Nothing wrong with Haley’s Daytona win

What to make of Sunday’s rain-delayed, rain-shortened finish to the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway?

• Justin Haley, first-time Cup winner. Deserving? Well, he was leading when NASCAR officials declared the race official with 127 of 160 laps completed. That’s pretty much all that’s required.

A driver doesn’t have to lead a certain number of laps or pass a certain number of cars or anything other than be in the lead when the race officially ends to be declared the winner.

That’s the way it’s always been (OK, there ARE exceptions. The winning car has to pass post-race technical inspection; and years ago, there were instances of drivers protesting race results and NASCAR officials correcting the official finishing order.).

A quick search of the record book fails to unearth any instances of drivers turning down victories because they happened to be leading the race when it ended short of regulation for one reason or another.

Had Kurt Busch not pitted under caution and handed the lead to Haley, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver would have been your winner.

Had Busch and Haley both pitted, runner-up William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports) would have celebrated career win No. 1.

It could have been Jimmie Johnson (third) or any one of several others who chose to remain on the track during the sixth and final caution.

But it wasn’t.

Lightning in the area forced officials to halt the action twice before rain eventually arrived and soaked the track.

And Haley, the 20-year-old Xfinity Series competitor, became the first non-Cup regular to win a race since Trevor Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500 while driving for Wood Brothers Racing.

Spire Motorsports is a first-time winner as well after just 18 starts in the series. The last time there was a “first-time” organization winner? Probably 2014 when A.J. Allmendinger won for JTG Daugherty Racing at Watkins Glen International.

Maybe it matters to others that Haley was making only his third start in the series or that the Spire organization had exactly one top-25 finish before Sunday.

But he was out front when it counted.

That’s what matters to me. Mr. Haley, too, I presume.

If I was disappointed about anything, it was that the weekend marked an end to the July 4th holiday race week at Daytona.

It’s been a staple for so long. From the very beginning in ’59 up through ’87 the race was held on July 4 no matter what day of the week that happened to fall on.

Talk to some garage veterans and they’ll tell you about the 1969 season when teams raced at Daytona on Friday, the 4th, then beat it up the east coast for the inaugural Mason Dixon 300 at Dover held just two days later.

Put that on your 2021 schedule …

Even when the Daytona race was moved to be contested on the holiday weekend, there was still something unique about it.

Going forward, the race will be held in August and it’s the cutoff race for the playoffs and maybe that will spice it up somewhat, but it’ll be tough to top its predecessor.

Another Andretti wins at Daytona

Saturday, July 5, 1997 – John Andretti, nephew of Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 winner Mario Andretti, scored his first NASCAR premier series win with a victory in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Andretti led 113 of 160 laps in collecting his first win as well as the first victory for Cale Yarborough Motorsports.

The ’97 race was the last to be run in the morning at Daytona; beginning in ’98 the race was run under the lights on Saturday nights.

Andretti, who would win two times in Cup competition, picked up the victory in his 110th career start.

Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett completed the top five.

Mario Andretti had one win in 14 NASCAR starts, winning the 1967 Daytona 500.

A win for Petty, the President and NASCAR

Wed., July 4, 1984 – Richard Petty, NASCAR’s first seven-time premier series champion, recorded his milestone 200th career victory when he beat Cale Yarborough by a fender in the annual Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Petty became the first driver to win in front of a sitting president, Ronald Reagan, who had arrived at the track after the race had begun.

Petty’s 200th victory came 24 years after his first and it was his 943rd career start.

Petty beat Yarborough back to the line with two laps remaining when the yellow flag appeared for an incident involving Doug Heveron. Petty was leading when the caution came out, Yarborough passed Petty going into Turn 3, then Petty pulled up alongside Yarborough in Turn 4 as they sprinted side-by-side to the finish line.

Petty’s 200th win came with team owner Mike Curb, who he had joined following the ’83 season. The legendary driver competed eight more seasons before retirement without another victory.

Yarborough, driving the No. 28 Chevrolet for owner Harry Ranier, had used the slingshot move – waiting until the final lap to draft past the leader – to win multiple races on the series’ biggest tracks, including that season’s Daytona 500.

The final two laps were run under caution; Yarborough mistakenly thought there was only one lap remaining and pulled onto pit road. As a result, he lost one position, falling from second to third in the final rundown. Harry Gant was awarded the runner-up spot.

Halfway next time by with return to DIS

Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway marks the halfway point in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Race No. 18 takes teams back to where the season began in February. Only nine races remain in the regular season.

It’s a good time to stop and take stock of what’s transpired thus far.

Talk of the 2019 aero/rules package has often overshadowed the competition on the race track. That’s not unusual. It’s simply more noticeable in today’s social-media driven world.

While the aero changes haven’t been to everyone’s liking, that’s hardly any different from seasons past.

Because there are different packages for different tracks, it’s natural that it would be a topic of discussion as the season progressed.

