Officials must repave the surface at Daytona International Speedway before another incident like the one in Sunday's Daytona 500 happens again.

Pothole Aftermath: Daytona Must Repave Aging Surface

The pothole debacle that delayed the Daytona 500 for hours cannot be allowed to happen again.

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Aftermath: Daytona Must Repave Aging Surface

Jamie McMurray shed enough tears to fill a hole, which makes you wonder if NASCAR should have put him on repair duties in the first place.

McMurray's dramatic win and his emotional reaction salvaged the Daytona 500, but it's a shame the Great American Race needed to be saved at all.

If not for nearly two-and-a-half hours of delays to fix the track, it may have gone down as one of the best Daytona 500s ever.

A race-record 21 different leaders. The first double-overtime in NASCAR history. A thrilling finish.

All the elements were there for a great race. Unfortunately, it will be remembered years from now as the time the track broke during NASCAR's Super Bowl.

Overlooking the whole ordeal would be like the castaways from the Lost island saying, "Hey, at least we had great weather!"

Yes, it was a disaster. Maybe not in the eyes of the fans who stuck it out and saw a happy ending, but for the rest of the world outside the NASCAR bubble, it was a debacle.

The mainstream media will have (and is having) a field day with this. Already eager to dump on NASCAR, a pothole in the biggest race of the year gives people a forum to say that racing is a joke.

Would the World Series be interrupted by a sinkhole in the pitcher's mound? Does the Masters get delayed by a Caddyshack-like gopher hole?

No and no. And there's a reason: Sports organizations tend to put their best foot forward at their marquee events.

Everyone is watching - and judging. The Daytona 500 is NASCAR's showcase, and particularly this year it was a chance to show the sport will bounce back from sagging ratings and declining attendance.

The focus was supposed to be on an increase in aggression. More color. More character. More excitement.

And then this. The delays to repair the hole with a patch were literally as exciting as watching pavement dry.

Whose fault is it? No one seems to want to play the blame game, but if there's any responsible party, it's the track.

The 2.5-mile surface at the "World Center of Racing" - a moniker that suggests a facility that is the best of the best - is 32 years old. If no engineer anticipated the bumpy track full of huge dips and waves would last until the anticipated repave in 2014, then that was a severe miscalculation.

But assigning blame isn't the point here. What matters now is that Daytona International Speedway officials take action by repaving the aging surface as soon as possible.

DIS President Robin Braig took "full responsibility" for the incident, saying, "We're the World Center of Racing. This is the Daytona 500. This is not supposed to happen."

He apologized and said "this is hallowed ground."

But Braig later suggested the hole was perhaps gouged by part of a car and said track officials "don't think it's time to repave, unless we find out something different after we evaluate it this week. We've got engineers all over this."

"We don't want to repave - paint the whole house when all we have to do is a little touch-up," he said.

I can save the engineers some time: The track needs to be redone.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said as much ("They should have repaved it several years ago. We'd have it all weathered and ready to go right now. ... It's due, I would say."), but Braig shot back by saying the sport's most popular driver "has not liked our pavement for many years."

This is no time for a war of words, though. Just as when Goodyear and NASCAR combined for the Indianapolis Tire Debacle of 2008, the challenge for Braig and others in charge needs to be: "How can we prevent this from happening again?"

And unless they repave the track, officials are setting themselves up to return to the Daytona 500 next year and just hope - or pray - the surface holds up for another year.

There needs to be more urgency than that. NASCAR can't afford to take too many hits, and if you thought there was a firestorm of reaction to Sunday's black hole, just wait until it happens again.

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