Daytona: The Season Begins (Part 2)
You can check out Part 1 of this blog by clicking here.
Sprint Unlimited Post-race
The 2013 race season began Saturday night at the Daytona International Speedway with the Sprint Unlimited race. The track is a 2.5 mile tri-oval that sits on a 480 acre lot and houses the largest audience in motorsports. This super-speedway has a 40-foot wide racing area and a 12 – 30 foot apron. The banking is 31 degrees in the turns and 18 degrees on the tri-oval. The front stretch and tri-oval is 3,800 feet long and the backstretch is 3,000 feet long, with minimal banking.
The starting grid for this race consisted of 19 drivers; normally a 43 driver field sets the race weekend. The drivers are as follows in the position they started in.
1: Carl Edwards: No. 99, 2: Mark Martin: No. 55, 3: Kasey Kahne: No. 5,
4: Greg Biffle: No. 16, 5: Denny Hamlin: No. 11, 6: Martin Truex Jr.: No. 56,
7: Jeff Gordon: No. 24, 8: Aric Almirola: No. 43, 9: Joey Logano: No. 22,
10: Marcos Ambrose: No. 9, 11: Jimmie Johnson: No. 48, 12: Matt Kenseth: No. 20,
13: Kyle Busch: No. 18, 14: Juan Pablo Montoya: No. 42, 15: Tony Stewart: No. 14,
16: Dale Earnhardt Jr.: No. 88, 17: Kevin Harvick: No. 29, 18: Kurt Busch: No. 78,
19: Ken Schrader: No. 32
A new car is to be used this year called the Gen-6 car. It is lighter, faster, and has better visibility then previous cars. The drivers had limited practice with this new car, and they were unsure how they would handle in an actual race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said over his radio, “I hope you ain’t attached to this thing,” talking to his crew.
With the dropping of the green flag at approximately 8:30 pm, the roar of the crowd drowned out the roar of the engines as the drivers accelerated. Fans stood on their feet and cheered as the racing season got underway. Side by side the 19 drivers jostled for position as they brought their machines up to speed. By the time they finished lap one, speeds had reached 200 mph and the leader of the race was Gregg Biffle. At lap three of side by side, and sometimes three or four wide, Matt Kenseth was the leader and held the lead for several laps.
On lap 14, Tony Stewart thought he had enough room to squeeze in front of Marcus Ambrose and clipped the front end of Ambrose’s car. Kyle bush checked-up and started a chain reaction crash that involved seven machines. Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jimmy Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch were involved. In an interview after the race, Tony took responsibility for the wreck.
In interviews after the crash, Kyle Busch said, “I was sandwiched into the fence.” “I didn’t see much. I was just cruising along and I saw sparks in front of me – I knew that wasn’t good,” Johnson said. Jeff Gordon said, “It was a domino back to me.”
After track cleanup, the race resumed on lap 20. Matt Kenseth led from that point until lap 29, the last lap of the first segment, where he was passed by Tony Stewart, who won the first segment.
With all drivers having to pit for a mandatory four-tire stop, voted on by the fans, it mixed up the field for the restart. Kevin Harvick came out of the pits first to take the lead, with Gregg Biffle second. In the second 25 lap segment Kevin Harvick led most of them, but not with efforts from the other drivers to pass. The eleven cars that were left in the field kept in a pack and most of them took a turn at trying to pass Harvick for the lead.
On lap 55 at the end of the second segment, all eleven cars came in the pits for four tires and adjustment for the last segment of 20 laps for the trophy. While in the pits, Stewart told his crew, “tighten me up, because it’s going to get ornery.”
Midway through the last segment Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, “Engine sounds sick, but has lost no power.” With Harvick, Stewart, Kenseth, and Logano fighting for the lead, and the rest of the field close behind, Logano slips and loses his momentum, shuffling Kenseth back to eighth.
With three laps to go, six cars break away from the rest of the field, with Harvick leading.
Coming to the flag on the last lap, Tony tried to pass Harvick on the inside, Harvick went down to block, opening the outside for Biffle to try a pass. Harvick swerved up in front of Biffle and crossed the line the winner. The top five finishers were, Harvick, Biffle, Logano, Stewart, and Kenseth.
During the traditional burnout by the winner, Harvick’s car quit running and had to be pushed to victory lane. “That’s awesome, I broke it, that’s awesome,” Harvick said waiting for the push truck.
In an interview after the race Harvick thanked his sponsors, and crew. “It’s about winning races,” Harvick said. “The politics and everything are one thing, but when we get to the race track it’s about sitting in this race car making it as fast as it will go. And those guys, they don’t care about anything but winning and wanting to do good, so we owe it to them and everybody at Budweiser.”