Overall, it seems to have improved the product on the track. But it’s clear that the platform works better at some tracks, under some conditions (night vs. day races for example), than others.

The number of teams winning races hasn’t changed all that much, only the teams themselves. Three organizations (Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports) have produced this year’s race winners – all seven of them.

A year ago? Five organizations, four if you aligned the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing with JGR, which most did, and six different winners.

Who wins first in ‘19, seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson or a team from the Stewart-Haas Racing stable?

The odds would seem to favor SHR, which fields four Cup teams. Drivers Kevin Harvick (8), Clint Bowyer (2) and Aric Almirola (1) combined for 11 victories last season; the organization is 0-for-68 so far in ’19.

 Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports) heads to Daytona trailed by a 76-race winless streak. He did win the season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash at DIS, a non-points event.

NASCAR’s tougher post-race penalty move hasn’t cost any Cup drivers a win, although two drivers in other series have been disqualified when their entries failed post-race inspection.

Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Ross Chastain was stripped of the victory at Iowa while Christopher Bell lost his third-place finish in the Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Single-car qualifying returned in early May after months of issues with the multi-car process. At Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) in March, none of the 12 final-round participants completed an official qualifying lap before time expired. In April, officials reduced the time of each qualifying round to five minutes.

Sweeps: Denny Hamlin led a Joe Gibbs Racing/Toyota sweep in the season-opening Daytona 500 as Kyle Busch and Erik Jones finished second and third respectively;

Team Penske finished 1-2 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with defending series champion Joey Logano winning over teammate Brad Keselowski in a battle of Fords;

Busch and Martin Truex went 1-2 at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., then reversed their order at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway when Truex scored the victory;

Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman finished 1-2 in the Geico 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

First-time winners: Bowman became the 192nd driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race with his first career victory June 30 at Chicagoland. It’s the fourth consecutive season the series has seen at least one new Cup winner. Austin Hill (NGOTS) and Michael Annett (Xfinity) earned their first NASCAR series wins as well, both at Daytona in February.

Equally notable: Christopher Bell gave Toyota its first win with the Supra in the Xfinity Series at Atlanta; Keselowski’s victory the same weekend was No. 1 for the Ford Mustang in Cup competition.

Kyle Busch hit a couple of milestones during the first half of the ’19 season – his became the winningest driver in the Truck series when he scored win No. 52 at Atlanta; his Cup victory at Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) gave him 200 wins across NASCAR’s three national series (Cup, Xfinity, Truck).

Prime time for Daytona, VL for DJ

Saturday, July 3, 1999 – NASCAR’s premier series went prime time on Saturday night for the first time on the Fourth of July holiday weekend, and Dale Jarrett escaped with a victory after almost running out of fuel. The driver of the No. 88 Ford for Robert Yates Racing, Jarrett pitted for a splash of gas with 17 laps remaining in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, then ran out on the backstretch after taking the checkered flag. Dale Earnhardt finished second while Jeff Burton was third.

A year earlier, the ’98 Pepsi 400 was scheduled to be the first to be held under the lights in July at DIS. However, wildfires across the region forced officials to postpone the race. It was run October 17, 1998.

The win was the third in seven races for Jarrett and his 14th consecutive top-10 result.

The race finished under caution after Jeremey Mayfield spun in Turn 4 on Lap 156 following contact from Wally Dallenbach, Jr. Jimmy Spencer and Elliott Sadler were also involved.

The race was the final start in the Cup series for driver Loy Allen Jr. A former Daytona 500 pole winner (1994), Allen finished 40th at Daytona and earlier at Michigan. He failed to qualify at Talladega and Pocono.

Five fined for monkeying with manifolds

Wednesday, June 29, 1988 – NASCAR officials seized the intake manifolds from five of its premier series teams and quickly fined the five drivers $5,000 each prior to practice for the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The drivers fined were Davey Allison (Ranier Racing), Buddy Baker (Baker/Schiff Racing), Ken Bouchard (Whitcomb Racing), Dale Jarrett (Hoss Ellington) and Cale Yarborough (Cale Yarborough Motorsports).

NASCAR determined the teams were attempting to get around the limitations of the 1-inch restrictor plate in use for the upcoming race by altering the manifolds. Some manifolds had small holes bored in them while others were not seated flush against the gasket, allowing air into the engine

Officials also confiscated a faulty gasket from the Ford driven by Kyle Petty, however the third-generation driver was not fined.

Winston Cup director Dick Beatty said he informed teams that officials would be on the lookout for anyone attempting to get around the horsepower-restricting plates. Anyone caught a second time for a similar infraction would be suspended for 12 weeks.

Getting rid of restrictor plates?

Monday, June 24, 1991 – NASCAR officials, along with five Cup Series teams, began a two-day test at Talladega Superspeedway in an attempt to develop an aerodynamic package that could allow the sanctioning body to potentially eliminate the use of carburetor restrictor plates at its two superspeedways. Use of the horsepower-reducing plates kept speeds under 200 mph but many drivers complained that the plates also keep the field bunched too closely together, often leading to dangerous, multi-car crashes.

