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Random Lugnuts: Waving a Caution Flag on Optimism

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Daytona 500 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.

Random Lugnuts: Waving a Caution Flag on Optimism

Bill Crittenden
February 16, 2010

Checkered Flag

There was no complaining about ugly wings.  None of us was talking about how common templates made the cars look alike.  Foreign cars and foreign drivers weren't brought up.  Mike Helton wasn't mentioned.

Last Sunday, there were three people sitting in a living room together yelling at the television as drivers cut each other off, bumped, shoved and pushed each other to the front, right on through the end as Dale Earnhardt Jr. tried to chase down Jamie McMurray to the checkers.  Anyway, there was so much yelling going on that maybe one or more of those topics was brought up.  I can't remember it all.  But I'm pretty sure none of us was complaining about the usual stuff NASCAR fans complain about.

There was maybe a little jumping up and down when I thought Truex might win it for Waltrip in his first race.  Maybe a little.

After a finish like that, we couldn't even complain about the pothole delays.  After a roughly six-and-a-half-hour event, all I can really say about the end of the Daytona 500 and Jamie's victory celebration is this:  it was worth the wait.

More races like this, and those other issues won't seem like such a big deal.

Stock Car Racing 2010 Season Page

Next on the Schedule...

A lot of teams go into Daytona with fresh optimism for the new season.  Some leave with it intact, some are given more optimism by their performance in the 500, and this year a few are perhaps overly optimistic from the race just ended.

I'm here to say to those who saw their driver do good last night and are excited for 2010:  wait until next week.  Here are ten reasons why this Daytona 500 is not a good indicator of future performance:

10.)  Restrictor Plate Racing - We've seen a lot of teams and drivers in the past that can perform on the restrictor plate tracks (Michael Waltrip when he was driving for DEI, for instance) and can't get the job done through the rest of the schedule.  Maybe your driver/team/engine builder is better at Daytona and Talladega than they are at the non-plate tracks.

9.)  Season Opener - It's the first race of the season.  Teams have months to prepare for the race, and some might not keep up as the races come along about every 7 days now.

8.)  Overpreparing - An extension of #9.  When you have too long to prepare for something, you can overthink it.  Overdo it.  Somehow, some way, make a mistake you might otherwise not have made if you were rushing along to the next week's race.

7.)  The Pothole - Seriously, do you think Jimmie's not going to contend for a championship because he hit a pothole and wasn't up front at the end of one race?

6.)  Drafting - Get left out of the draft one time, late in the race, and a good team gets sent to the back and other cars pass them.  Just because your guy finished in front of _______________ doesn't necessarily mean they'll be anywhere near that level once we're a couple of months into the season.

5.)  Silly Season - A little silliness around midseason can really distract a team.  In this economy, almost anything can happen.

4.)  Roughing the Driver - Now that "the gloves are off" there is more potential for wrecking, getting bump-drafted into the wall, or getting involved in the sort of car-destroying rivalry along the lines of Spencer-Busch some years ago or Hamlin-Keselowski more recently.  Wrecked cars from being on the receiving end and penalties from being on the giving end both equal lost points over the course of the season.

3.)  Spoilers - A midseason wing-to-spoiler change could mean big adjustments in how the cars handle.  If a crew chief can't keep up, their team will sink.

2.)  Night Racing - Instead of a gradual transition from sundown into darkness and at least two or three pit stops to make changes, teams shut off their cars in the daylight and fired them back up at night.  They had one pit stop to make a guess at adjustments, and they were back out onto the track until the finish.  Throw teams a curve, and some swing and miss.  A lucky hit won't make a team a Chase contender.

1.)  The Daytona 500 - Points racing?  What points racing?  This is the Daytona 500!  Grown men cry when they win this thing!  If there was ever a race that embodied that Ricky Bobby "First or Last" attitude, it's the Daytona 500.  Drivers take risks, and some top contenders get shuffled to the back and allow lesser teams into the top 10 at the end.

Really, wait through California, Vegas, Atlanta and Bristol - a wide variety of tracks - before calling it a year early or getting excited about seeing your favorite driver in the Chase.  The end of April would be an ideal time to go ahead and make a real assessment about what might happen in November.  Not this week, though.

Fantasy Racing

Well, now that I took a look at my Yahoo! fantasy racing results, I'm not so happy.  CarsAndRacingStuff.com Racing had a dismal race.  I wasted one of my Jimmie Johnson picks on a pothole-induced DNF, Kasey finished 30th and Bill Elliott a few spots ahead in 27th.  The only bright spot was Kevin Harvick's 7th place.  I'm going to start the season in the 19th percentile, with quite a hill to climb to get back into the 90's.

Check out my Auto Club 500 preview for my Fontana picks.  Join Fans of Random Lugnuts with group ID#28844 and the password "lugnuts".

Comment on this column at http://www.carsandracingstuff.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=56&t=3867

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