The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

July 9, 2013

Coasting to 2nd makes for good night at Daytona

(Continued)

Now more and more drivers are simply riding around for the three quarters, choosing to wait until the end to turn it up a notch.

It was frustrating to fourth-place finisher Clint Bowyer, who had voiced his boredom with Daytona several times over the weekend.

"I made a rule with myself at these restrictor-plate tracks to be easy. You know, ride around," Bowyer said. "It's boring. You want to be up there racing for every lap led. If you get wiped out it doesn't matter who caused it or whose fault it was. If you get wiped out before halfway in one of these restrictor-plate races it's your own fault. You knew better than to put yourself in that situation."

The final results Saturday showed that riding in the back is the best strategy for making it to the finish line.

Johnson, who had the dominant car, led a race-high 94 laps and felt confident his speed was enough to keep him out front and ahead of trouble. But Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Bowyer and Michael Waltrip all made it inside the top-five but laying back for at least half the race. David Ragan did the same thing to win at Talladega in May.

But Stewart is correct in sensing that many fans don't like watching drivers take it easy. They gripe and grumble that there's no point in watching a plate race until the very end because that's when it gets exciting.

So what does NASCAR do about this predicament? Series officials can't force drivers to race hard, and there doesn't seem to be any real consequence to laying back. Several years ago when Denny Hamlin was in the thick of the championship race, he lost a tandem partner while racing at the back and fell out of the draft. In danger of going a lap down and ruining his title chances, fellow Toyota driver Waltrip got out of the gas and slid back to rescue Hamlin.

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