Random Lugnuts: Before The Big Race
Topics: Daytona 500, Max Papis What is Random Lugnuts? It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan. The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop: you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.
February 13, 2010
I gotta give NASCAR credit, as the NFL just finished it's season with a game whose name you cannot mention without getting a knock on your door from an NFL lawyer, NASCAR fans aren't forced to cower in fear from the sport they love. They're not forced to hide behind such euphemisms as "The Big Race" to descibe our most cherished event. Heck, even the NFL tried to trademark "The Big Game" after so many people used it to describe their championship, but that was only because they couldn't use the real name.
Yeah, you still can't slap the Daytona 500 logo on your product and fake an association with NASCAR or the event, but you can say "Daytona 500" in a public place without a gray-suited jackass handing you papers.
Okay, why bring this up if there's no problem here? Because there's no problem here. Hardly anyone ever congratulates NASCAR on a good race but we're all quick to jump on them for a bad one. Every once in a while, we just gotta say, "nice job, NASCAR."
Massimiliano Papis, better known as Max Papis and occasionally known as Mad Max, makes his 18th start in Cup racing tomorrow. Two other Italians, Mario Andretti and Lella Lombardi, accounted for 1 win (the 1967 Daytona 500) and 3 top tens in 15 starts until Max came along. Okay, Lella accounted for one 31st-place finish and Mario scored the rest.
With an average finish of 31.1 over 15 races last season and a 43rd-place points finish, it's no wonder he doesn't grab the attention of other foreign-born NASCAR drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya or Marcos Ambrose. But he's there, representing Italy and definitely worth watching.
Nothing like having drafting help at Daytona! I'm wondering what's going to happen on the first couple laps, if the trio of Hendrick drivers who start 1-2-3 (Martin, Earnhardt Jr., Johnson) will trade spots for bonus points, get in line and defend the lead, or have a little friendly fun fighting for that first-lap lead.
Rick Hendrick, of course, might not want to watch. It got to be a lot of fun for him watching the races, having four capable drivers out on the track at the same time because if one's having a bad day two more are usually in a position to win. Wrecking three cars in the opening laps of the biggest race, though, that's not fun.
I'm excited that Dale Jr. is one of the three. Last year, it was Johnson, Gordon, and Martin running up front and Junior back in the 20-somethings. I know other fans are excited, too, given some optimism for this season from his early show of speed. I wonder what the ratings drop would be if Dale Jr. crumples his car in the first 10 laps?
With a guy like Mark Martin, age 51, competing and winning well beyond even Brett Favre's years, it's worth noting that he's just one of a few holdouts hanging on into their advanced years. Most of them are towards the back of the field, with 46-year old Michael Waltrip trailing the other 42 starters. One day, perhaps next February, the Daytona 500 will roll off without a Waltrip in the field. Other racing family names that might be missing from the starting field soon include Labonte and Burton as Bobby and Jeff are well into their forties.
45-year old Bobby Labonte and 46-year old Joe Nemechek start just in front of Waltrip, and Bill Elliott (age 54) on the outside of the next row up. Jeff Burton is still competitive at age 42, but in tomorrow's race he starts just inside Elliott. In front of them is 47-year old Boris Said and the last sub-40 year old driver in the field, 27-year old Robert Richardson Jr, starting 37th.
The average age of starters in positions 38-43? 46.6.
It won't last forever, so enjoy seeing them race while you can.
CarsAndRacingStuff.com has a racing team! No, it doesn't really exist. It's a fantasy racing team on Yahoo! Sports.
So why should you follow what I do in fantasy racing? I started back in '05 with Crittenden Racing and finished 96th percentile. In '06 I switched to the CarsAndRacingStuff.com Racing name and ran a two-team operation, finishing 85th and 98th percentile. I had a rough year in '07, though, finishing 65th-70th. Then I had some family issues during the '08 season and let my team lapse into disqualification for drivers being picked for too many races, dropping to 40th-44th.
2009, however, was a comeback season, trimming my "operation" to a single team and getting back up to the 98th percentile at the end of the season. My summer segment was just awesome, finishing first in both Fans of Michael Waltrip and Fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (I would finish the season 11th in Mikey's group and 99th in Junior's) and 45th overall, ranking 4,617th overall at the end of the whole season.
I recommend the Yahoo! Fantasy Racing program because it's free. All you need is a Yahoo! ID, and a LOT of people have Yahoo! IDs.
I created the group Fans of Random Lugnuts, which you can see at http://racing.fantasysports.yahoo.com/auto/group/28844 and join with the Group ID#28844 and password "lugnuts".
Anyway, for the Daytona 500, I'm taking Jimmie Johnson as my A-List driver. I'm not gonna be happy if he wins the race because NASCAR needs to see a new faces at the top, or at least old faces returning to the front of the field, but at least I'll have a good start on my fantasy season. Harvick and Kahne are my B-Listers, the drivers who won the Shootout and a Duel. My C-List driver is Awesome Bill from Dawsonville, because he was my favorite driver back in the day. Like I said before, guys like Elliott won't be around forever, and we should enjoy their races while we can.
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