Danica Patrick greets fans during driver introductions before theNASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) ORG XMIT: DBR
The annual Post-Tribune Fantasy NASCAR contest has returned for a sixth season. Each week readers pick five drivers and points are based on the same system NASCAR uses in its standings. Lineup entries can be submitted via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (219-314-3797). Entries can also be texted to that cell number. No faxes, please. With your entries, please include your name, hometown and a contact number. First and second place each week will be entered into a drawing in July for tickets to the Brickyard 400.
Steve T. Gorches’ picks: DAYTONA — Danica Patrick, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart; Total points: 115; PHOENIX — Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano
Top 10 readers
Nathaniel Hollowell 161
Chuck Green Jr. 159
Albert Gonzalez 157
Sheila Smith 153
Kelsie Rearick 150
Kyra Dockter 146
Earl Slease 145
Janice Garvey 145
Jim DeReamer 144
Joanne Daras 143
Updated: April 2, 2013 6:45AM
It was quite an interesting start to another NASCAR season.
Where do we start? There was the crash at the end of the Nationwide race that got national headlines because Kyle Larson’s car went airborne into the catch fencing, injuring around 30 fans, some serious. (Expect lawsuits to be coming, and rightfully so.)
But the crash was just the beginning. In the subsequent hours afterward, one fan posted a video of the crash on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftZ94fIpjH8 … fair warning that there is profanity at the 32-second mark of the video), and then it was taken off YouTube by request by NASCAR for copyright infringements.
“The fan video of the wreck on the final lap of today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race was blocked on YouTube out of respect for those injured in today’s accident,” NASCAR senior vice president Steve Phelps said in a release last Saturday. “Information on the status of those fans was unclear and the decision was made to err on the side of caution with this very serious incident.”
But YouTube put the video back up Saturday night, correctly saying it didn’t violate any laws.
I know the actual accident was disturbing — one of our loyal Fantasy NASCAR entrants, Joe Slamka of Chesterton, said, “Let’s pray for the people who are hurt” at the end of his contest entry — but the censorship is a close second in the disturbing category.
And then there was the main event on Sunday. If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, why not? Follow me @SteveTGorches for my insight during races), you know I mentioned that I was surprised at Danica Patrick’s showing — not because she’s a woman or because she’s been beyond overhyped. It’s because she’s still very inexperienced on the NASCAR circuit.
Danica’s a good driver, whatever the car or series. She was overhyped on the IndyCar series, but still managed a couple top-five finishes in the Indianapolis 500 and a victory in Japan. Last season on the Nationwide Series, it was a learning process, but she still finished 10th in points.
But the Daytona 500 is a different animal with the pressure, the competiveness and the experience of the drivers. Just look at some of the guys who finished in the top 15 on Sunday. Mark Martin, who finished third, is old enough to be Danica’s father (she turns 31 later this month) and Bobby Labonte (15th) is almost old enough at 48 years old
So she may not have won after earning the pole, but Danica survived the whole race without incident and was in the running at the end. She was third in line right behind Greg Biffle on the last lap before Biffle, and subsequently her, got out of line, dooming their chances at winning. Biffle finished sixth while Danica was eighth.
Still very respectable and worthy of picking her in our contest more often this season, at least until she starts struggling and the naysayers start up again.
As for our first week of our sixth annual Fantasy NASCAR contest, we topped 100 entries out of the gate. Not bad, but we want more.
As for the actual points, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you at least 272 times that restrictor plate races result in low points and ugly results on the track. Too many readers had a combination of Kevin Harvick (42nd), Tony Stewart (41st), Matt Kenseth (37th), Kyle Busch (34th) and Carl Edwards (33rd) in their lineups to top 100 points, let alone even come close to this week’s top 10. Look at the drivers who finished in the top 15: Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Regan Smith, Danica, Michael McDowell, J.J. Yeley, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (yes, he finished four spots behind his girlfriend ... talk about bragging rights for Danica), Aric Almirola and Labonte. Not exactly household names or frequently-picked in our contest.
So here’s my advice for the next restrictor plate race (Talladega on May 5): Pick a few lesser-name drivers if you want to win.
So who did win this week? It was a longtime contest entrant who had never won despite leaving his drivers on my voice mail for years — even after our season ends, forgetting that we stop in July. Nathaniel Hollowell of Gary rarely changes his lineup, going with Hendrick cars, plus Stewart. But this week he had Danica in there (with Kyle Busch’s 10 points) to accrue 161 points. That was enough to edge another regular, Chuck Green Jr. of Wheatfield, who had 159 points. Both Hollowell and Green earn spots in our July drawing.
This week it’s Phoenix, which should produce more predictable results. And yes, I’m still going to pick Danica until she messes up ... which could be this week.