tune-in on Sunday...

 

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

(Ford Racing Archives)
Daytona Beach, FL, 1956. Driver Chuck Daigh, in his factory-sponsored and highly-modified Thunderbird, won the Standing Start Acceleration Run in the Daytona Beach Speed Trials with a speed of 88.779 mph. He also had a time of 40.5 sec. for the 0-to-150 mph Run. The car had a modified Thunderbird V8 engine with dual 4-Barrel Carburetors delivering 260 hp. Ground breaking for the Daytona International Speedway didn't take place until November 25, 1957. The first Daytona 500 was run on February 22, 1959, with Lee Petty getting the win over Johnny Beauchamp, after track officials reviewed photos of the finish for three days.

 

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