A 20-car pileup, which left driver Kyle Petty sidelined with a broken left leg, occurred in the May 6 Winston 500 at Talladega a month earlier. The bulk of the blame for the crash was placed on driver Ernie Irvan, who tried to squeeze in between Petty and Mark Martin, igniting the crash, and the 7/8-inch restrictor place, which kept cars running closely together.

Drivers taking part in the test at the 2.66-mile track were Dale Earnhardt (Chevrolet), Bill Elliott (Ford), Brett Bodine (Buick), Harry Gant (Oldsmobile) and Bobby Hillin (Pontiac). Gant had won the May race at Talladega; Hillin was filling in at the test for the injured Petty.

Officials tested with changes to the rear spoilers as well as smaller pieces along the top of the car, down the C-post (alongside the rear window) and across the rear deck lid, all on the driver’s side. A “reverse” spoiler underneath the rear of the cars was also expected to be tested.

Cup Series director Dick Beatty said if officials found anything they felt could make the racing at the two tracks safer and more competitive it likely would be implemented in time for the summer race at Daytona.

Rain on the following day cut the test short and officials called the results “inconclusive.”

Flock announces departure from NASCAR

Friday, March 19, 1954 – Former series champion Tim Flock (1952) announces that he is leaving NASCAR with the intention of competing in the following year’s Indianapolis 500. The announcement comes just three races into the season’s 37-race schedule and on the heels of a disqualification by NASCAR for Flock’s win on the Daytona Beach & Road Course one month earlier.

Flock, a 17-race winner at the time, had won more NASCAR premier series races than only two other drivers – Herb Thomas (40) and Lee Petty (18). His Daytona victory had come in his only start that season – he skipped races at West Palm Beach, Fla., and Jacksonville, Fla.

Flock broke from NASCAR after he was stripped of his Daytona win. Driving an Oldsmobile 88 for team owner Ernest Woods, Flock set a track record with his 90.4 mph average for the 160-mile race. However, NASCAR officials ruled that the carburetor in his car had been altered, stripped Flock of the win and awarded it to Petty, the runner-up.

“This Flock boy never saw the car ‘til he came to Daytona Beach to drive it for me,” Woods said in a statement issued after the NASCAR ruling. “He is absolved of all blame.”

Flock didn’t make it to Indy, however. Before the NASCAR season ended, he had returned to the series. He would win a second NASCAR championship in 1955 and end his career with 39 victories.

Appeals Panel upholds Hendrick penalties

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 – A three-member National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel upheld penalties assessed against Jimmie Johnson, driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet, and crew chief Chad Knaus for violations uncovered during opening-day inspection at Daytona International Speedway. Those penalties consisted of a $100,000 fine and six-race suspension for Knaus; a six-race suspension for car chief Ron Malek; the loss of 25 championship driver points for Johnson; and the loss of 25 championship owner points for team owner Jeff Gordon.

Knaus was penalized for what NASCAR officials deemed “unapproved body modifications,” illegally modified sheet metal located between the roof and window areas of the team’s car. Knaus said that the vehicle had not been through the inspection process when NASCAR officials deemed it illegal.

HMS officials filed for a final appeal before Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook. On March 20, Middlebrook ruled in favor of the No. 48 team, rescinding the loss of driver/owner points as well as the six-race suspensions of Knaus and Malek. He did not, however, alter the $100,000 fine levied against Knaus.

On This Date: March 1

For the past year I have posted NASCAR items on my pay site, www.patreon.com/kennybruce, that featured something of note that had occurred on that particular day – only years earlier.

The posts began March 1, 2018 and ended Feb. 28, 2019.

It was a learning experience, very worthwhile, and I now have a rather substantial file of information on drivers, tracks, races … plus a decent amount of odd news (pace car crashes and a race that included Bill France Sr., and Bill Jr. in the lineup, for example).

With the interest in such things growing, based on what I’ve noticed on social media lately, it’s a simple turnaround to post those daily items here on kennybruce.net each day. I hope you enjoy. – kb

Tuesday, March 1, 1955: NASCAR officials declared Tim Flock the winner of the Grand National race held Feb. 27 on the Daytona Beach & Road Course. Local favorite Fireball Roberts, who was initially declared the winner, was disqualified after altered push rods were discovered in the engine of his 1955 Buick.

Ironically, Flock had been disqualified the previous year after an apparent win for a technical violation as well.

The disqualification put Roberts last in the 48-car field. Lee Petty, Ray Duhigg, Curtis Turner and Fonty Flock completed the top five.

Flock, driving the No. 300 Chrysler for team owner Cark Kiekhaefer, earned $2,350 for the win and led all 39 laps around the 4.1-mile beach and road course. It was his 18th career win in NASCAR’s premier series.