The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


February 22, 2013

   Fifty five years ago in 1958 Paul Goldsmith went pole to pole to win what was to be the last event run at Daytona on the 4.1 mile beach-road course. Goldsmith led all 39 laps and collected $4550 for his efforts. Curtis Turner finished second in the 49-car field. Jack Smith, Joe Weatherly and Gwyn Staley rounded out the top five.

   Fifty years ago in 1963, two hundred-mile qualifying races were held on Thursday to set the starting lineup for the Daytona 500. Junior Johnson in the Ray Fox Chevrolet won the first qualifier over Paul Goldsmith, AJ Foyt, Larry Frank and Dan Gurney. Northern hot shoe Red Foote started 21st and finished 16th. USAC driver Johnny Rutherford passed Rex White with five laps to go to win the second qualifier. White finished second and was followed by Fred Lorenzen, Ned Jarrett, Nelson Stacey and Tiny Lund. The 500 had a storybook finish as Lund took the win for the injured Marvin Panch. Ned Jarrett was leading with nine laps to go when he ran out of gas. Lund, who spent most of the race drafting, made one less pit stop than the rest of the field and went the entire 500-mile distance on the same set of tires. Lund’s average speed was 151.566 mph. The announced attendance was 70,780. Lorenzen finished second and was followed by Jarrett, Nelson Stacey and Dan Gurney. Red Foote started 35th and finished 29th as his engine blew on lap 113 of the 200 lap distance.

   Forty five years ago in 1968, the qualifying races rained out and the starting field for the Daytona 500 was based on time trial that were held the previous week. Cale Yarborough took the lead from LeRoy Yarbrough with four laps to go as he won the 10th annual Daytona 500. Bobby Allison finished third with Al Unser and David Pearson rounding out the top five. Eleven yellows for 60 laps slowed the average speed to 143.251 mph as 94,800 looked on.

   Forty years ago in 1973, Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough traded the lead 15 times during the running of the first 125-mile qualifying event. With only one caution, Baker took the win with Yarborough on his bumper. Gordon Johncock finished third with Richard Petty and Dick Brooks rounding out the top five. Darrell Waltrip in an independent entry finished sixth. Maynard Troyer, from the Modified ranks, finished 11th. The second 125 produced a big surprise as independent CoCo Marlin passed David Pearson with six laps to go and went on to take the win. Hershal McGriff finished second as Pearson faded to ninth at the checker. AJ Foyt, Bobby Issac and James Hylton rounded out the top five. Pete Hamilton started on the pole only to lose an engine with eight laps to go. Richard Petty won his fourth Daytona 500 after Buddy Baker lost an engine with six laps to go. Baker was the fastest of the 40 starters and had led the most laps. Bobby Issac finished second with Dick Brooks, AJ Foyt and Hershal McGriff making up the top five. Outside pole sitter Pete Hamilton finished dead last in 40th spot after his engine blew on lap 33 of the 200-lap distance. Announced attendance was 100,000.

   Thirty five years ago in 1978, Bugsy Stevens was the Wednesday night winner at New Smyrna. Fred DeSarro finished second with Ronnie Bouchard, third. George Kent took the top spot at New Smyrna on Thursday night. Geoff Bodine was hot on his tail but had to settle for second spot. Bugsy Stevens, DeSarro and Satch Worley rounded out the top five. The Thursday 125’s at Daytona saw AJ Foyt pass David Pearson with 19 laps to go as he went on to win the first 50 lap-125 mile event. Pearson finished second and was followed by Donnie Allison, Cale Yarborough and Bill Elliott. Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty swapped the lead three times on the final lap of the second 125. Waltrip came out on top by a car length. Benny Parsons finished third with Ron Hutcherson and Dave Marcis rounding out the top five. The NASCAR Modifieds ran a 200-mile event at the 4.1 road course at the Daytona International Speedway on Friday. Darrell Waltrip outclassed the field as he took the win over Richie Evans, Satch Worley, Jerry Cook and Joe Thurman. Ronnie Bouchard put the Bob Judkins 2x in victory lane on Friday night. DeSarro remained consistent as he finished second. Junior Hanley, Stevens and Charlie Jarzombek completed the top five. Darrell Waltrip continued his hot streak at Daytona as he won the Permatex 300 at Daytona on Saturday and on Saturday night at New Smyrna Geoff Bodine, who finished sixth at Daytona that afternoon, took the win. Ronnie Bouchard finished second and wrapped up the New Smyrna World Series Modified title. Richie Evans finished third. After twenty-one years of trying, Bobby Allison finally won the Daytona 500. Allison started 33rd and took the lead from Buddy Baker with 10 laps to go. Cale Yarborough finished second with Benny Parsons, Ron Hutcherson and Dick Brooks following. The speedway released an attendance figure of 140,000.

