Leaving on a jet plane...

A few final thoughts while I surf some 35,000 feet above the ground and ponder just how long it took buttoned-up Roger Penske to ditch that gaudy Daytona 500 championship jacket they tossed on him at Monday's champion's breakfast inside The Daytona Experience...

- How ironic was it to see the Dodges of Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Reed Sorenson team up for top-5 finishes in the closing laps of Sunday's race? Newman, after all, blasted Sorenson following the Gatorade Duel qualifying race earlier in the week for helping a Chevrolet and not a Dodge get to the front of that event.

- Race car drivers obviously have selective memory.

Newman remembers sitting in the grandstands as a youngster watching the 500, remembers his days running USAC cars across the midwest and, if he was to be honest, probably remembers every time he's felt slighted by one of his competitors on the track.

But that crash in 2003, the nasty one that sent him flipping across the infield grass along the Daytona fronstretch in his second 500 start? Yeah, he wasn't so willing to rehash that on Sunday night.

Who could blame him? It's what separates these guys from one another -- some of them can put it behind them and some of them can't.

- Never thought I'd be one of those guys who blogged about travel problems. Then again, never though I'd be one of those guys who blogged while I was in an airplane. But since I am, it's worth pointing out that now I understand why writers blog about the complications of airline travel.

What else are you going to do when you show up 2 hours before your scheduled departure, only to find out that that departure has been pushed back 2 hours. And then, in a matter of minutes, the departure time changes three more times. Yeah, it happened to me - but we left on time, anwyay.

I've got air sick kids puking and crying, and a real jerk in front of me giving the flight attendants a hard time about headphones. Good times, trust me.

- Yeah, I fished Lake Lloyd -- if you could call it that on some crap Target passed off as fishing tackle. It was either the $26 dollar throwaway I went with with all of 2 color choices for lures or it was a $70 combo that wasn't going to make it back to Maine with me.

But, I worked the water for more than an hour the night before the 500, saw fish rising to the surface to feed and even got a couple of fruitless strikes, I'm willing to call that a success.

Did I mention that I fished the infield at Daytona International Speedway? Did I?

- And, in parting, just one final question: Are you Bobby Dickerson?


Daytona 500: They said it

"Fifteen years ago I was sitting in the grandstands in the Seagrave Tower. ... It was awesome. Listening to my dad on the radio spotting for me, all the other things -- all the other emotions, all the hard work, all the people that gave me a shot racing quarter midgets, midgets, sprint cars, Silver Crown cars. I have to thank everybody, including the fans."
- Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 alltel Dodge

"Anybody that didn't win tonight is disappointed. ... It is the biggest race. I mean, if it wasn't a big deal it wouldn't bother you, but this is the Daytona 500. If you know you've got a car that's fast enough to win and you don't, you know, you're devastated over it."
- 3rd place Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet

"If (Stewart) would have jumped in front of us, I would have pushed him. He stayed low, and that gave the opportunity for Newman to jump up in front of us. So maybe he did think twice before he jumped up high, that it was me up there.
"Instead of worrying about who it was, he should have just went there."
- 2nd place Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, on whether he had any reservations about working with Stewart in light of last week's Budweiser Shootout practice crash

"I don't know how I stayed out of trouble. I got hit on every corner and was sandwiched in the draft. They had my rear tires off the ground and the nose against the guys in front of me. It was just a handful. I don't know how I survived it."
- 10th place Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford

"We were just slow. Our car just woudn't go."
- 14th-place Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Shell Chevrolet and 2007 Daytona 500 champ

"The worst part about it is having to wait another year to try again."
- 24th-place Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet, who spun while racing for the lead through the tri-oval on lap 184

Daytona 500 notebook: JGR teammates can't seal the deal

DAYTONA BEACH: The day's most dominant driver cost 2 cars a shot at victory.

Kyle Busch had the fastest car all day long, and he was poised to lead the Toyota charge to victory lane in the Daytona 500 when he lined up second on a restart with 3 laps remaining behind Jeff Burton. But Busch got too good of a restart and ended up diving below the yellow out-of-bounds line at the bottom of the race track entering the first turn.

