Kicking off the season in style, the Daytona 500 carries the largest purse of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events and is widely considered to be the season’s most prestigious race. Covering a distance of 500 miles, it is one of the four restrictor plate races on the Sprint Cup Series calendar and is a test of driver skill and endurance. Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag on Sunday, notching up his second Daytona 500 victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in at second place, followed by Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman in third, fourth and fifth places respectively. After earning pole position for the race, Danica Patrick crossed the finish line in eighth place.
Restrictor plates are used at superspeedways (Talladega and Daytona) to slow cars down and have been the subject of much controversy as some drivers have expressed concern that the use of restrictor plates results in the field bunching up and thereby increasing the risk level of racing as top drivers try to pull away from the crowd. Fortunately, there were no major incidents at this year’s Daytona 500, maybe because drivers are well aware of the increased risk and remained huddled together for the first 180 laps. When Johnson pulled to the front, he clearly intended to stay there, and it was a close race between Johnson and Earnhardt. While Earnhardt made every effort to claim his second first place, with a little more than a mile to go, Earnhardt and third place winner Martin went low on the track. Johnson maneuvered his way to the front and took first place, closely followed by Earnhardt and veteran NASCAR driver Martin.
As the first woman to win pole position at the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick led three times in the race, finishing eighth and making NASCAR history, yet again, as the highest finish for a female driver at this exciting annual event. In a post-race interview Patrick noted that it was a “solid day” and was clearly pleased to have stayed in the top 10 through the race.
Taking the lead in 209 of the 250 laps in Sunday’s NASCAR Nationwide race at the Iowa Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. claimed his third straight win on the short oval. In a post-race interview, Stenhouse noted that he found it to be a lot of fun leading that many laps and that it felt good to win three in a row. His 209 laps lead tied the track record set in 2010 by Kyle Busch, while his three-in-a-row win at the same track was the first by a Nationwide driver since Busch set that record at Texas in 2009-2010. Stenhouse’s victory also extended his point lead to 28 over second-place winner Elliot Sadler. Michael McDowell finished third with rookie Austin Dillion and Kurt Busch coming in fourth and fifth respectively.
While Elliot Sadler started on the pole, Sam Hornish Jr. soon took the lead, holding it for thirty laps before losing it to Stenhouse. Cole Whitt, Kyle Busch and Justin Allgaier each had a short stint in the lead, but were unable to hold Stenhouse back for more than a few laps. Having worked his way to second place, Sadler commended his team for coming back from the previous week’s disappointment with a car worthy of winning the race.
For the second time this season, Danica Patrick failed to finish the race. Starting ninth, Patrick fell back to 16th place before her tire reportedly blew, and she drifted wide slamming into the wall on her 115th lap of the 250-lap event. The damage suffered by the No.7 car was too extensive for Patrick to continue the race. Admitting that she was disappointed, particularly in light of the fact that they were having the best short track weekend ever, Patrick noted that there are 34 weekends of racing where anything could happen.
Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, 18-year old Darrell Wallace Jr. Started eighth in his first Nationwide series career start, and finished in ninth place. Wallace is sponsored by NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program. This initiative was started in 2004 and has experienced a measure of success in increasing participating by women and minority groups in this fast-paced sport.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series opened with a thrills and spills filled DRIVE4COPD 300, held at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, 25 February 2012. The race kicked off with a field of 43, only six of which made it through unmarred. James Buescher managed to maneuver through a large 11-car pile-up and went on to win the opener. Buescher was followed home by Brad Keselowski in second and Elliott Sadler in third place.
Through much of the race on Saturday, Buescher didn’t appear to have a very good chance of winning. Coming around the last turn in 11th place, he was met by a substantial wreck. The mess is said to have been caused when Kurt Busch tried to block some other cars, while various other drivers were putting pressure on each other. It quickly turned into a mass of spinning cars, including those driven by Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Buescher managed to clear the tangle in his No. 30 FOE Chevrolet and race on to victory. This was Buescher’s first NASCAR win.
Another accident that left racegoers disappointed was Danica Patrick’s wreck on her 49th lap. She began in pole position and was looking good when her teammate Cole Whitt from JR Motorsports ran into the back of her vehicle while he was bump-drafting. This caused Patrick’s car to spin into the wall and then back onto the track. She was, however, able to rejoin the race, but could only make it to 38th position. This is set to be Danica Patrick’s first full Nationwide Series season.
A storm hitting Daytona International Speedway resulted in the postponement of the popular Daytona 500 scheduled for Sunday, 26 February. The race has been rescheduled to take place on Monday, 27 February at noon. This is the first time in the history of the race that it has had to move to another day. The Daytona 500 will kick off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, which consists of 10 events. Despite delays, it is set to be an exciting race that fans won’t want to miss!
The economic situation all over the world has been felt in many industries and sports in the last few months. Concerns over the IndyCar Series has been on the minds of most members of the auto racing industry, but on Sunday, a capacity crowd and the spectacular victory of Helio Castroneves during the Indy 500, set the Indianapolis Motor Speedway alight with emotion, excitement and overwhelming joy. It was a magnificent racing event that gave spectators all the racing drama, disappointment and elation that is expected from the Indy 500.
Many refer to the Indy 500 as the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and it was most certainly true of this year’s event. The grandstands were packed with approximately two hundred thousand spectators, and the almost one hundred thousand that could not find space on the stands, decorated the infield in color and vibrant energy. Spectators sat stuck in traffic for hours, to find a parking and a good seat to watch all their racing heroes in action. After seeing ticket sales dwindle and a slump in spectators, the turnout on Sunday, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, proved that the IndyCar Series was gaining momentum again.
Castroneves delivered a magnificent performance, biding his time until near the end, where he took the lead and won the Indy 500 for the third consecutive year. His win awarded Team Penske with $3 million in prize money, with second place driver Dan Wheldon taking $1.6 million, Danica Patrick in third took home $763 305 and Townsend Bell in fourth, received $445 305. Danika Patrick has been performing extremely well, and is well supported by female racing enthusiasts who are elated to see a woman driver succeed on a closed circuit course. In Victory Lane, Castroneves was overwhelmed by emotion over his victory and the fact that his entire family had come out to support him. After being acquitted from federal tax charges, the victory at the Indy 500 most certainly brought joy to Castroneves and a close to the stressful time he had endured. There is no doubt that his fans will be anxious to see Castroneves in action again, and waiting for the next big victory.
Since her arrival on the international racing scene at the 2005 Indianapolis 500, Danica Patrick has been burning rubber and delighting fans. Now she has also made her way into the history books. Patrick became the first female driver to win a major auto racing event while competing in her 50th IndyCar Series race on a closed-course circuit.
This ground breaking event took place on the Twin Ring Motegi oval in Motegi, Japan. Patrick was racing in the Indy Japan 300 when she overtook Helio Castroneves (who placed second) on Lap 198. The pair was followed by Scott Dixon, who took third place, Dan Wheldon, who finished fourth, and Tony Kanaan, who was fifth. Helio Castroneves was only 5.8594 seconds behind Patrick when she crossed the finish line.
After the race fans streamed down from the grandstands to try and get a photo of the latest entry into the history books. The diminutive Patrick, brimming from cheek to cheek and her face covered in tears of joy, quickly made her way to the victory stage to receive her prize. When asked about her win, Danica Patrick told the crowd that the win had been a long time coming. Her and her team had decided it was a fuel strategy race and they had managed to choose the perfect strategy. Patrick said she knew she was using the same strategy as Helio and so she was elated when she was able to pass him and take the lead, enabling her to cross the finish line in first place.
The 26-year-old has come close to finishing first on more than one occasion in the past. In 2005 she finished fourth on the same track and then just a month later she became the first female to lead the Indianapolis 500 where she eventually finished fourth again. Her closest finish up until this point was second place at Belle Isle, which happened last September. Understandably then, the win is a big relief after years of hard work and near-misses.
Jutta Kleinschmidt of Germany was the first to gain the title of “first woman to win a major auto racing event” when she won the Dakar Rally in 2001. Nevertheless, Patrick is the first woman to do so on a closed-course circuit and so her achievement is also remarkable – especially when faced with such tough competition and difficult odds. Danica Patrick will now turn her attention to the RoadRunner Turbo Indy 300, which will be held at the Kansas Speedway in a week’s time. No doubt she will continue to find her way to the top if her passion, hard work and determination continues to drive her as well as it has up until this point.