Sunday, February 17, 2008

Daytona 500 Recap: Teamwork Beats Talent

With all the hype heading into Sunday's Daytona 500 surrounding Joe Gibbs Racing and the unstoppable force that is Hendrick Motorsports, everyone forgot about the talented stable of drivers held by Penske Racing. By lap 499, everyone remembered the names of Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, when they managed to hold off Gibbs' Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch, who had dominated most of the race.

In a scene reminiscent of the New York Giants SuperBowl victory, it was teamwork that beat talent. It was lap 499, and millions watched as Kurt Busch was willing teammate Ryan Newman to victory. Kurt Busch, who at one point was at the back of the pack. Ryan Newman who has always been a solid driver, but has yet to enter the status of racing's elite, and who hadn't entered Victory Lane since 2005, showed the world what teamwork on the track can do.

When the race started a lot of the hype surrounded Hendrick Racing and its Big 3 of Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. As the race wore on, Gordon bowed out because of a problem with his suspension, and by the time he retook the track was too far behind to be a factor. Jimmy Johnson, got caught up in a wreck on lap 176 and was put out of contention, leaving Hendrick with Earnhardt and Casey Mears, who is not an elite driver, but can still do some racing out on the track. It seemed like the two drivers would try to work together, until Mears crashed on lap 195, and Earnhardt was left alone with no friends left on the track.

In the middle of the race, it was Kyle Busch who proved to be the dominant car, leading a total of 81 of the 200 laps at Daytona. There was constant talking between Busch and teammate Tony Stewart about strategy, how their cars were doing and how the track was feeling. Busch was looking good until he slid across the end of his pit stall on lap 181 and restarted 9th. He and Tony Stewart would make a go of it at the end battling the two Penske drivers for Daytona supremacy, but came up short.

Over the course of the last 3 laps, Stewart was indeed the fastest car on the track, but the Penske team had the fastest two cars on the track. Kyle Busch had used up most of what his car had left, making up for his mistake on pit row and didn't have enough car left in the end to help Stewart over come Busch and Newman.

With the Car of Tomorrow being used in all of the Cup races this season,we can expect to see a lot more finishes like the one we did in Daytona. Solidarity and an understanding of what a team needs to do to win will lead a team to success. Look for Hendrik Motorsports to rebound in the weeks to come, they have too much talent to struggle like they did on Sunday. Expect to see Joe Gibbs racing continue their strong start. Denny Hamlin struggled today, and Gibbs Racing still had 2 of the top 4 drivers in the race. Penske racing also should continue to be a solid team, as they have in the past. The best part about Daytona is that is showed that perhaps this season won't be the cake walk many expected for Hendrik Motorsports. As we predicted here earlier, Joe Gibbs racing will be in it at the end, and more surprisingly it looks like Penske might be there also.

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