   Thirty years ago in 1983, Richie Evans picked up his third win of the series at New Smyrna on Wednesday night. Gail Barber finished second with Bentley Warren, third. Moose Hewitt and Mike Mclaughlin rounded out the top five. In the 125-mile qualifiers at Daytona on Thursday Dale Earnhardt won the first one and Neil Bonnett, the second one. Evans also won on Thursday and Friday nights. Greg Sacks didn’t have the required steam and had to settle for second on Thursday night. Mike Mclaughlin finished third with Jamie Tomaino and Reggie Ruggerio rounding out the top five. Mid-western ASA star Dick Trickle drove Joe Brady's car to a solid second on Friday night with Tomaino third and Sacks, fourth. At Daytona on Saturday, Darrell Waltrip won the Goody’s 300. Geoff Bodine finished second with Neil Bonnett, third. Richie Evans finished fourth on the final night at New Smyrna and sewed up the series title. Reggie Ruggerio took the win over Tony Hirschman and Mclaughlin. Capping off Speedweeks was the running of the Daytona 500, which was won by Cale Yarborough. Bill Elliott finished second with Buddy Baker, third. Ronnie Bouchard and Geoff Bodine suffered engine failure and did not finish.

   Twenty five years ago in 1988, with the exception of the series finale, the Richie Evans Memorial 100, Reggie Ruggerio dominated on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at New Smyrna. He lost an engine during the running of the 100, which was won by Tony Jankowiac. Tom Baldwin finished consistently in second spot during the final four nights and wrapped up the series title. The Daytona International Speedway all but belonged to Bobby Allison as he won one of the 125’s, the Goody’s 300 and scored an emotional win over son Davey in the Daytona 500.

   Twenty years ago in 1993, Ricky Fuller took down the win at New Smyrna on Wednesday night. Reggie Ruggerio finished second with Ed Kennedy, Steve Park and Richie Gallup rounding out the top five. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt won the Thursday 125-mile qualifiers at Daytona. Rain washed out the Thursday night action at New Smyrna. Richie Gallup managed to pull out a win on Friday night at New Smyrna as he held off Ricky Fuller and Ed Kennedy. Dale Earnhardt led a Winston Cup contingent including Ken Schrader, Harry Gant and Terry Labonte across the start-finish line in the Goody’s 300. Steve Park won the Richie Evans Memorial at New Smyrna on Saturday night. Bob Park came home second and was followed by Ed Kennedy, Tom Baldwin and Richie Gallup. During the running of the event Mike Ewanitsko spun Gallup out and when told to go to the rear, parked his car. Dale Earnhardt was headed for his first Daytona 500 win when Dale Jarrett passed him with two laps to go.