NASCAR rules dictate that any driver making a pass in below the yellow line must slow enough to give back any positions he gained -- and when Busch let Burton back by, he lost all momentum and any chance at a victory for either himself or Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart.

"Those guys had such a head of steam," Busch said of Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, who posted a 1-2 finish. "They got ahead of me on that restart. They lagged back and then got a big push. In the NASCAR rulebook, that's not right, but they let it go."

Stewart kept waiting for a push to come from Kyle, but it never materialized. He later admitted he had no idea his teammate had to give back positions he took by crossing below the yellow line.

"Kyle finally got to me off turn 4, but by that time we were both way too far behind to make a charge," Stewart said. "We needed another lap. If we could have got another lap, the outcome might have been different."

Kyle Busch led a race-high 86 laps.

"Just frustrating to come home fourth, but that's part of the Daytona 500, when you run as good as we had all day long," Busch said. "Those guys couldn't keep up with us, but there was all those cautions at the end that propelled (Newman and Kurt Busch) forward enough in order to get them ahead."


The Hendrick Motorsports domination trumpeted in newspaper headlines all week never materialized on Sunday.

3-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon finished 39th after falling out with suspension failure, 2-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson finished 27th after a spin on lap 177 and Casey Mears slapped the turn 1 fence while racing with the leaders just five laps from the checkered flag.

Even newest Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., thought all week to be one of the favorites to win the 500, led just 12 laps en route to a 9th-place run.

"We obviously didn't have enough car there most of the day," Earnhardt said. "I made a lot of poor choice where to take my runs and what to do with them."

"I hope my teammates get up there and make something happen against those Toyotas, because I don't see anyone who had anything for them," Gordon said after falling out of the race with a broken control arm. "The suspension is just so tough on these cars with these bumps here. You don't know what's taking all the load. You keep fixing one thing and it just keeps creating another issue. It's unfortunate."

Johnson looped it after contact with Sam Hornish Jr. in turn 2, but he had slipped all the way back as far as 30th in the early going, fearing he'd have to pit out of sequence at one point because the car was handling so poorly.


The final Daytona 500 for 3-time race-winner and former Cup Series champion Dale Jarrett ended with a 16th place finish.

"After I got past the start-finish line under the white flag and nobody wrecked, I thought about that," Jarrett said of his final lap of competiton on the famed 2.5-mile oval, the birthplace of NASCAR racing. "I was thinking that that was my last time I would make a lap here. I had time to cool down there and think about it. This has been a very special place for me."

But Jarrett said it really hasn't sunk in that he won't race in the Daytona 500 again.

"That will happen later, as soon as I get home and think about it," he said. "Then by that time, it will be time to go to California. It is never ending."


Newman had only finished in the top-10 twice in 12 previous Cup starts at Daytona, with a career-best finish of 3rd in the 2006 Daytona 500. One of those 12 races resulted in a spectacular tumble down the frontstretch in this race in 2003. ... 6 of the top 8 finishers in the 500 were Dodges. ... Hornish, an IRL and Indianapolis 500 champion, was the top-finishing rookie in 15th.

The Artful Dodger

Newman wins 50th running of the Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH -- Shame on everyone who forgot about Dodge.

With a dramatic last-lap charge, Ryan Newman silenced two weeks' worth of talk about Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs racing over the last two weeks at Daytona International Speedway. Using a strong push from Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch, Newman stunned a sellout crowd of more than 200,000 by winning the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

Newman became the 32nd winner of the prestigious event and snapped his own 81-race winless drought, which dated back to his win at New Hampshire in September of 2005.

"(I) don't have the words," said the 30-year-old native of South Bend, Ind. "It's awesome. It's probably the most awesome thing that's ever happened to me. To be looking face to face with all the greats (during the drivers' meeting), the guys that were on the stage up there, the former champions, to be on the same team with those guys, it's amazing."

Hendrick Motorsports, home of multi-time Sprint Cup Series champions Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, continued to grab headlines early in the week with wins in the Budweiser Shootout and the Gatorade Duels by new addition Dale Earnhardt Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing threatened to unseat the Hendrick folks, using their baptism into the Toyota camp to produce a Duel win and a victory by Tony Stewart in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event here on Saturday. They were poised as the two superteams in the Sprint Cup Series going into 2008.

