The Daytona 500 was not an embarrassment.
Yet if one were to read various accounts and comments from a relatively tiny group of fans and media pundits, many of whom wouldn't know a restrictor plate from a brake rotor, you would think the earth is about to swallow the Daytona International Speedway whole.
First, let's deal with the fans.
Despite the fact the race ended a few hours late after two delays to repair the track, there weren't many empty seats come the checkered flag. It's the biggest race of the season, tickets and travel don't come cheap, (though one has to give NASCAR some credit for making things a bit more affordable in light of the current economy), and these are fans who would sit thru epic floods or the rapture to see their favorites dice it out.
Then there's the aforementioned NASCAR.
Despite incessant whining from drivers and crew chiefs alike, NASCAR watches and refuses to take chances with their livelihood. It's why restrictor plates were designed to cut down on dangerous speeds at certain tracks. Why devices were created to keep a drivers head from snapping of their spinal cords in a wreck. And why the car was redesigned to insure it stays on the track instead of becoming a rudderless missile.
So when the Daytona track started to come apart, they did what any sensible and responsible governing body would do. They pulled the cars into the pits and went about repairing the damage. Caused not by neglect or carelessness, but very likely due to heavy rains and extreme cold weather conditions at a place where usually the only freezing temperatures in winter are inside a margarita glass.
And when it started to flare up again, they repeated the proper thing to do. Dropped the hammer and took the line of thought about nothing is worth risking the lives of their athletes. Not fan excitement or complaints. Not TV ratings. And certainly not doing something where after the fact they could be viewed as trading a life for a few more bucks.
Something perhaps the International Luge Federation, the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, and the extortion masters of global sport, the International Olympic Committee, might have considered and saved a young man's life in the process.
Had NASCAR and the track done nothing, and someone would have been injured or saw a shot at fair and competitive racing go down the hole, the screams would be at incalculable volume levels. And the sport would suffer a potentially disastrous black mark that would be difficult to overcome in a time of trying to be more fan friendly.
They did the right thing. In the correct fashion. Without hesitation. They'll do it again if necessary. And at a time when certain athletes in certain sports are treated as disposable, NASCAR needs to be commended instead of hammered by the usual band of knee-jerk artists who both pay for and are granted free access.
NASCAR is far from infallible. But in this case, they acted properly.
Jamie McMurray's victory should thus carry only one footnote.
In this sport, nice guys sometimes do finish first.
Ed Berliner is represented by Entourage Management.