Oh my God, WHO CARES about the five-minute clock??? (A column)

Twitter got alllllll pissy Friday night during the Truck Series race at Daytona, acting mad over NASCAR’s new rule that requires crash repairs to be completed in five minutes.

People were legitimately angry over this. For real!

My God, people! If you want to see damaged cars on a track that badly, go check out your local demolition derby.

I care about who battles for the win, not whether the freaking 26th-place driver who wrecked before halfway can ride around long enough to finish 25th. Catch the excitement!

If a vehicle is so damaged it can’t be repaired in five minutes, just go home. Why does it need to be on the track? Just because that’s how it’s always been?

I’m not anti-repairs. Look at Christopher Bell’s example: Contact sent him into a spin at the end of Stage 1, he literally went airborne, landed, fixed the damage and was leading the race by the halfway point. Neat!

But it was neat because his vehicle could continue and didn’t have a bunch of debris-caution-causing crap hanging off it. In the examples people cited  on Twitter (“But Tommy Underdog came back from two laps down after hitting the wall at Talladega in ’02!”), did the repairs really take longer than five minutes? Or do you just remember a damaged car having a comeback?

Because in most cases, a repair that takes longer than five minutes is often going to take a car out of contention for a good finish anyway. So it doesn’t matter, right?

Now, some of you are probably thinking: But Jeff, what if a team misses the playoff because of two or three points it could have picked up during a race when repairs took too long?

My answer is: TOO BAD!! Holy crap, are we really worried about this? Maybe try harder at other races next time!

I just can’t get fired up about telling a team to pack up for a night because stuff is so broken that it can’t be fixed quickly.

Look, I hate it just as much as everyone else when NASCAR takes away some long-held traditions — but is this really one to get upset about?

It’s like someone pulling the weeds out of your lawn to make it look better, and you get mad because you preferred it to look how nature intended.

They’re freaking WEEDS! Just look at how nice your lawn looks now and focus on that, OK?

DraftKings strategy and picks for the Daytona 500

DraftKings is running a free-entry $10,000 total payout contest for the Daytona 500, so it’s a good time to jump into the daily fantasy world if you’ve been considering it.

The field of NASCAR players in DraftKings has been growing dramatically over the last year, with the company citing data that shows contest entries up 126% since last year’s 500.

I’ve played DraftKings a few times over the last couple years, and I’m absolutely terrible. I always see tweets from my Twitter followers about them winning money, but I never do.

So I asked Pearce Dietrich, DraftKings’ NASCAR expert, to give me a few pointers on Daytona strategy. As it turns out, I’ve been looking at Daytona all wrong.

“Going into this race, don’t pick it like a normal race,” he said. “You’re trying to get guys who are in the back and move them up.”

Why? Because in addition to points for the finishing position, DraftKings scoring is +/- one point for every position gained or lost from the starting grid. Martin Truex Jr. starts 35th after failing inspection, which gives him an opportunity to gain way more points than a driver who starts in the top 10.

“Clint Bowyer is starting sixth, so even if he wins the race, he could max out at 48 points,” Dietrich said. “In last year’s Daytona 500, 48 points would only be the ninth-best driver. And that’s the best he can do. So guys like Bowyer can have a good race day in real life, but in fantasy, you’re looking for those home run guys.”

Last year, five of the six top point-scorers in the 500 started outside the top 25, led by Truex (70 points) and Ryan Newman (62) and Regan Smith (58).

So even though it’s tempting to pick the Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin types, it might not be worth it because they have a low ceiling for success.

Though there are also awards for fastest driver on a given lap (0.5 points) and a lap led (0.25), that’s hard to predict at Daytona.

“You might have a guy that leads a lot of laps, but that’s mostly one guy,” Dietrich said. “And you can’t really count on fastest lap because of the draft. So the guys who stand to score the most are guys who started toward the back and ended up in the top 15.”

Based on that, here’s the lineup I’m going with for Sunday. (Note: I wouldn’t trust these picks because I’m generally terrible at this, but I’m writing them anyway.)

— I’m going to pick Elliott Sadler ($6,600) for my first slot. He’s starting last, but he’s worth a shot considering what a good plate racer he’s been over the years (even though he hasn’t made many appearances in Cup races lately). And doesn’t it seem like Tommy Baldwin Racing’s Top 10 Kids Eat Free at Golden Corral car is often in contention here?

— Since he failed inspection after the Duel and now starts 35th, Truex ($9,000) seems like an expensive but worthy pick. He could have a repeat of last year’s DraftKings points bonanza. I’ll take the risk.

— On a similar note, AJ Allmendinger ($6,700) starts 38th after failing Duels inspection. He only has four DNFs due to crashes in 29 career restrictor-plate starts, so that’s not bad.

Landon Cassill ($5,500) has a good combination here: He’s a solid plate racer, comes at a cheap price and starts 27th — seven spots further back than his equally tempting Front Row Motorsports teammate, David Ragan.

— At this point, I have a LOT of money to spend on just two more drivers — a whopping $22,200! So although he’s had a shaky Speedweeks, why not go with Jimmie Johnson ($10,000)? He’s starting 24th, so those are some decent points for a guy who could finish in the top five (or win).

— Now I’ve run out of drivers I really trust to make big comebacks from the mid-20s and lower, so I’m going to do something I probably should avoid and pick Brad Keselowski ($10,300). I am totally sold on Keselowski’s ability to lead a ton of laps, which could make up for his low points potential (he starts seventh).

So that’s my lineup and I have $1,900 left. Did I make the right calls? We’ll see.

Side note: If you decide to play, please use this link because I just signed up for DraftKings’ affiliate program, which means you can actually help support this website through your future entry fees if you’re a new player.

News Analysis: Joey Logano signs long-term deal with Team Penske, Shell

What happened: Joey Logano received a mega contract extension from Team Penske and Shell — a whopping seven-year deal the team is billing as “2022 and beyond.” In addition, crew chief Todd Gordon’s contract was also extended at the same time. “This was one of those decisions that was a no-brainer,” Logano said. “When you find yourself in an amazing opportunity with a lot of winners around you, that’s great.”

What it means: You don’t see many deals like this in NASCAR anymore, as most contracts with drivers and teams are for three years. This might be the longest contract since Jeff Gordon’s lifetime deal with Hendrick Motorsports. Logano is 26, so in seven years he’ll only be 33 — which is the same age Brad Keselowski is now — and still have perhaps another 10 years ahead of him. Team owner Roger Penske joked the expectations for the new deal are 50 wins — which is nearly unattainable at more than seven per season, but also not out of the question for Logano.

News value (scale of 1-10): Seven. Logano wasn’t expected to go anywhere, but the length of the deal is highly notable. It’s also good news during a week when NASCAR has caught heat nationally for being in decline (through coverage in the Wall Street Journal and on CBS News), which could send a message to prospective sponsors.

Questions: How many races and championships will Logano win over the next seven years? Does this set Logano/Todd Gordon/Penske/Shell to be the next generation’s Jimmie Johnson/Chad Knaus/Hendrick/Lowe’s? How soon will Penske be able to lock up Brad Keselowski in a long-term deal as well?

The Top Five: Analyzing the Duels at Daytona

Each week, I’ll provide a quick breakdown of the race through a post called the Top Five — five notable storylines from the just-completed event. Today: The Duels at Daytona.

1. Well-played, Chase Elliott

Elliott was making me nervous with those aggressive blocks to blunt the runs coming behind him during Duel No. 1. But it all worked out, as he preserved his pole-winning car and won the trophy.

Still, more experienced drivers like Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski seem a bit more polished when protecting a lead — something Elliott seemed to acknowledge after the race.

“I learned a lot from (Keselowski), but I certainly don’t have it perfected quite like he does,” Elliott said.

