The 2013 edition of the Daytona 500 was ran on Sunday, February 24th with very little action or drama that Cup fans have so desperately been seeking with the brand new Generation Six car, as the 200 lap race featured a great deal of single-lane racing—termed by some as “freight-train racing”—and a finish that saw Mr. Five Time Champion Jimmie Johnson take the lead late from Brad Keselowski and never look back, eventually fending off charging teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. as well as veteran Mark Martin to win his sixty-first race in his thirteenth season (he’s just fifteen wins behind Dale Earnhardt in almost fifteen fewer seasons, for crying out loud).
While the FOX ratings for the race will support the argument that the fans were content with the race and will feel like the Cup Series may have hit a home run with the new car, the number of viewers is undoubtedly flawed due to the coverage of Danica Patrick, who, despite my predictions, held her ground throughout the race and had a shot at the win before some last lap shuffling moved her back to eighth place. Had Ms. Patrick not been turning laps down in Daytona, you can bet your money that the fans at home would have ultimately decided to turn the channel on a race that seemed as calm as a Sunday afternoon drive, albeit at higher speeds.
The social media reaction to the race’s finish was not exactly positive for those concerned with NASCAR’s future. A brief glimpse of what some of the Tweets that were circulating the site, including one from a future Hall of Famer in baseball, can be seen below:
It is definitely too early to declare that the Gen-6 car is as big of a dud as the Car of Tomorrow quickly proved to be, but it is safe to say that those who hoped it would bring back NASCAR’s competitiveness and attraction that has been missing in the last ten years at least in the Great American Race were proven wrong on this day. Instead of seeing high-speed action with near-misses and breath-taking drama, fans were instead served the par for course, at least for the majority of the post-Winston Cup era: limited action with races “highlighted” by debris cautions and ended with Jimmie Johnson rolling up in Victory Lane.
Although it seems harsh to highly criticize a driver like Johnson for being “too good” in his sport, it is also hard to argue that the El Cajon, California native’s dominance on the track each Sunday has not driven away some of the people that once planned their Sundays around watching their favorite drivers grueling out 500 miles of action. Some may compare Johnson’s run to teammate Jeff Gordon’s in the ‘90s, but the key difference is that Gordon had a direct rivalry in competitor Dale Earnhardt Sr, who more often than not pushed Gordon to his limits and made him earn his victories. Instead, Johnson has had to deal with some drivers, like Tony Stewart or Matt Kenseth, who come out and win races here or there, but do not necessarily find themselves out to top the #48 for the sole purpose of saying they were able to do so at the end of the time. The lack of this type of rivalry is what has hurt NASCAR since Earnhardt’s death in 2001, and why NASCAR better prepare itself for a steep drop-off in TV ratings when the Cup Series heads to Phoenix.
Do you agree with the thought that NASCAR still is not as strong as it used to be, or do you think the Daytona 500 was just a fluke that will not fit the pattern for the rest of the season? Leave a comment and let your opinion be heard
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