Win in marquee race continues to elude Stewart

February 17, 2010

When Tony Stewart finally wins the Daytona 500, he should receive the Dale Earnhardt treatment.

Stewart won his fifth season-opening Nationwide Series race in the last six years on Saturday. On Sunday, he whiffed on his chance for his first Daytona 500 win … again.

"We just missed," he said. "We've missed it since we got here. I'm not sure what we missed, but we'll figure it out."

There's no question Stewart is one of the best American drivers of all time. He is the only NASCAR driver to win championships in both the Chase and non-Chase formats - something Jeff Gordon has been trying for years to accomplish - and he also has an Indy Racing League title to his credit.

Someday Stewart will win the Daytona 500. When he does, even those who root against him every week should applaud the accomplishment.

Beneath the surface: One can understand Daytona International Speedway's reluctance to repave its 32-year-old surface, even after the Great American Pothole disrupted its marquee race.

The drivers don't want another Talladega where handling is nonexistent and winning the race is as much about luck as anything else. Some think if Daytona is repaved it'll be just like Talladega, which was repaved in 2006.

If Daytona were repaved, it would take a few years of racing before it got back into the kind of shape where handling would matter again.

That wouldn't be as much fun for competitors or spectators. Changing it will cause problems in the short term, but it has to happen every once in a while. DIS will just have to grit its teeth and do it.

Racing school: Ten things we learned this week:

1. Jamie McMurray is having the time of his life on the post-Daytona 500 media blitz - and he's taking everyone along for the ride on Twitter.

2. Matt Kenseth told him so. McMurray got a text from Kenseth on Monday that told him he wouldn't want the day to end.

3. It's OK to cry when you've just won the Daytona 500. Even if that means you can't answer all your questions.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. still has that spark, which makes him the most popular driver in NASCAR. After flipping over in his Nationwide car at Daytona, he didn't get on his soapbox and start screaming about safety. Unscathed, he just wanted to know if it was "awesome."

5. Danica Patrick helps ratings. We already knew that, but here's some proof: ESPN's ratings for the Nationwide race were the highest they've ever been. An average of more than 4.2 million people watched the race. And ratings were highest after Patrick crashed.

6. Potholes hurt ratings. Fox saw a 16.3 percent drop from last season even with the 2 1/2 hours of pothole delay excluded.

7. In some parts of the world, Super Bowl champion coach Jimmy Johnson is "the other Jimmy Johnson," as NASCAR President Mike Helton called him during Sunday's drivers meeting.

8. On the plus side for potholes, they are a headline writer's dream. Among them were "Hole 'N' One" (a play on McMurray winning in the No. 1) and "Holy Moly!"

9. Drivers might understand how they'd benefit from Patrick making it to the highest level of stock car racing, but some are getting a little sick of the 24/7 Patrick coverage.

10. Elliott Sadler won the baby race. His son was born Monday and he named him Wyatt Herman Fritts Sadler.

- Tania Ganguli

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