Two long delays, necessitated by attempts to repair holes in the track surface at Daytona International Speedway, extended Sunday's Daytona 500 to more than six hours and threatened to kill the buzz that had been building toward NASCAR's Sprint Cup season opener.
But Jamie McMurray's dramatic, emotional victory in the 'Great American Race' shoved frustration with the delays into the background. Nevertheless, the fact remains that potential problems with the racing surface must be addressed before the series returns to Daytona in July.
After the race reached the mid-point, a succession of drivers complained about a hole in the asphalt near the transition between turns one and two. Under caution for John Andretti's accident on lap 117, NASCAR red-flagged the race for an hour and 40 minutes to patch the hole. The epoxy, however, didn't hold and, on lap 161, NASCAR halted the race for close to 45 minutes for additional repairs.
"As we do for every event, we inspected this track this morning and there were no concerns," track president Robin Braig said, "We are always prepared for these types of issues. We had the proper materials and worked diligently to repair it.
"The delay in the repairs was caused by the unusually cold ambient temperature. After this event, we will evaluate these effects from the weather and will make the necessary adjustments."
Daytona 500 runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr feels the problem should have been addressed long ago.
"They should have repaved it several years ago," he claimed, "We'd have it all weathered and ready to go right now. It would be in good shape. But it will get there again one day. It wasn't paved, hasn't been paved since 1978, so it's due, I would say."
Braig, however, countered that Earnhardt's point of view doesn't represent a consensus.
"Dale Jr has not liked our pavement for many years," he said of the notoriously bumpy surface, "I think you can look that record up. We listen to our sanctioning body and Goodyear. We take the drivers' and the crew chiefs' concerns. We mix that in with a lot of decision makers.
"But we don't think it's time to repave, unless we find out something different after we evaluate it this week. We've got engineers all over this. You know how many people are waiting in line to get out there and see that in the morning."
by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service