   Fifteen years ago in 1998, Ted Christopher, in the Bear Motorsports entry, started 5th and took the lead from Doug French on lap 12 and went on to take the win on Wednesday night at New Smyrna. French finished second and was followed by Tim Arre, Jan Leaty and Mike Ewanitsko. Sterling Marlin and Dale Earnhardt won the 125’s at Daytona on Thursday. For Earnhardt, it was his ninth 125-mile victory in a row. Christopher and French finished one-two again on Thursday night Jan Leaty finished third with George Kent and Mike Ewanitsko rounding out the top five. New Smyrna fell victim to fog on Friday night. It was a welcome break that allowed competitors some extra time to prepare for the series ending Richie Evans Memorial 100. At Daytona on Saturday, Joe Nemechek led all but 15 of the 120 lap distance to take the win in the Goody’s 300. Jeff Purvis finished second with Mark Martin, third. The Richie Evans Memorial at New Smyrna on Saturday night turned into a slugfest that saw a lot of bent equipment and hot tempers. Jan Leaty took the win over Jamie Tomaino, George Kent and Doug French. During the running of the event Mike Ewanitsko was walled by Leaty when he attempted to pass. Tim Arre crashed on a re-start and Ricky Miller flipped. Ted Christopher got a little over anxious and lost it only to get hit by George Bock, then t-boned by Dan Knoll. After 20 years of trying, Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500. In dominating style, Earnhardt led the final 60 laps. Bobby Labonte finished second with Jeremy Mayfield, third.

   Ten years ago in 2003 at New Smyrna on Tuesday night, Tim Arre was the surprise winner after Ted Christopher and JR Bertuccio tangled on the last lap while fighting for the lead Bertuccio held on to finish second with George Bock, third. Christopher ended up eighth. The Modifieds ran a 50 lapper on Wednesday night. Ted Christopher pitted for tires after an early tangle with Ed Flemke Jr. Flemke led until five to go when Christopher took the lead for the win. Flemke finished second with JR Bertuccio, third. The Daytona 500 qualifying 125-mile events run on Thursday were yawners. Robbie Gordon won the first and Dale Earnhardt Jr., the second. The only passing was in the pits during pit stops. JR Bertuccio went pole to pole to win the 25-lap feature at New Smyrna on Thursday night. George Kent, Ed Flemke Jr, Rob Summers and Ted Christopher rounded out the top five. The Richie Evans Memorial 100 was run at New Smyrna on Friday night. Ed Flemke had the field covered until he lost an engine on lap 87. Tim Arre inherited the lead and went on to take the win over Bertuccio and Mike Ewanitsko. The Busch Series 300 was run at Daytona on Saturday. The Bushwhackers prevailed as Kevin Harvick led the first 53 laps and Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the rest of the way to take the win. Mike Finch won the final night at New Smyrna. Christopher, who borrowed an engine from George Bock, finished second with Summers, third. Christopher accumulated enough points to secure the track series championship. The Daytona 500 closed out Speedweeks on a wet note as the event was halted one lap passed half way because of rain. Michael Waltrip, leading at the time, was awarded the win. Many fans were displeased by this outcome.

   Five years ago in 2008, at New Smyrna it was back to business for the Tour type Modifieds and the SK type Modifieds on Monday night. The new week brought in some new competition including the Tom Baldwin Sr Tribute car that would be driven by Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch. Other new arrivals included James Civali, Buck Catalano, Ronnie Silk and Barry Callavini.

   In the Tour type Modified 25 lap feature Ryan Preece, who is the grandson of legendary car owner Bob Judkins, took advantage of the eight-car qualifying inversion by starting on the Pole Position of the Tour-Type Modified race and led pole to pole to score his first Tour-Type Modified victory. Kevin Goodale finished second and was followed by Chuck Hossfeld, Bobby Grigas and Ted Christopher.

   The SK type Modified feature saw a surprise winner in the form of Eric Goodale. Goodale, who had been running in third spot, took advantage of a tangle between leaders Kenny Horton and Jimmy Blewett. Both drivers went into turn four nose to tail with Horton leading Blewett on the final lap. Blewett attempted to rattle Horton with a blast from his chrome horn. The blast was a little too much as Horton spun and Blewett hit the wall. Horton attempted to roll across the track to the finish line as Goodale spun to avoid being collected in the wreck. Goodale’s car suffered slight damage as he hit the wall after taking the win. Blewett took full blame for the incident. Horton managed to finish second with Josh Sylvester, third. Billy Anderson and Brad VanHouton rounded out the top five. Blewett ended up 11th in the final rundown.
Heavy rain and a bad forecast forced the New Smyrna Speedway to cancel Tuesday night’s racing program.

