All Junior, all the time

Updated: February 20, 2004, 1:31 PM ET
ESPN.com

RPM.ESPN.com takes a look at what went down in the racing world this past weekend.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The weekend belonged to Earnhardt Jr.

Biggest surprise: Scott Wimmer's performance in the Daytona 500. Combine the hype surrounding some of his fellow rookies with the negative attention Wimmer has received in recent weeks -- well, Wimmer wasn't on any prerace top-five finish radars.

Biggest non-surprise: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win almost should have been a surprise. After all, he had only notched one good finish in his four previous Daytona 500 starts. He entered last year's 500 as a strong favorite but couldn't beat the rain, not to mention his teammate. But everyone else -- many here at ESPN.com included -- picked Junior to win. And he and his car are always great on superspeedways. All in all, a great victory. But not a surprising one.

(His Busch win was even more of a non-surprise).

Biggest disappointment: Michael Waltrip. His quest for two consecutive 500 wins came to a tumbling finish.

And Mark Martin. His machine never gave him a chance on Sunday.

Also, would-be pole-sitter Greg Biffle having to give up the top spot after changing an engine. Not that we have any problem with Earnhardt Jr. starting up front, but here's a thought -- if NASCAR knows the field will have to be reshuffled, why not just have Biffle and the other drivers who changed engines line up in the order that they will start? Elliott Sadler was second in qualifying. If the No. 1 guy drops back, the No. 2 guy should assume his slot. It's as simple as that.

Gutsy move: Junior passing Tony Stewart for the lead. Stewart wasn't so bad, himself, on Sunday.

Also, Wimmer's two-tire pit stop. There was no way he could hold that lead, but he stayed right with the leaders to the end.

And Carl Edwards. Revised backflip aside, he's pretty good.

Boneheaded move: Drivers putting their cars in places they shouldn't be. It always seems one car nosing in to a tight spot is part of the cause of a major wreck. Of course, seeing how quickly a car can be left out of the draft and shuffled back a couple dozen spots, it becomes a bit harder to blame a guy for trying to put himself in the right place at the right time.

Also, on-camera squabbling. But we've covered it already, so moving right along ...

Redemption: A couple of veterans had strong showings on Sunday. Joe Nemechek finished sixth as he begins his first full season in the No. 01 car. Dave Blaney, who was cast off by the new Penske-Jasper combo, was strong during Speedweeks and finished 15th in the 500. And Kyle Petty got the year off to a respectable start by finishing 21st.

Also worthy of mention is Geoffrey Bodine's 10th-place effort in the Daytona truck race.

Random stat: 2. That's how many Toyota trucks (of seven entries) finished in the top 10 in the manufacturer's debut at Daytona. As a comparison, five Fords, three Chevys and no Dodges rounded out the top 10.

Random thought: Nothing against John Mellencamp (or was it Cougar back then?) but LeAnn Rimes sure did add something to ROCK in the USA.

General amazement: That Ryan Newman wins poles (IROC) even when it's a random draw.

Oh, and the continued dominance of drivers named Earnhardt at Daytona. That, too.

Quote: "There are days when I feel I'm as good as my dad was. I'll say to myself, 'He couldn't have done it any better than that.' It's not long before I realize I was wrong. You know, he was pretty tough." -- Earnhardt Jr.

Photo: Check out the photo of the week. Take off.

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