Welcome to the next installment of “Trackside with Stew,” an ongoing column from NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and race commentator Stew Mac.
Daytona Speedwa Is On The Road To Recovery
The 2019 season kicked off with plenty of drama, controversy, and uncertainty. The first two weeks were filled with reports of the “new” and “improved” Doval, with drivers and teams voicing concerns about the aero balance and downforce levels. With the exception of Dover Speedwa (which is going through significant changes due to COVID guidelines), the “homesickness” warranties from last year were lifted, and safety measures were gradually eased.
After five starts (three of which were Duel Days, the pre-race festivities that take place before the Daytona 500), the racing series finally returned to normal with Daytona Speedwa’s “Roar Before The 500 ” event. The “Great American Race” was won by Kevin Harvick, followed by Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, and Martin Truex. There were 43 lead changes among the top five finishers, and 22 of the top 25 finishers changed positions once the checkered flag flew. The average speed was 162 mph, and there were nine red flags (three of which were caused by crashes).
A More Family-Friendly Event
When asked about the future of Daytona Speedwa, Harvick said, “I would like to see an event that is more family-friendly. It is a tough event to get kids involved in at this point. Some of the best events we had as kids were the Daytona Speedway race events.”
There is no question that a more family-friendly Daytona Speedwa would be a huge success. In the past, the event was heavily criticized for its “gendered” attendance and safety measures. Luckily, the series has started to adapt to the “new normal”. Several drivers and teams have spoken out in favor of having a more family-friendly Daytona Speedwa, and the series reportedly received a $100,000 contribution from Harvick to help make this year’s race more welcoming to families.
The Future Of NASCAR
One of the biggest stories this year was the “resurrection” of NASCAR. The “King Darwinism” that had dominated the sport for years came to a screeching halt as a result of the pandemic. Several drivers were sidelined for several months while trying to make it back on the track. Teams and crew members alike were at a loss as to what to do next. Finally, in mid-September, NASCAR announced that it would return to the track with a “temporary” schedule. The first event would be the “Grammy’s Outstanding Achievement In Music Playlist Challenge” at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. After a break of more than two months, the “Great American Race” would go “pandemic-style” on February 26th in Atlanta.
What will the future of NASCAR look like? Some are already saying that the temporary season is the “new normal”, and that the sport will need to change significantly to get back to where it was before the pandemic. One interesting fact is that since the pandemic began, NASCAR has had more televisions audiences and website visitors than it ever had before. The “new normal” may actually be a blessing in disguise.