   On Wednesday night at New Smyrna Kenny Horton redeemed himself from earlier misfortunes and defeats as he won the SK Type Modified feature over Josh Sylvester. It was a great victory for Horton but the night belonged to Jimmy Blewett who won the 50 lap feature that was run in memory of his late brother John Blewett III. In the 50 lap John Blewett III Memorial Jimmy Blewett started on the pole and led every lap to score the win over Ted Christopher. Christopher recovered from a spin with Chuck Hossfeld on lap 8 and passed Ron Silk for the second spot on a lap 20 restart. At the finish Silk faded to fourth as Bob Grigas took over the third finishing spot. Hossfeld rounded out the top five.

   Horton stated that he was taking the rest of the week off in order to spend some quality time with his family. Jimmy Blewett finished third in the SK type event and was followed by Glen Griswold, Eric Goodale and Billy Anderson. Nineteen cars started the SK type race and 23 started the Tour type Modified race.

   For the second time within a week Jimmy Blewett scored a clean sweep at New Smyrna as he won both the Tour type and SK type Modified features on Thursday night. In the Tour type feature Blewett took the lead from Chuck Hossfeld on lap four and pulled away from the field, running uncontested for the rest of the 25 lap distance. Hossfeld finished second with Ted Christopher, third. Eric Beers and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five. In the SK type feature Blewett took a lot of heat from Josh Sylvester but in the end was able to prevail. Sylvester finished second and was followed by Glen Griswold Brad Vanhouten and Butch Perry.

   In Thursday action at the Daytona Int. Speedway Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the first 150 mile qualifier for his second victory of Speedweeks, and Denny Hamlin captured the second in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, passing teammate Tony Stewart on the first overtime lap, giving the manufacturer its first victory in Sprint Cup racing. Earnhardt’s Thursday's victory came after he moved to the rear of the starting field after changing an engine. Reed Sorenson was second in his Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge, Ryan Newman third in his Penske Racing Dodge, Casey Mears fourth in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy and Carl Edwards fifth in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

   Stewart was second in the second race, Earnhardt's teammate Jeff Gordon third, Kasey Kahne fourth in his Gillett Evernham Dodge and Mark Martin fifth in Earnhardt's former Chevy ride at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

   At New Smyrna on Friday night it was the Richie Evans Memorial for the Tour type Modifieds taking center stage. Eric Beers used a lightning fast pit stop to put him in position to win the prestigious event. A caution on lap 65 of the 100 lap event shuffled the field with most of the front runners pitting including then race leader Ted Christopher. Kevin Goodale elected not to pit and inherited the lead when the field restarted. Goodale’s strategy almost paid off when, with eight laps left, he spun, handing the lead to Beers. Beers then held off Jimmy Blewett to take the win. Goodale recovered to finish 13th. Bob Grigas III finished third and was followed by Ronnie Silk, JR Bertuccio and Chuck Hossfeld. Rounding out the top ten were James Civali, Jon McKennedy, Ted Christopher and Rowan Pennink. There were 19 cars in the field.

   In SK type Modified action the field was trimmed to 15 cars. Jimmy Blewett in his Eddie Partridge owned mount had been the class of the field and on Friday night made it four out of six in World Series competition. Josh Sylvester, for the third time, finished second. Glen Griswold, Billy Anderson and Shelly Perry followed.

   Todd Bodine held off a late push from Kyle Busch and Johnny Benson to win the season-opening NASCAR Craftsman truck race at the Daytona International Speedway on Friday night and picked up his first victory at the Florida Super Speedway. The 2006 Craftsman Truck Series champion passed Erik Darnell coming off pit road with about 13 laps to go, and then stayed out front the rest of the way to claim the Chevy Silverado 250.

