Ron Green Jr.: Fire and rain


Monday, Feb. 27, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It's not enough anymore for the Daytona 500 to be the biggest event in stock car racing.

It has now turned into a theatre of the bizarre.

Two years ago, there was the great pothole mess, a mini-sinkhole suddenly developing in Turn Two, disrupting the race and embarassing the bosses of the track and the sport.

Last February, Trevor Bayne won as a 19-year old in an upset of Chaminade proportions.

Now this.

Fire and rain.

And Danica Patrick for one lap.

The rain, a Sunday full of it, forced the first postponement in the 54-year history of the Great American Twilight Zone. It's worth noting that it was so dry Sunday in Orlando, a little over an hour away, that some residents were forced to water their lawns. They needed water pumps in Daytona.

It only got more bizarre Monday once the rain stopped, the racing started and Juan Pablo Montoya went into the third turn on a caution lap.

You've probably seen it by now and if you haven't, you will sometime today. The great fireball.

Montoya was motoring around by himself, his car turned sideways and ran into an emergency vehicle that happened to be carrying a jet engine with 200 gallons of jet fuel. Boom.

No one could blame a Busch brother and, fortunately, no one was injured.

Forty-five minutes later, track workers were dumping boxes of Tide – yeah, the stuff for washing your clothes – on the greasy spot left behind where the emergency truck was partially incinerated. They spread it like fertilizer and then dumped water on it to scrub the track.

How's that for irony? They had to add water.

Then it started lightly raining – again.

Even NASCAR can't make this stuff up.

"It's a bizarre set of circumstances," NASCAR president Mike Helton said.

It was hard to tell if he was smiling.

It happened at approximately the same spot as the famous Cale Yarborough-Allison family fued in 1979, the fight that made NASCAR famous outside the South. In a bizarre way, this may have a similar effect on the sport. Even non-NASCAR fans are going to be talking about this one.

Weird works.

The Sprint Cup season wasn't 10 laps old before someone was calling someone else a bonehead. It beats talking about the new electronic fuel injection system.

David Ragan threw out the first official insult, irked that he was one of the drivers caught up in the mess that took out, among others, Jimmie Johnson, Trevor Bayne and Danica – she's a one-name star already – just as the second lap started.

Ragan wasn't sure who he was calling a bonehead but it was Elliott Sadler, since he was the one who bumped Johnson just past the start/finish line, causing Johnson to slam the wall before Ragan plowed into him, causing a serious scare. Sadler plans to apologize to Johnson and his team today.

Ragan's frustration was understandable. After spending most of two rainy days killing time in a motorcoach – there's only so much bean-bag toss a person wants to play between rain clouds – getting knocked out quicker than you can say Keslowski was a lousy way to start the season, much less the Daytona 500.

Patrick understands. She arrived at Daytona with more attention than Oscars night and she got hit on like a Kardashian at Mardi Gras. She got wrecked half a lap from the end of the 150-mile qualifying race, got spun in the Saturday Nationwide race and made it one lap in her first Sprint Cup race before she was sliding through grass and mud near the bottom of the first turn after running into a mess in front of her.

At least she beat Jimmie Johnson in her first Daytona 500.

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