Kevin Harvick won the Sprint Unlimited pole-winners-only exhibition race at Daytona Speedway Saturday night, with Greg Biffle second and Joey Logano third.
Brad Keselowski, the Sprint Cup champion in 2012 who wasn't in this race (and how dumb is that?), did a fine job commenting on this and that as a guest announcer and even had the obligatory hand motions down pat.
He has a future in the booth if he should ever stop racing.
The new "gen 6" cars looked pretty good out there, although they appear to be a handful as compared to the previous gen cars. They were all fish-tailing around at one time or another and there was even a mini Big One caused when Tony Stewart's mount got away on him.
Mark Martin, Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were among the seven cars eliminated in the Lap 15 dustup.
The fun and games are now over, however, as Daytona 500 qualifying goes Sunday at 1 p.m. Danica Patrick turned the fastest lap of the 44 cars that took time Saturday and has to be a favourite for the pole. Her boss Stewart was plenty quick, too.
NASCAR fans who tune into the Sprint Unlimited race (nee the Budweiser Shootout, nee the Busch Clash) Saturday night might be surprised to find that the two top stock car drivers in the world won’t be racing in it.
By that score, Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer, who finished one-two in the Sprint Cup championship in 2012, are ineligible. Although both had dazzling seasons last year, neither of them won a pole. So they can't race Saturday night.
Keselowski will be part of the broadcast team for the race. Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will anchor the show, which will be seen on CTV2 (in the Toronto area, that’s the old CKVR-Barrie station) at 8 p.m.
Now, even though Keselowski and Bowyer won’t be out there (NASCAR has been known to manipulate things on occasion in the past; you’d think there’d be some way to get those guys into that thing, wouldn’t you?), most of the rest of everybody’s Sprint Cup favourites will be racing, including Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Jimmy Johnson, Kyle Busch and the rest – except, of course, the champion and first runner-up.
The reason the race is on CTV2 is because although TSN holds the rights to NASCAR in Canada, there's no room to get the race on the air. Women’s curling is on the main network Saturday night and the NBA All-Star game is on the secondary channel.
TSN plans to telecast the entire Sprint Cup schedule in 2013 as well as all the Nationwide Series races, on either TSN, TSN2 or CTV2.
After the Saturday night Clash, all of the drivers in that race, plus Keselowski, Bowyer and the rest, will run time trials Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. as qualifying begins for next weekend’s Daytona 500.
(See George's TV Listings for Race Fans for the channel that time trials will be on, plus times and channels for all the other pre-Daytona 500 NASCAR programming, including the two qualifying races next Thursday afternoon.)
A total of 45 drivers are entered in what broadcaster Ken Squier has dubbed the "Great American Race" and 43 will start the classic, meaning only two drivers will miss the show.
One of the 45 is Brad Keselowski’s brother Brian, who will be driving a start-and-park entry for Hamilton Means Racing, which usually campaigns a car in the Nationwide series.
Speaking of the Nationwide series, Nelson Piquet Jr. will fun full-time in it this season, after apprenticing in trucks last year.
And speaking of trucks, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park co-owner – and racing champion in his own right – Ron Fellows said at the Canadian International AutoShow on Thursday that he thinks chances are very good that he will have a ride for the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen in August and "be in a good car."
Fellows has won in every classification of racing he’s entered, with the exception of the Sprint Cup, and considers that to be "unfinished business."
And why did I start this item with the words, "speaking of trucks?" Because Canadian Tire Motorport Park will be the scene on Labour Day weekend of a NASCAR Camping World Series Truck Race.
Okay, so it doesn’t work. I’m moving on anyway.
Social note: Jacques Villeneuve is a new father – again. His wife has given birth to their latest child - a third son - and mother, father and baby are doing fine at the family home in Switzerland.
James Hylton, who's 78 and been driving in NASCAR'S top division since 1964 and made more than 600 starts, winning two races, has announced the 2013 season will be his last as a driver. I love guys with energy and endurance and Hylton tops the list.
And Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, who's considerably younger than Mr. Hylton, has signed to drive this season for BAR1 Motorsports in the LMPC class in the American Le Mans Series. The ALMS will be at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.
And finally, Katherine Legge and Sebastien Saavedra are both pay drivers. It says something about the IZOD IndyCar Series that they are apparently more important to a car owner than Indy 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe, who has more talent than both of them combined and yet because he expects to be paid, he can’t get hired.
- Norris McDonald