   Jimmy Blewett finished out his tour of duty at the New Smyrna Speedway World Series with dual championships, the Tour type Modifieds and the SK type Modifieds. For his week under the stars in Florida Blewett scored 3 Tour type wins and 5 SK type wins. Congratulations are in order for the New Jersey driver as well as his owners, Eddie Partridge Racing and Grasso Bros. Racing.

   In the final night of racing, Saturday, there were sparse fields of cars in both divisions. Ten Tour type Modifieds and 13 SK type Modifieds were on hand. Ted Christopher, who had been shut out of victory lane at New Smyrna since 2006 somewhat redeemed himself as he took the checkered flag in the series ending 25 lapper for the Tour Type Modifieds. Jon McKennedy drew the pole starting position and led the event for the first 17 laps before being passed by Christopher. Christopher no sooner had gotten by when McKennedy and Andy Seuss tangled and wrecked hard! Christopher, although winless up to that point was in contention for the series championship. Blewett finished a conservative fifth and was able to sew up the title despite Christopher’s win. Eric Beers finished second and was followed by Chuck Hossfeld and Bob Grigas.

   The SK type Modifieds were supposed to go 50 laps but because of a short field had their distance shortened to 30. Jimmy Blewett started on the outside pole and before one lap was completed blew away pole sitter Shelly Perry for the lead and eventual win. Glen Griswold ended up second and was followed by Eric Goodale, Butch Perry and Jim Zacharias. Shelly Perry faded to finish in 11th spot.

   Ryan Newman snapped an 81-race winless streak Sunday, using a huge push from teammate Kurt Busch to give car owner Roger Penske his first Daytona 500 victory. Penske, the most successful owner in open-wheel history with 14 wins in the prestigious Indianapolis 500, now has a victory in NASCAR's showcase event. In a green-white-checker finish Newman pulled away for his first win since New Hampshire in September 2005, while pre race favorite Tony Stewart had to settle for third. Kurt Busch finished second.

   The Sprint Cup, the Nationwide Series and the Craftsman Truck Series head for Fontana CA this weekend. Don Lia, the 2007 Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion will make his maiden voyage in the TRG Motorsports Chevy Truck this Saturday.

   The Hartford Courant reported on Feb 12 that Griswold, CT commercial developer Gregory Mackin had signed an agreement with Terry Eames to buy the Waterford Speedbowl property. Evidently the Courant jumped the gun as property owner Eames stated there had been discussions with several parties interested in buying the Speedbowl and one of them was associated with Jerry Robinson. In Eames’ own words. “There has been no agreement signed with anyone regarding the track changing hands. Nor have any deposits been taken toward such a sale”.

   The property was a go as far as being a race track in 2008 but beyond that, was still in question.

   Last year, 2012, After having Sunday night off the Modifieds and SK Modifieds resumed their series at New Smyrna. Ryan Preece who suffered severe damage to his family owned mount on Saturday night returned to the racing wars with his grandfathers’ Modified, the legendary Bobby Judkins 2x. Fourteen Modifieds and five SKs went to post for their 25 lap feature. Daniel Hemric, driving the Hillbilly Racing No. 79 went pole to pole to record the win. It was not a Sunday drive as he had a lot of heat on his bumper through out the feature. Eric Goodale finished second with Patrick Emerling, third. Two cautions during the early going for minor spins slowed field. Going into the closing moments things heated up. On lap 22 Chuck Hossfeld and Ted Christopher made contact with Hossfeld spinning out. Both were put to the rear for the restart. On lap 23, Preece made contact with John Jensen bringing another yellow. On the restart, Hemric jumped out in front and sprinted to the win. A tangle between Preece and Christopher unfolded at the finish. Preece was under Jensen who ran into Christopher. Jensen then tried to go between Preece and Christopher and made slight contact. The end result found Christopher and Preece in the wall with damage. Rob Schultz was the top finishing SK.

   Twelve Modifieds and five SK Modifieds were on hand on Tuesday night at New Smyrna. Ted Christopher appeared to have recorded his second win of the series until his car was disqualified when he and car owner Joe Brady refused a teardown. Second place finisher Chuck Hossfeldt was awarded the win. Patrick Emerling was elevated to the runner-up spot and Daniel Hamric was placed third. Eric Goodale and Johnsen rounded out the top five. Christopher had taken the lead from Hossfeld after a slingshot-bottom shot move on lap 4. Evidently track officials and fellow competitors felt that the Brady #00 had a little too much power. One can understand why a teardown was refused. First of all the pit area at New Smyrna is dusty and dirty. Second of all even if the engine in question was found to be legal the cost of re-assembly would far exceed the winners share of the purse paid. It makes more sense to take the engine out and put in a spare and go on from there.
Rain washed out Wednesday night’s action. It was learned that Joe Brady and Ted Christopher had made the decision to end their racing at New Smyrna and return home.

   The skies cleared on Thursday as 19 Modifieds, including five SKs went to post. Joining the field was Chris Young and Andy Seuss. Rejoining was the Preece #40 that had been rebuilt after an early series crash. The event was originally scheduled to be a 50 lapper in honor of John Blewett III but it was reduced to 25 laps. Chuck Hossfeld took the lead with five laps to go and went on to record the victory. Patrick Emerling, who had led from the drop of the green, finished second with Preece, third. Rounding out the top five was Eric Goodale and Andy Seuss. Among the casualties were Chris Young and Donnie Knoll who wrecked hard on the backstretch on lap 19. Jim Zacharias was the top finishing SK Modified.

   The eighth night, Friday, saw the running of the annual Richie Evans 100. Eric Goodale scored the biggest win of his career as he won the event after taking the lead from Daniel Hemric on lap 70. In the final run-down, Ryan Preece finished second with Chuck Hossfeldt, third. Hemric slipped to fourth with Andy Seuss rounding out the top five. Rob Schultz was the top finishing SK. Nine of the original 14 starters finished on the lead lap.

   The final night of competition saw only nine cars go to post for the 25 lap Modified feature. Chuck Hossfeld took the lead from Andy Seuss after a lap 10 restart and went on to record his third win of the series. Hossfeld was also crowned Series Champion. Following Hossfeld in the feature finish was Seuss followed by Kyle Ebersole, Daniel Hamric and John Jensen.

   It appeared that the 2013 schedule would change, especially concerning the Modifieds who would be in competition at the soon to be constructed 4/10 mile oval on the backstretch at the Daytona Int. Speedway.

   Mario Fiore who scooped the Donnie Lia announcement of his return to the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile in 2012. It had been rumored that Garbarino would retire but it looked like that’s not going to happen. With Lia back it would be interesting to see if Troyer Bob returns as crew chief. The Mystic Missile will be without the during the week services of Jimmy ”The Junkman” Savage as he had suffered a stroke and would be pretty much confined to his home. Jim had been a vital part of Mystic River Marina Racing for many years and would be missed.

   Tony Stewart scored the victory in Thursday’s first Gatorade Duel at Daytona while Danica Patrick simply went on a wild ride to end the race. Jamie McMurray’s Chevrolet pinched off Aric Almirola’s Ford which sent Patrick’s car out of control and sent her flying across the asphalt before slamming into the SAFER Barrier. Her Chevrolet was destroyed and because the crash happened on the white flag lap the race was complete with Stewart the winner ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Marcos Ambrose, Michael McDowell and Robby Gordon. Matt Kenseth, the 2003 NASCAR Cup champion and 2009 Daytona 500 winner was able to get a hefty push from 2006 Daytona 500 winner and five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson to win Thursday’s second Gatorade Duel at Daytona Qualifying race.

