Forget everything you just saw.
On Sunday, Jamie McMurray won a Daytona 500 that gave fans some of the most dramatic, edge-of-the-seat action in the history of the Great American Race — when the cars weren't parked on pit road.
The race also featured two long, tedious stoppages while track workers attempted — hardly with unqualified success — to repair a hole in the low-side racing line near the transition between turns one and two. By the end of the six-hour-plus marathon, the temperature had dropped into the 40s.
Ultimately, McMurray took the chequered flag under the lights, squelching, for this event, all the good intentions of earlier start times for NASCAR races, one of the mantras of fan-responsive 2010.
The good news is that McMurray's popular win, which also featured runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s eruption from a frantic pack of cars to chase McMurray through the final two corners, gave those inclined to be equitable good reason to forget the problems with the racetrack — at least temporarily.
The bad news for McMurray is that a victory in the Daytona 500 is all but worthless as a predictor of what will happen the rest of the season.
Kevin Harvick won the 2007 race and hasn't won a points event since. The same goes for Ryan Newman, who hasn't been to victory lane in a Cup race — points or otherwise — since he took the chequered flag in the 50th running of the Daytona 500 in 2008.
Matt Kenseth, winner of last year's rain-shortened race, won the following week in California but struggled for the rest of the year and missed the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time in his career.
The bottom line is that the Daytona 500 is a special event, not only in its import but also in its conduct. Daytona is a superspeedway where restrictor plates, designed to limit horsepower and speed, are mandated by NASCAR.
This week, at California, what drivers call the “real” Sprint Cup season begins with a three-week diet of 2-mile (California) and 1.5-mile tracks (Las Vegas and Atlanta), the staples of the Cup schedule, where restrictor plates give way to open motors.