Another driver's experimentation with left side bumpdrafting ended Michael Waltrip's shot to win the Budweiser Shootout, tonight's non-points NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season starter at Daytona International Speedway. David Ragan's #34 hit Paul Menard's #27 on lap 9, sending both cars up the track into the path of Mikey's #55 Aaron's Camry. The #55 sustained a great deal of front end damage and a tire in the left wheel well. Mikey was the first driver out of the race and therefore finished 25th. His drivers Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr finished 8th and 19th respectively.
Mikey qualified had drawn the 16th position for tonight's race. His driver Martin Truex Jr had drawn the pole, and Clint Bowyer drew 13th.
Prior to the race, John Roberts checked in with the Cup series' newest commentator for FOX.
"Man, this is Daytona, JR." Mikey said. "I am set. I love it. I also love the style of racing that I think we might see tonight. Talking to several of the drivers in the drivers meeting, they're talking pack racing. Maybe you can push for a few laps, but you're not going to be able to push all night long. And Johnny, all the success I had here at Daytona, it was a huge pack. I won in 01 and 03, and you had to be three and four wide even sometimes to have success, so it's lining up nicely for me. I can't wait to get into that little hot ride of mine and go see what I've got for them tonight."
"1, 2. Hello?" Mikey came onto his team's frequency less than a minute later.
Someone responded that he could hear the driver and asked if Mikey could hear him.
"Yes sir. Sounds good so far."
"10-4. You can get it fired up."
The call to start engines came at 8:18pm.
The spotter pointed out where the committment line was on pit road. "31 behind you, opening in front of you," he added.
"Gotcha," Mikey replied.
His crew chief asked if Mikey wanted to hear anything more from him but "wheels straight, put on the brakes."
"No, that's good. I'll be ready to go."
"Third time by, third time by," the spotter said.
"All right, guys. Make sure all your equipment is ready to go here," the crew chief addressed the #55 team.
A couple minutes later, the crew chief pointed out where the #55's box was on pit road as Mikey drove by. "Right here behind you. 31 behind you, opening getting out. Just make sure your right front B blowers are on and your radiator fans are on."
"Got a couple of them stopped on pit road right here, up high," warned the spotter. "All right, here he comes, coming outside here.
"Pit road speed right there. Pit road speed."
The crew chief said the pace car was going 4500.
"Yeah, he's 43. 10-4," Mikey said.
"10-4. 4500 on pit road," the spotter added.
During the pace laps, DW
"Mikey, it's DW. You got a copy?"
"Hey, man, two times on February the 18th, I stood up here and called you home the winner. What kind of shot have we got tonight? Do we have a shot for three in a row?"
"I think so, Darrell. You're going to see old school racing I believe tonight. I think these guys are going to run in a pack, and when they're packed up, I've had a lot of success. Talked to Dale Jr, talked to Kasey Kahne. Nobody knows what to expect. They don't know if they're going to be able to push or not, so you got great seat up there, and I like what day it is for me."
"Roger that. No pressure, but I would like to see you up front. So put your big foot to the floor and let 'er rip."
"All righty, brother. You have fun up there, and I'll hang out up there with you this year if you don't mind."
Shortly thereafter, the crew chief spoke to the team, encouraging them to have a solid night and to take care of the car.
"I appreciate all y'all's effort." Mikey said he also appreciated the work they'd done on Mark Martin's car. "I appreciate everything."
Mikey commented on how good it was to see fans in the grandstands enjoying what he does for a living. His crew chief agreed.
"ALl right, man, coming to the green. Coming to the green." The spotter said he'd do his best for him.
Mikey said he was sure he would and that the radio was sounding clear now.
The crew chief asked for Mikey's temps. Mikey gave them. They were the same as the #15.
"All right, pace car's off. Nice and smooth here. Green green green."
The green flag waved at 8:31pm ET, and Truex Jr led them to the stripe.
"Rolling rolling. Good out front," said the spotter. "The 29's still behind you. He's trying to make it three wide. Three wide, three. Still three, still three. We're stacking up here in the middle. 27, 17 is behind you. Still three.
"Still three wide. The 17's in the middle, making it three wide on you. The 42 about two back behind you. Three wide right there, three wide. The 42 behind you is moving to the middle. Looks like the 14 behind him. You're clear. 42's coming. Outside. 14's behind him. 14's going to be coming outside." He noted that his driver in the #15 was about three back behind him. "39's still down there. The 48 behind you."
Dale Earnhardt Jr led lap 1.
"14's on the bottom. Inside. The middle's open if you want it. 14's still inside, right on the yellow line."
Mikey was 19th on lap 2 as Earnhardt Jr continued to lead. His spotter let him know that the #14 was still inside.
"Back to three wide, three wide. Three wide right there, three. Still three, still three. Still three wide, still three wide. Still three wide."
Mikey was 19th on lap 4 as Jamie McMurray led.
"Three wide, three wide. 99's with that 48. Two wide. 42's inside, right on the bottom. 14's in the middle coming. He's making it three wide."