   The Nextera 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race ended under the yellow flag and rookie driver John King claimed the victory
James Buescher earned his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory in Saturday’s Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona Int’l Speedway. Buescher, who also posted his first ARCA Racing Series triumph at Daytona, was 11th entering the final turn when the leaders piled into one another and he skated to the bottom to drive the Turner Motorsports Chevrolet to victory.

   Three sets of two drivers were racing for the lead when the front duo of Kyle and Kurt Busch drifted up the track forcing the middle pair of Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne to the top groove, taking away the path of Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler, who were clearly the fastest of the three and headed for Stewart’s fifth straight victory in this race. But after Stewart was forced into the wall and Bayne and Logano spun into the path of the Busch brothers, Buescher accelerated to victory. Brad Keselowski was second in Roger Penske’s Dodge while Sadler guided his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet across the finish line third. Cole Whitt and Austin Dillon completed the top five in a race which was slowed by eight yellow flags (and one red) for 34 of the 120 laps of the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

   Polesitter Danica Patrick was involved in an early accident after being bumped by her JR Motorsports teammate Whitt and was eliminated from contention.

   Rain, fire and Tide laundry detergent all factored into a Daytona 500 that will go down as the most bizarre in NASCAR history. Matt Kenseth picked up his second Daytona 500.

   The first Daytona 500 to be postponed took more than 36 hours to complete after rain pushed it from its scheduled Sunday afternoon start to Monday at lunch, and ultimately turned it into the first ever NASCAR race run in prime-time television. Then Juan Pablo Montoya crashed under caution into a safety truck filled with about 200 gallons of jet fuel, and the collision caused a massive fireball that scorched the track and will be the most indelible image of the 54th running of the "Great American Race. What did they use to clean it up? Tide laundry detergent, of course.

   When the 500 finally ended in the early morning hours Tuesday, the two-week SpeedWeeks odyssey wasn't over: Fog closed the North Carolina airports, stranding drivers and teams at Daytona for yet another night.

   The endurance race was long over by the time the television ratings came in later Tuesday. No one was sure what to expect as Fox made the unprecedented decision to show the race in prime time — the best case scenario once rain washed it out on Sunday. NASCAR originally rescheduled for Monday afternoon but scrapped those plans in the morning based on more rain. FOX hit a home run in the ratings.

   What happened was a show like no other, beginning from the second lap of the race, when five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was caught in an accident that also collected Danica Patrick, ruining her Daytona 500 debut. From there it was 25 lead changes among 13 drivers, 10 cautions, and that really big fire. Montoya was driving alone under caution when something broke on his car. He spun hard into a safety truck, and the collision caused an instant explosion.

   Kenseth and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle took over the lead following the fire stoppage with 40 laps to go.

   Earnhardt held off Biffle at the line, while Kenseth grabbed his second Daytona 500 win in four years. He won the 2009 race by passing Elliott Sadler on the backstretch moments before the caution came out for rain, and he was declared the winner while waiting on pit road.

   In 53 previous Daytona 500's, only four have been shortened by rain, none have been postponed. Had the Daytona International Speedway run the 500 on its traditional weekend, last week, the race would have gone off without a hitch. At the urging of FOX Sports NASCAR moved the date. Monsoon type rain fell just about all day in the Daytona area forcing NASCAR to go to their next clear policy. Mike Joy and his announcing team did yeoman’s duty for over five hours talking about everybody and everything associated with the running of the 500. It must be noted that on one occasion during the early 80s when Joy worked at Stafford he talked non-stop for 12 hours on a CB while driving from Martinsville to Connecticut with the late Ed Yerrington who was the promoter and General Mgr at the Stafford Speedway.

   NASCAR announced that the 2013 Daytona 500 will remain the last Sunday in February at Daytona International Speedway. Track president Joie Chitwood confirmed that "The Great American Race" would start on Feb. 24 of next year. The race was moved from its traditional second or third week of February this year for the first time since 1971 as NASCAR eliminated its weekend off in early March. Many with timeshares and renewable leases were caught short and had to scramble for last minute accommodations when the change was made this year.

   Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-mail:

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: February 22, 2013

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