Stewart was leading Sunday when the field came to the white flag, with Newman behind him. Stewart's JGR teammate Kyle Busch -- who led the most laps -- ran third, while Kurt Busch was fourth. Racing off of turn 2, Newman and Kurt Busch gathered all the momentum they needed as they ran into the lead in the outside groove.

They never looked back, pulling away for Penske Racing's first-ever Daytona 500 victory.

"Without a doubt, (Kurt) could have gone 3-wide and made a heck of a mess going into turn three," Newman said of getting help from Busch. "But he chose to be a teammate, and that's the most honorable thing he could do."

Newman also credited Stewart for not resorting to dirty on-track tactics.

"Kurt was the push from heaven that made it all happen," Newman said, "but Tony was very much a sportsman. He could have made that Home Depot (car) very wide, but instead he chose to race."

The three JGR drivers were the three drivers who led the most laps, between them accounting for 134 laps led. That was of little consolation to Stewart, who battled a less than an ideal race car in the middle of race to put himself in position to give Toyota its first win in a Cup Series points race.

"This is probably just one of the most disappointing moments of my racing career," said Stewart, who is winless in 10 Daytona 500 starts. "It would be a lie to come in here and say I was happy about, you know, going from first to third on the last lap of the Daytona 500."

Newman started creeping toward the front in the final 100 miles of the event. He led briefly on three occasions prior to the final lap, and left Kurt Busch happy to be part of a monumental day for team owner Roger Penske -- who has dominated open-wheel racing's biggest day with 14 victories as an owner in the Indianapolis 500 but had yet to claim stock car racing's most sought after trophy.

"It was a race of durability," said Newman's crew chief, Roy McCauley. "Ryan drove a masterful race, as far as when he had the car he could run in the top five, and when he didn't have the car, he found a slot to ride in. ... I think that's the sign of a smart driver."

It's also an early sign that Dodge needs to be included in any Sprint Cup Series conversations this season.
For complete Daytona 500 results, click here.

Wessa's story

I would be remiss if I didn't pass this along.

This story by David Poole in the Charlotte Observer is the best to come out of speedweeks. No doubt about it, this racing game is about a whole lot more than winning and losing.

"AMP"-ing up for the big day

Welcome to race day, and this version is brought to you by Monster energy drink and stale CLIF bars. It's just the way I roll...

Claustrophobia strikes deep here at Daytona, where it's almost impossible to move around, -- even as much as 6 hours before the race. Funny thing, though, as you walk along the expansive fan zones here both inside and outside of the track in what looks like a marketing campaign on the verge of going awry. See a lot -- and I mean A LOT -- of AMP energy shirts and hats. But here's the catch: you don't see many of the fans, bleary-eyed from a night of heavy pre-race frolicking, actually drinking the AMP in an effort to energize.

Lots of other soda pops and coffee, but AMP is still relatively low on the morning wake-up call podium.


I partook of one of the great traditions here at the speedway, one I didn't even know existed.
Once allowed out on the track, fans grab up their Sharpie markers -- otherwise reserved for driver autographs -- and sign their names, leave messages of encouragement and write notes for their favorite drivers. And they do that writing right on the checkerboard start-finish line.

What an amazing way to get fans involved in the Daytona 500, and what does it cost the track to do it? Absolutely nothing, save for a security guard or two that they've already got employed elsewhere on the grounds, anyway.

Let's just say Coop and Manny are along for the ride today...


You certainly don't need me to leave an "expert" prediction for you to day, but it's hard to resist the temptation.

Here's what I think -- I think it's either of the Busch brothers today or Jimmie Johnson. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s been good this week, but to the point of it being a detriment to his chances. When you're that dominant, teams are typically reluctant to push you to the front of the field, knowing full well that if they do they're not going to be able to pass you.

Saw it on a few occasions in Saturday's Nationwide Series event here, where Junior was left to fend for himself in the late going, despite having a car that got great runs on the high side of the speedway.


And finally, in the interest of starting a tradition, aren't you Brad Wapner?