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Poor Season for the Team that wins the Daytona 500?

Posted by chadmusselman on February 17, 2010

Daytona 500 ChampJamie McMurray won the 2010 Daytona 500 and about $1.5 Million, but does that mean he’ll have a good season? Well, if recent history is any indicator, he probably won’t fare too well in the point standings, or win many races.

Since 2001 there has only been one driver to finish in the top five in points after winning the Daytona 500, and that was Jimmie Johnson in 2006; the first of his four consecutive championships.

There have only been two other drivers to finish in the top ten in points since 2001 after winning the 500; Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2004 finished 6th in points, and in 2007 Kevin Harvick finish 10th in points.

To make winning the Daytona 500 sound even worse, since 2001, there have only been 3 drivers to win more than two races all season long. In 2004, 2005 & 2006, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon, and Jimime Johnson won 6, 4, and 5 races. Everyone else won two, or just the 500 all season long.

So, if the Daytona 500 winners have done so poorly in the standings and haven’t won many races the rest of the season, why do teams put so much emphasis on it? Obviously it’s because of the money. This is the richest race of the season, and for a mid to low-level team to finish highly in the Daytona 500 can make their season, increase publicity, and bring in enough money to fund a few more races. Does the big payout make some of the teams to lose focus on the ultimate goal of a Championship?

Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newan, Kevin Harvick, and Jeff Gordon are all drivers that can win a championship and have won the Daytona 500 since 2005, but finished 10th or worse in the standings. Did they put too much emphasis on the 500? Is restrictor plate racing so different from the rest of the races that it just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of winning a championship?

Teams need to put more emphasis on other tracks in the off-season. They shouldn’t spend almost all of their time preparing for a race that counts for 1/36th of the season, and uses a restrictor plate. Restrictor plates are only used in four races, and create a much different racing condition than you normally see.

Every other race of the season, no matter the payout, is worth the same amount of points as the Daytona 500. Have the team get the 1.5 and 2.0 mile ovals down first and they’ll be able to start to contend for the title.

Ask Jimmie Johnson and his four consecutive championships what he’d rather do; win the 500 or win a championship. I think you know what his answer would be.

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