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DENNY HAMLIN DOMINATES A DELAYED DAYTONA 500 TO A SOMBER VICTORY

 

It’s safe to say that Denny Hamlin knows how to race at Daytona International Speedway; he only has three wins at the track, but they've all come the most prestigious race of them all, the Daytona 500. Hamlin was able to pick up the win after passing Ryan Blaney and Ryan Newman on the last lap but the victory celebration would be overshadowed by a scary situation developing on the track.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr driving for his new team, JTG Daugherty Racing after being let go from Roush Fenway Racing at the end of 2019, secured the pole for the 500 with Alex Bowman starting second and Joey Logano and William Byron would start behind them after winning their respective duels. That was all overlooked as President Donald Trump was announced as the Grand Marshall for the race; the first time since the 2004 Daytona 500 that an active U.S. president attended a NASCAR race. After President Trump gave the command, he stepped into his limo to take a lap around the track with the drivers. Right as he pulled off the track is when the long night began.

MONTE DUTTON – THE DAYTONA THAT WAS

When I think of Daytona Beach, it’s always February that comes to mind. July (which is no more) is just hot. The only image that remains vivid is the year of the wildfires and postponement and the smoke in the air that made me think it was a banana republic and the revolutionaries were on the outskirts of town.

It was always hot, though, in July. The ocean was cool and suitable for a swim after the races when they were in the daytime. Now the only nightlife is at the track.

February, though, is cool and windy, and the air seems moist whether it’s raining or not. February is two weeks instead of two days. Glittering yachts moored near the Chart House. Seagulls rising by the hundreds in the infield when engines are fired. Music and seafood in St. Augustine. Racing slot cars at the condo on a tiny track purchased at the Family Dollar.

MONTE DUTTON – THE UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL

In a long career, a journalist is bound to ask the occasional stupid question. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes a good question scares a subject to death or makes him (or her) angry. It’s about eliciting a response.

The worst part of transcribing interview recordings is that it’s boring. The second worst part is that it’s cringe-worthy. Even though we transcribe the answers, we hear the questions. It’s sort of like thinking of something really stupid from youth. Bad questions are plaid sportcoats with a pad on the shoulder in case the need to fire a shotgun arises for some reason.

In the spring of 1993, my first as a full-time NASCAR scribe, I interviewed John Andretti in the lounge of his team’s transporter at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The first racing simulation game I ever played was of the Indianapolis 500, and while apparently primitive by today’s standards, it seemed realistic when released in 1989. The interview was over, and I don’t remember a word of it today, but John and I chatted a while after I turned off the microcassette player, which was then also state of the art.

MONTE DUTTON – A THEORY OF RELATIVITY

I have this compulsion to tell old stories. It could be because I’m ready for a new NASCAR season to begin. I’d like to think it isn’t a consequence of age, but it probably is.

Last night I was at a middle-school gym. I was surprised to see the former mayor of a nearby town, first because he was there and second because he was wearing a Brickyard 400 jacket. I never knew he was a NASCAR fan. Turns out he used to live in Darlington.

“That’s where my dad used to take me as a kid,” I said. “It’s hard to grow up going to Darlington and not love Pearson and Cale.”

MONTE DUTTON – LET THEM RACE AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS

I’m about to make some glaring generalities. My attention has recently been light. I am vaguely aware that the new season is going to bring with it massive changes, and the next year NASCAR is going to bring even more, and all that research-and-development money is not going to be spent in vain.

Hell, NASCAR changes massively every year. It reminds of of that alleged Yogi Berra line (Berra himself said half of those things he never said): “That place is so crowded, nobody goes there anymore.” If NASCAR changes anymore, it’ll be back to square one.

MONTE DUTTON – WISDOM DONE SLOWLY

Junior Johnson lived a long time. I reckon it was all right for me to ponder his life for a while before I wrote about it.

The death of a great man often amuses me. Once a man is gone, people feel free to enhance their relationship with him. This was true of Dale Earnhardt. Some seem to take the attitude that, well, he’s gone, I might as well get something out of it.

Had Junior not passed away at the age of 88, if I saw him tomorrow, I expect he’d recognize me but not remember my name. I’m sure I got more out of conversations with him than him from me. He seemed to enjoy them, though. When I was around him, he seemed to enjoy most everything.

OUT OF THE GROOVE WITH ERIC ESTEPP: THE NEW RULES FOR 2020 NASCAR

 
Eric Estepp creates unique NASCAR content and has been a series follower for over 15 years. He's created an online YouTube show, Out of the Groove, showcasing his opinions on NASCAR's latest issues and news.

MONTE DUTTON - THE LATTER DAYS

 

I do not live on an island. It feels a little like one, this messy house I occupy. I need to get out, but I’m sick, which apparently happens about once every 56 weeks at this stage of my life. I really shouldn’t put this out because everyone has an opinion, and their diagnoses are scary. I’ve had a flu shot, a month or so back, and I’ve no urge to boogie-woogie. If it’s pneumonia, it’s not the rockin’ kind. What I have causes me to sneeze, wheeze, cough and, while sleeping, toss and turn. I’ve contracted a medley of songs.

By the time you read this, I hope to be well. I’ve no desire to give the crud to loved ones at Christmas.

This present arrived on Monday morning. The descent was such that, on Tuesday morning, I showed my face at a City Council meeting, and on Tuesday night, reached the parking lot only to deem myself unfit to see another one in another town. I took the caution flag, pulled down pit road, the boys raised the hood, and one of them said “no can do, boss.”

CLASSIC NASCAR RACES - 1962 DAYTONA 500

 
Glen "Fireball" Roberts wins the 1963 Daytona 500. After disappointment in his previous 3 Daytona 500's, his legendary crewchief Smokey Yunick builds a car that Fireball is unable to break during the race. Fireball would go on to defeat Richard Petty by 27 seconds. This was Fireball's biggest victory in a racing career that was tragically cut short in 1964.

MONTE DUTTON - A GREAT RACING FLICK

I didn’t know Friday the 13th could be a week, but this one has been unfortunate – I’m positive you don’t want to know the details because I’m certainly in no mood to write them – and I needed something to raise my spirits.

Going to see Ford v. Ferrari wasn’t a bad choice.

What has that to do with NASCAR, you ask? Not much. Holman-Moody participates in the Ford effort to win Le Mans. It’s harder for Carroll Shelby, Ken Miles and unmentioned co-driver Lloyd Ruby to win because the legendary stock-car partnership brings a NASCAR pit crew to pit its Ford GT in Daytona Beach, Fla., a familiar place for such crews. What few NASCAR mentions there are seem a bit condescending, left turns only and all that.

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