(Via Peter Chase)
On Sunday, NASCAR came back with the 59th running of the Great American Race. And after last year's incredible finish where Denny Hamlin went from 4th to 1st in the final half lap to shock the world and capture his first 500 inches ahead of Martin Truex, the bar was set very high, almost unrealistically high, for the 2017 running.
And, for lack of a better term, it disappointed. Firstly, staged racing is terrible.
It is NASCAR abandoning part of what makes it's cult following so die hard. And buckle up, because it will be happening every race this season.
Secondly, while there weren't a lot of wrecks, the wrecks there were took out a lot of cars every time. There were only 6 (non-stage related) cautions, but again, they took out several cars each time, including a 17-car crash caused by Jimmie Johnson. At the end of the race, 15 drivers did not finish. Only 5 drivers were not involved in a wreck.
Reminder: 40 drivers started the race.
Another blow to NASCAR was that of the 15 drivers who didn't finish the race, there were several big names among them. Jimmie Johnson, who some call the greatest driver of all time, wrecked out. So did Dale Jr. And Kyle Busch. And Brad Keselowski. And Danica Patrick. And Matt Kenseth.
Need I name more?
These big names not finishing can only hurt NASCAR, as new, young fans tune into races to watch drivers like these. While Kurt Busch, the winner, is kind of big name, new fans don't recognize him as well. To give credit where credit's due, the last laps were exciting. I was admittedly pulling for Chase Elliott after learning he was Bill's son, but when he ran out of gas, that opened the door for anyone, and Kyle Larson jumped at the chance.
However, Larson, another of the sport's rising young stars, also ran out of gas, and such Kurt Busch took home the win, despite his only lap led coming after the white flag. Ultimately, it was a feel-good ending, as Tony Stewart, albeit as owner, finally captured his elusive Daytona 500 win.