Jamie McMurray didn’t know what 2010 would hold in store for him when he got to Daytona Beach a couple weeks ago.
Now he knows.
He won a hotly contested 52nd running of the Daytona 500 over 42 of the fastest stock cars on Earth—and tamed the single most important pot hole since The Big Dig.
You’ve heard the story and seen the replays a hundred times by now, but you know that Greg Biffle made the victory possible by shoving his ex-Roush teammate through a gaggle to the lead, and McMurray held firm even though a green No. 88 was fast approaching his rear decklid.
Just suspend reality for a moment and focus on what might have been. If the race had been one lap longer, and Junior had caught McMurray, would it have surprised you at all? Would Junior Nation have lost its collective mind…more so than normal, anyway? Would it have been one of those happy coincidences that seem to visit NASCAR around the time of any milestone moment?
Reality time-out over, the answers are no, heck yeah and double heck yeah.
Watching the final laps play out, I was as sure as I’ve ever been that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was going to find a way to win the Daytona 500. In this watershed year of put-up-or-fall-down for NASCAR—and for Junior--it was the logical conclusion to what had been a pretty stellar Speedweeks.
Think about it. NASCAR has been putting out the vibe that all is well, everyone is on the same page and it’s back to basics for the sport. “We’re improving the racing, we’re letting the drivers be drivers, so on and so forth…” is how the refrain went.
Usually when that happens, when the song is the same from top dog to tire carrier, there’s a result that ties it all up in a nice, neat bow. For example, 1998 was one of those years. Dale Earnhardt Sr. had spent 20 years winning everything at Daytona other than the 500, and it was getting close to the end of his career.
That happened to be NASCAR’s 50th Anniversary season, and a signature victory by The Intimidator put a cherry on top of the sundae that the sport had built around the 500. Lo and behold, the 3 car emerged victorious, and all was right with the world…at least until Feb. 18, 2001, that is.
Amid all this sophistry was a Grade III pot hole carved out of the bottom groove off Turns 1 and 2. That little hole—which had to be patched twice and the last time used auto fender filler Bondo to get the job done—delayed the end of the race by 145 minutes. My public-school math tells me that’s two hours, 25 minutes.
The rain the speedway got in the prior days (Friday was spent watching the big palm tree outside the hotel struggle to bend itself into the living room of our palatial beachside room) was a factor, and also the A-frames and suspension pieces of the cars, which dug into the asphalt with alarming regularity.
Bondo to the rescue, however. After the original repair was undone by wet asphalt, unseasonable cold and the pounding of the cars, NASCAR officials went to Bondo, which is a 3M brand. Naturally, 3M wasted no time in trumpeting the turn of events.
"Bondo™ body fillers are very versatile," said Thom Weber, global business manager for 3M Automotive Aftermarket business. "We've seen many uses in the 60 years this product line has been around, from patching concrete and repairing stucco to fixing wood. All of the 3M fillers, including Bondo, have a unique chemistry designed to adhere to a variety of surfaces. It was the perfect solution in a pinch for the wet, cold concrete at Daytona. While we would not recommend using Bondo™ body fillers on potholes in all cases, we're just glad to have been able to help get the track back to a safe condition so the drivers could have a great finish."
NASCAR also had amended its green-white-checkered policy last week, and shoot, why not try it out in the biggest race of the year? It was the second GWC on which the race actually finished, bringing the race to an official distance of 208 laps or 520 miles. Juan Montoya, during his Friday media time, quipped that the field was going to need every one of them come Sunday.
Will this be a controversy later in the season, or will it just be one of those random footnotes that people like me will remember 10 years from now? You make the call.
So, on a wing and a prayer—with a little help from science and the auto-repair industry—Jamie McMurray rode into the history books on Sunday, getting his season off to a rousing start and fueling the possibility that this might be a sign of things to come for a certain No. 88 driver.