Kevin Harvick led lap 6. Mikey was 14th.
"Still three, bud. Still three. Still three. Still three wide, 11 behind you. Still three wide. The 11's dropping down to the 24. The 5 is trying to make it three wide on you. Three wide, three. Still three wide here."
Lap 10 saw the end of Mikey's race. David Ragan in the #34 had attempted to bump draft Paul Menard's #27 by getting into the left rear, wrecking them both. Cars behind them stacked up and wrecked. The #34 and #27 shot up the hill, across the #55's path. Mikey's car sustained heavy damage and was briefly on fire.
"That's the end of that shit," said his spotter. "You all right, bud? Stop right there, dude. You're on fire. Hop out of it, man."
Several seconds later, his crew chief asked, "You all right, man?"
"Yes, all good," Mikey replied.
There ain't nothing I could do right there, man," the spotter said.
"All right, man," said the crew chief. "Start cleaning everyting out here. We'll meet him in the garage."
A minute later, someone said, "Looks like the 34 caused all of it."
"Yup, yup," the spotter replied. "It sucks. He slid right up in front of us, slid right up in there."
Eight cars were involved in the wreck - Kasey Kahne's #5, Denny Hamlin's #11, Matt Kenseth's #17, Paul Menard's #27, Jeff Burton's #31, David Ragan's #34, Juan Pablo Montoya's #42, and Mikey's #55.
Mikey was checked at the in-field care centre and released. Dick Berggren interviewed him a few minutes later.
"It was crazy. I was on fire and everything, Dick," Mikey said. "I twittered before the race started that I was going to share the track with the greatest drivers in the world. I think it proved right there even the greatest drivers sometime run out of room. What a big pack. It was everything we hoped for. I think you'll see them calm down a little bit, probably spread out a little."
During the break, Mikey went to the Hollywood Hotel with John Roberts. He said of the race, "It hasn't disappointed, has it. We wanted something different this year, and by golly, we got it."
DW asked Mikey if the aero changes - the smaller rear spoiler and less downforce - were having an effect on the cars and their handling.
"You know, Darrell, with the back bumper being longer, you just can't push as hard as you used to. You're barely onto someone. And so therefore, when another car drives up beside you and pulls those cars apart. They don't seem to be that much more difficult to drive when you're just going by yourself, maybe in a single file line. But as soon as you get two or three cars around you, the air starts moving around. The cars are a bit unstable. They're still plenty good enough to drive, but they do get uneasy on you."
The third caution was on lap 31 when Truex Jr got into the back of Bowyer through the tri-oval and sent Bowyer through the grass.
Mike Myers asked Mikey how Martin could know that Bowyer was trying to change lanes.
"There's no way he could have known," Mikey replied. "That wreck is no one's fault. There's know way Martin knew what Clint was thinking. And Clint was like, I gotta run, I gotta go. Come on, Martin, follow me. Martin just couldn't react as fast as Clint did, because he didn't know what was going on."
The fourth caution took out a bunch of cars, including the #56. Truex Jr had been running behind Ambrose, who had turned Logano. The #20 hit the #56. Others were collected as well. The Napa Camry needed to be towed to the garage and was out of the race. He would finish 19th. Clint Bowyer was the 15th at the time.
"These things get down in the corner, and those pushes these guys are trying to deliver in the corner is just more than the cars can stand," Mikey said after the multi-car wreck. "Sometimes, NASCAR will have to step in and say don't be hitting each other in the corners, and you know, that's what we've seen so far that has caused these crashes. It's even possible, as we clearly saw, Martin Truex spun out Clint Bowyer in the tri oval. That's a corner as well. So it's really tough. These drivers just have to evaluate, look at what they're doing, and try lay off one another in the turns."
Mikey called Kurt Busch in the #51 to win with 8 laps to go; however, it didn't come to be. With two laps to go, Jeff Gordon turned Kyle Busch. A bunch of cars wrecked, and Gordon turned across Kurt Busch's nose and barrel rolled down the track. Gordon landed upside down, and he wanted the safety crew to turn the car first before he got out. This was reminiscent of Mikey's wreck in 2004 when he flipped upside down in the Daytona 500 and stayed that way for fifteen minutes.
"Michael is a lot bigger than Jeff, and the cars were a lot littler," he said, commenting that this was not a good combintation. He praised the new cars with the larger greenhouses.
Eight of the fifteen cars that had been left were involved in the wreck. Bowyer restarted 3rd of the ten cars that restarted with two laps to go. Kyle Busch went on to win. Bowyer came home 8th.
Mikey was the driver who had the last word tonight. From the Hollywood Hotel, he said, "How are you going to get a ticket? We're going to sell all the tickets for the Daytona 500. That's awesome. I was on fire. I had a ball. Jeff Gordon was upside down. What'd he say? 'I had a ball.' Racing is fun at Daytona, and it's going to be amazing for the Daytona 500."