On or about 10 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday night, or on or about Lap 143 of the the 200-lap Daytona 500, take your pick, Fox Sports 1 play-by-play announcer Mike Joy mentioned that there hadn't been any crashes in the 2014 edition of the Great American Race.
As if on cue, the first of many "Big Ones" that turned the last quarter of NASCAR's marquee event into a survival-of-the-fittest crashfest started happening in Turn Four of the Daytona International Speedway.
An even dozen cars were involved in that one - six were eliminated - and before the checkers flew over the No. 88 car of winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., there were four more including one on the last corner of the very last lap.
As is always the case (it seems), none of the drivers involved was injured although some feelings were hurt, including those of the two drivers who finished second and third.
Denny Hamlin was second to Earnhardt Jr. and it was the first race he lost at Daytona this winter, finishing first in the Budweiser-sponsored exhibition race last weekend and first again in one of two qualifying races held on Thursday. That he hadn't landed in Victory Lane again was evident on his face as he answered questions in a post-race interview, suggesting he hadn't been able to hear his spotter and that that handicap had contributed to his loss.
Brad Keselowski finished third in the race that started at 1:30 Sunday afternoon, was officially over at 11:18 p.m. Sunday night and featured a record rain delay of six hours and 23 minutes. The Penske Racing driver is a fierce competitor and the fact that he hadn't won was evident in his demeanor. He wasn't rude but he sure didn't have his PR face on.
Winner Earnhardt was ecstatic - it was his second 500 victory - and he took off his helmet while still in the car before pulling a u-turn in order to salute the crowd with a driver's-side drive-by of the main grandstand.
In Victory Lane, he hugged every member of his pit crew individually before saying that winning the Daytona 500 "gives you the greatest feeling you can feel in this sport."
Making reference to the changes NASCAR made to the 2014 points system, in which winning is just about everything, he said that the victory means "we might be in the Chase."
Many of the crashes were caused by three-wide racing - usually when the driver in the middle lost control. In the first ka-boomer, for instance, Kevin Harvick on the bottom moved up and tapped Brian Scott who moved up to hit Aric Almirola and the carnage commenced.
There's nothing that can be done about this sort of thing - except to get rid of the restrictor plates that govern horsepower and that ain't gonna happen - so expect Big Ones to continue to be a staple at Daytona and the other plate track, Talladega.
There is one more thing, however. As is the case in virtually every other sport - where to talk about something momentous happening is considered a trigger for bad luck (hockey goalie shutouts, baseball pitcher no-hitters, etc.) - it is hoped that the next time there aren't any crashes, Mike Joy keeps his mouth shut.
- Last summer, I was talking to a guy in government - federal, not provincial or municipal - about the length of time it now takes to get anything done these days. We were talking about oil pipelines, specifically.
"Regardless of whether it's going south from the north, or west from Alberta or east to Montreal, it's a 20-year process now," he said.
"You just have to be prepared to wait it out."
That's how I'm feeling right now about the Daytona 500. Whether it's rain, or potholes, or drivers crashing their cars into jet dryers, the Daytona 500 seems to take forever to finish these days.
Since 2008, there have only been two races that were completed without interruption - 2011 and 2013. Matt Kenseth won the 2009 race that was red-flagged for rain; in 2010, there was the famous two-hour delay for potholes; in 2012, they finally got the race going after nightfall only to have Juan Pablo Montoya run into a jet dryer; now this.
- When the red flag flew after 38 laps Sunday afternoon, Kyle Busch was the leader, followed by Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin. Only Hamlin was really able to stay in the hunt after the restart.
- It was a strange race leading up to the delay, in that if a driver somehow lost his or her "tow," or "draft," they were at a severe disadvantage and other drivers suffered, as a result.
At the green, a lead pack of about 30 cars (out of 43 that started) broke away, leaving two other packs falling further and further behind. A number of drivers, including Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Truex Jr. and Danica Patrick, had been sent to the back of the field because of engine changes, wrecked primary cars and so-on and were hung out to dry when the "towing chain" was somehow broken.
Normally, those drivers are at or near the front and it was somewhat disconcerting to watch them fall way, way back. Only a spin caused by a deflating tire on rookie Kyle Larson's car, which brought out a yellow, allowed them to catch up.
After dark, this phenomenon didn't appear to be a factor.
- For what it's worth, Michael Waltrip said Danica Patrick would beat Richard Petty in a match race because the cars have evolved so much that the King would be at a disadvantage. Earlier, his brother Darrell opined that he hoped it never happens.
- NASCAR just can't seem to help itself. Phrases like, "It's the biggest race in all of motorsports," were just a little over the top (what about the Grand Prix of Monaco, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indy 500?) while Darrell Waltrip called the Daytona Speedway, which only opened in 1959, the "birthplace of speed" (please).
- Matt Kenseth went into the pits for a stop and spun his car, winding up in his pit box but with the car pointed the wrong way. His crew serviced it anyway because, as was pointed out by the Fox TV crew, there is no rule that says you can't do that.
- Fox seemed terribly unprepared for the rain. They have pit reporters who could have been interviewing drivers about the delay but opted to show repeats of filmed segments that had been telecast during the pre-race show. They eventually went to a recording of the 2013 race to kill time.
I wrote at the time Sunday that I sure hoped they kept flashing that it was a film of last year's race or there could be a problem. I told the story of a guy I once knew who sat down on a Saturday afternoon and turned on his TV and a film of the previous year's Grey Cup game was on. It didn't say that, though. He wasn't a football fan but quickly became enthralled by the back-and-forth game action and the great plays. He was flabbergasted to find out later that it hadn't been the real thing.
As it turned out, people tuning in late didn't realize the race that was on was a recording and saw the 2013 winner, Jimmie Johnson, win again. They Tweeted him congratulations, which he thought was extremely amusing.
Memo to Fox. The next time - if there ever is a next time - how about running a crawl at the bottom that says the Daytona 500 is delayed and that you're watching a tape of a previous raced? Might help ward off the confusion.
- As a result of those previous paragraphs, you will know that I did not sit around all Sunday afternoon waiting for the 2014 race to resume. I imagine a lot of others either went out or changed channels. When that sort of thing happens, would it not be better for the TV people to say, "We're in for a four-hour rain delay, folks. How about tuning in again at 5 p.m.?" instead of pretending it will stop raining at any second?
Truth be told, according to the Internet, a severe weather situation was in effect in the Daytona Beach area and a tornado was possible. Which explained why there were no people in the grandstands.
As a consumer, and a fan, I would much prefer that Fox (or whoever) be honest about the situation so that I can go and do something else and then come back to watch the race later.
- NORRIS McDONALD