No matter how it all shakes out, 2014 will look nothing like what it has in recent seasons. we have a new Chase, a new penalty system, new drivers, old drivers in new rides, and the list goes on. Amid all the changes, some things look familiar, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The number three is out front– The number three car and Daytona seem to go hand in hand. There was Paul Goldsmith on the old road-beach course, Fireball Roberts, Junior Johnson, and then there was Dale Earnhardt. The number three is back out on the track, and in the number three is one Austin Dillon, who has claimed P-1 for the start of the Great American Race this Sunday.
Hambone and Smoke are back– Three-time champion and fan favorite Tony Stewart is out cruising around in his number 14 again, and though he got wrecked, Smoke said it was a good thing; proving to himself he could take a hit. With a win in the Sprint Unlimited, Denny Hamlin has a nice follow-up to his season-ending win at Homestead. The 2010 runner-up appears poised to kick it and take names with JGR teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.
Pyrotechnics– What is Daytona without some random mishap? The Pace car catches fire? Some of the Juan Pablo Montoya references have been a real crack up. Hopefully, this little misfortune means there will be no rain, no pot holes in the pavement or worse. Hopefully, we have more than eight cars running at the end.
The Duels– Thank God we still have the Duels. Among all the events leading up to the 500, this event is the one yours truly always looks forward. The front row for Sunday’s race is already set, but then there’s everyone else. Theses races mean everything for some drivers, as this is their only shot to get in. Thursday’s events leave you hungry for more, especially if they live up to the hype.
The conspiracy theories– NASCAR isn’t NASCAR without a conspiracy theory. Kyle Busch proposed the powers that be wanted the number three and Junior on the front row. One little problem: Martin Truex Jr. took the outside spot on the front row and messed half that idea up. Fans will also point out how Danica Patrick got the pole last year, lending further credence that the fix is in from NASCAR. Choose to believe it, if you will, I can see how that may look bad. Radio talk show hosts like Alex Jones are living proof there is a market out there for conspiratorial thinking. Personally, it’s not a world I choose to live in, as the real conspiracies are always uncovered eventually. Whichever you choose to believe, it does make for interesting conversation, and it’s been a part of NASCAR going back to the days of the Flock family and Big Bill France.