MONTE DUTTON - WHAT’S A NICE KID LIKE YOU DOING IN A PLACE LIKE THIS?
It was roughly the wackiest race ever that wasn’t a cartoon, but at least a new guy won.
Not Professor Pat Pending. Or Dick Dastardly. Or Penelope Pitstop. Muttley might have been driving No. 17.
Erik Jones survived, escaped and won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on the seventh night of July, and a bigger bunch of lunatics never raced the halls of an asylum.
According to the race report, 53 cars wrecked, and 34 of them were different. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (as “Muttley”) was in five. Jimmie Johnson was in four. The winner was in one. The runner-up, Martin Truex Jr., was in one. Six of the top 10 were in at least one.
Six of the top 18 were wreckless. The rest were reckless.
As incredible as this may seem, it all makes sense.
Four drivers have won 15 out of the 18 races. The playoff field will be set in eight more weeks. Stage racing has minimized the possibility of races being determined by mileage, pit tactics and dumb luck.
Plate racing is the great equalizer. Drivers who are barely factors in races at other tracks have nothing to lose when they arrive in Daytona Beach.
At the bottom of the right-field scoreboard at the old Ebbets Field was a yellow sign placed by “Brooklyn’s Leading Clothier,” Abe Stark. It read: “Hit sign, win suit.” The Dodgers had a crack right fielder, Carl Furillo, patrolling the garden to prevent that from happening.
Very little protected the walls of Daytona Beach, though, thankfully, they were comparatively soft.
The detractors of “plate racing” say it isn’t “real racing.” Watching at home, the best thing about the 10 caution flags and the six multi-car pileups was that it gave me a chance to go to the bathroom and a reason to have to pee.
God love Erik Jones. It was his first victory. He’s likely to win more. He was rookie of the year last year and drives for Joe Gibbs. Winning the Powerball ought to give him a nice nest egg to further advance his promising career.
He won the NASCAR equivalent of the words to a David Allan Coe song:
Went to college on the GI Bill / But it wasn’t worth all he had to kill / To get it.
After all, all’s fair in Daytona and war.