News & Media

Menzer: Daytona a good news-bad news situation

July 10, 2012, Joe Menzer,

SHR finishes and Hornish were highlights, while Dinger and Patrick had lowlights

The race weekend that just passed at Daytona International Speedway was typical for a weekend at the venue, where the only thing predictable is unpredictability.

There were several good news-bad news scenarios that played out, including these ...

Daytona dazzles again

Another weekend in Daytona, another action-packed NASCAR stretch of events. Take a look back at some highlights.

Good News: For Stewart-Haas Racing, it was a great weekend -- all cooling-hose issues aside. Not only did head honcho Tony Stewart impressively race from 42nd to first to capture Saturday night's Coke Zero 400, but teammate Ryan Newman also managed to finish fifth.

For Stewart, it was his third victory of the season and he jumped four spots to fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings. With only eight races left before the Chase for the Cup cutoff, he's a lock to be in dandy position to defend his 2011 title. And it looks like he will be hard to beat. Remember, last year he barely made the Chase and entered it with zero wins and, it seemed, zero chance of winning the championship before reeling off five victories over the 10-race Chase stretch. Now he's in position to enter NASCAR's playoffs with plenty of bonus points that likely will put him at or near the head of the field before it even commences.

Bad News: Despite Saturday's strong finish and a victory of his own earlier this season at Martinsville, Newman still languishes at 15th in the point standings. And he's behind two others who also have one win apiece in Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, meaning he's still on the outside of the Chase looking in as it pertains to the last two wild-card spots that go to those outside the top 10 in points (but inside the top 20) who have the most wins after the first 26 races.

There is more good news, however. This week the Cup Series visits New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Newman has excelled in his career. In 20 career Cup starts at the venue, he owns three wins, six top-fives, has started from the pole six times, and has led a total of 720 laps. The only other track where he's won as many races or led as many laps is at Dover.

Good News: Sam Hornish Jr. made it to Daytona in time to drive the No. 22 Dodge for Penske Racing in Saturday's race. Hornish had been preparing to do some work as a television analyst -- in Charlotte, N.C., no less -- when the call came that he was needed to replace AJ Allmendinger in the seat.

Hornish scrambled to get to a nearby regional airport and board a private plane, which whisked him to Daytona. He even had to change into his driver's fire suit while in the air, and got to the car on the starting grid as the final strains of the National Anthem were played. Never mind that he went on to finish only 33rd; it was a heck of an effort on his part to even get there.

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Bad News: It's sad that Hornish was even needed. Allmendinger was suspended prior to the race for failing a random drug test administered by NASCAR during the previous race weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's vice president of racing operations, said prior to Saturday's race that the failed test came off of Allmendinger's "A" sample and stated that Allmendinger had 72 hours to request testing of his "B" sample. But if that test fails also, or if Allmendinger declines to even have it tested, the driver will be suspended indefinitely until undergoing further examination or treatment. And if that happens, it will be a sad day for the driver who spent years trying to earn the type of quality ride that he then likely would have to give up.

Good News: On the Nationwide Series front, Danica Patrick led 14 laps in Friday's Subway Jalapeno 250 at DIS, looking for a stretch as if she might just win her first NASCAR race.

Bad News: Patrick discovered once again how difficult it is to survive these restrictor-plate affairs, getting collected in a late wreck that relegated her to a 31st-place finish. It left her ninth in the series point standings.

Good News: And hey, kudos to Kurt Busch for his stirring victory for underfunded Phoenix Racing in Friday's Nationwide event. Busch displayed once again that he's one of the most talented drivers in the garage -- and that includes all the guys on the Cup side. He especially has a knack for running well on the tricky restrictor-plate tracks at Daytona and Talladega.

Bad News: Busch still has a long way to go to completely repair is badly-damaged public image off the race track, which will no doubt be taken into serious consideration by anyone willing to give him a better ride in either series going forward. It must be said, however, that in all the time Busch was at Penske Racing and for all the bad temper he displayed, at least he never brought on the embarrassment of a failed random drug test.

That's the real kick in the stomach for Penske Racing.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.