There's only one thing better than an exciting finish at a Daytona 500

Dave Ongie • Feb 19, 2007 at 11:39 AM

Now that, my friends, was a gas-guzzling, engine-roaring, paint trading, All-American stock car race.

Forget about all the cheating, forget about how Dale Jr. is getting along with his stepmom and forget about a foreign automaker participating in the Great American Race - Sunday was all about the finish.

The Daytona 500 featured two spectacular crashes in the final five laps as a tightly packed field surged toward the finish line.

If you look up "checkers or wreckers" in the dictionary, well, you'll probably come up empty-handed.

But if Webster did include the phrase, you can rest assured there would be a picture of Clint Bowyer's car sliding across the finish line on its roof to edge out Juan Pablo Montoya for 18th place.

But even after Bowyer's No. 07 car had come to rest on the edge of the infield grass with flames shooting out from under the hood, folks were still peering at super slow-motion replays to be sure Kevin Harvick had indeed edged out Mark Martin for the win.

All told, 10 cars found their way onto the scrap heap in the last five laps.

But the best news on the sixth anniversary of NASCAR's darkest day was that every window net dropped after every wreck and every driver climbed safely from his vehicle.

Even when Kurt Busch got into Tony Stewart and sent the No. 20 car shooting up into the wall in a wreck eerily similar to the one that claimed the life of Dale Earnhardt six years before, Stewart was able to walk away unscathed.

For all the grief that NASCAR catches for things like the Car of Tomorrow and the dominance of multicar organizations, in this case NASCAR deserves a round of applause when it comes to safety innovations.

While nobody around the sport will ever forget the tragic death of Earnhardt back in 2001, NASCAR can celebrate the fact that there hasn't been a racing-related death on the Cup circuit for six years.

Because the only thing better than an exciting ending like the one we saw on Sunday is an exciting ending where all 43 drivers walk away in one piece.

• Darrell Waltrip has years of stock car knowledge to draw from, but somehow he manages to keep it all under his hat when he's on the air.

Instead of giving some insight on the action, Waltrip jumps into a phone booth just before the telecast and changes into his "Captain Obvious" costume.

He emerges saying things like "I've always said your legacy is what you leave behind you," while his trusty sidekick Larry McReynolds chimes in with gems like "Richard Childress recently went polar bear hunting up in the Northwest Territory near Antarctica."

And if I had a nickel for every time somebody pointed out that NASCAR is the only sport that has its Super Bowl at the beginning of the season, I'd have enough money to buy Fox from Rupert Murdoch and just enough left over to hire Rusty Wallace and Dr. Jerry Punch to replace "the dynamic duo."

• Ford appears to be on the edge of bouncing back from a dismal 2006 season.

Robert Yates Racing started up front on Sunday and rookie David Gilliland finished eighth.

Meanwhile, Roush Fenway Racing had all five of its cars running well for most of the day and rookie David Ragan finished fifth.

Of course, Carl Edwards had car trouble and faded from contention while Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray both wrecked in the last five laps.

While there's no word on whether the ghost of Babe Ruth was seen hovering over turn four, Jack Roush might be having second thoughts about joining forces with the Red Sox.

• With Toyota's deep pockets on the Cup circuit, single-car operations have been put on the endangered species list.

So it was good to see Mike Wallace snag a fourth-place finish after barely managing to qualify.

Meanwhile, Team Red Bull missed the race entirely and Dale Jarrett's 22nd-place finish was the highest for a Toyota.

I guess it's safe to add top-five finishes to love and happiness on the list of things money can't buy.

• So Busch and Stewart wreck in the Daytona 500, Busch apologizes and Stewart laughs the whole thing off? Times, they are a-changing.

Dave Ongie covers motorsports for the Times-News. E-mail him at dongie@timesnews.net.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos