OK, I got carried away with the alliteration, but let's look at the controversy surrounding the last lap of the Daytona 500 today.
The whole controversy is with the yellow flag, or lack there of. If NASCAR would have thrown the yellow immediately when the accident occurred (which is the standard protocol of NASCAR) then Mark Martin may have won the race instead of Kevin Harvick, because Mark did pull ahead of Kevin at about the time the accident occurred. If NASCAR throws the yellow flag then the field is electronically 'frozen' and everyone's position on the track is automatically recorded via GPS transmitters located in the same spot of every car. Instead, NASCAR let them race to the checker flag and Harvick was able to capitalize on a side-draft from Martin's car to take over the lead just before crossing the finish line (see picture).
Mark was very good in the interview after. He did not bad mouth NASCAR, or Kevin Harvick. He was gracious and complementary to his team for giving him a chance to compete for the win this year. I bet Jack Roush was happy that Mark didn't win. Heh.
Mark said he just kept waiting for the yellow flag to come out - but it didn't. Although, he didn't say he lifted off the gas peddle either. I think this whole thing would have been different if Mark had slowed down thinking the yellow flag was going to come out like it is supposed to, but he didn't slow, he kept on racing and he lost fair and square.
To be honest, I think there is a more valid complaint to be made about Johnny Benson dropping below the yellow line to take 2nd place in the truck race on Friday. Although he moved ever so slightly to make it look like he was avoiding the truck beside him so that he could get below the line to beat him.
This is not the first race where NASCAR did not throw the caution flag immediately when something happened on the track and it won't be the last. Unless the wreck is happening at the beginning of the last lap, instead of the end, then NASCAR will not throw the caution and have the race end under yellow.
Now on to other things, like Kurt Busch. Kurt Busch took out Tony Stewart and himself with a nudge of his bumper. Just when Kurt is finally starting to keep his nose clean and out of trouble this happens. As far as I'm concerned this was just a racing incident - you can't blame him any more than you can blame Tony for wrecking Kyle Busch last week in "The Bud Shootout". Wait, could this have been some sort of payback? No, but I'm sure there are more than a few of you who believe that - probably the same people who believe in the Jeff Gordon conspiracy.
Personally, I enjoyed the last lap and I think NASCAR did the right thing in not throwing the caution because if they did throw it the very instant the wreck happened then Harvick still would have won because he was ahead of Martin at that point. Martin overtook Harvick a split second later and without Kyle Busch behind him was helpless to fend of Harvick's resurgence.
Before I part here are some interesting points to note about today's race:
- Harvick won by 0.020 of a second
- This is the first Daytona 500 that car owner Richard Childress has won since the death of Dale Earnhardt six years ago to the day!
- Oddly enough Harvick led only four laps, tying the late Benny Parsons for the fewest laps led by a Daytona 500 champion
- Richard Childress was quoted as saying that his team, "hasn't been this prepared for a season of racing since 2001" and they were loaded for bear in 2001 because they had just finished 2nd in the Championship the year before and were heavily favoured to win the Championship in 2001 with Dale Earnhardt at the wheel
- Finally, with Harvick in 1st the other RCR cars finsihed 3rd and 18th with Jeff Burton and Clinton Bowyer. Oddly enough Bowyer crossed the finish line on his roof and on fire. Can anyone see the eerie positioning here? Look at it. Kevin Harvick, who replaced Dale Earnhardt after his death, wins at Daytona 6 years to the day Dale died, Jeff Burton finished 3rd - the number of the car in which Dale drove to fame, and Bowyer finished in 18th the same number of the day in which Dale died - while involved in a last lap crash, just like Dale.
I have chills just writing this!
Photo Credits: The Associated Press.