2. Denny’s good day

Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing announced a contract extension with FedEx on Thursday afternoon. Less than seven hours later, the driver was in victory lane celebrating yet another restrictor-plate success — his sixth since 2014, if you count the Clash and Duels in addition to regular-season Daytona and Talladega races.

Hamlin played it perfectly at the end, blowing past Dale Earnhardt Jr. by using a big push from Austin Dillon to make a run on the high side on the white flag lap.

“Ain’t much you can do about that,” Earnhardt said. “It’s not really defendable.”

At least Earnhardt gave his fans a show and eliminated any questions about rust after a long layoff from competitive racing.

3. Over-Joied

Corey LaJoie was a onetime hot prospect whose star seemed to fade out when he couldn’t get money to fund a good ride. But he raced his way in to the Daytona 500 — albeit not the way he likely wanted.

While racing Reed Sorenson, the driver who he needed to beat for a 500 berth, LaJoie hooked Sorenson and caused a wreck. Sorenson careened into the inside wall entering Turn 1 — eerily similar to Kyle Busch’s 2015 Xfinity crash, except there is now pavement on the path Busch traveled and SAFER barrier at the end of it. Sorenson walked away with his life and health, but not a Daytona 500 spot.

Meanwhile, LaJoie said the move wasn’t intentional but didn’t exactly apologize for it.

“I didn’t want to be sipping margaritas on the beach on Sunday,” he said. “I wanted to be out there racing. If that was my mom, I would probably spin her out to make the Daytona 500, too. That’s just frank. I’m sure I’m not going to be on Reed’s Christmas card list this year, but that’s all right.”

4. Oh, Canada!

D.J. Kennington became the first Canadian driver in the Great American Race since Trevor Boys in 1988, nipping Elliott Sadler at the line to earn his way into the field.

Kennington had to beat Sadler or else Sorenson would have made the race based on qualifying time. So on the backstretch, spotter Robby Benton — a part-owner of the car who let the Gaunt Brothers Racing team use his shop — urged the 39-year-old to get in front of Sadler.

Fortunately, Kennington picked the right line and it worked out.

“This is huge for Canada,” Kennington said.

5. What’s the point?

For the first time since 1981, drivers have accumulated points prior to the Daytona 500.

The Duels paid points to the top 10 drivers in each race, and that creates some unusual circumstances heading into Sunday’s race.

An example: Cole Whitt (one point after finishing 10th in the first Duel) has more points entering the 500 than Kyle Busch (zero) and Danica Patrick (four) has more points than Joey Logano (two) and Jimmie Johnson (zero) combined.

AJ Allmendinger would have had seven points, but he failed post-race inspection and lost all of them — as did Martin Truex Jr., who would have had four. They will start in the rear of the field for the Daytona 500, along with Chris Buescher.

Elliott and Hamlin are the co-points leaders after Thursday’s races.

USFantasy Sports offers new way to bet on NASCAR

Starting with the Daytona 500, there’s a new way to bet on NASCAR — at least if you find yourself in Las Vegas.

Typically, NASCAR wagering at a sportsbook involves picking a winner and hoping that driver beats 39 others. Your odds in those situations aren’t very good, because — let’s face it — it’s pretty hard to call the winner of a NASCAR race (at least it is for me).

But a company called USFantasy Sports is remaking the model.

If you’re familiar with horse racing wagers, this is somewhat similar (although the company shies away from comparisons because it can sound complex to amateur bettors). Basically, USF’s system will allow NASCAR win, place and show bets (for as little as $2) — and also offer exactas (picking first and second) and trifectas (picking first, second and third).

What’s particularly attractive is USF has separated drivers into groups. For the Daytona 500, for example, there are two groups of 10 drivers. So you only have to pick the winner (or second, if you choose a “place” bet) among 10 drivers instead of 40. Obviously, that also makes exactas and trifectas more realistic as well.

“You can just bet Dale Earnhardt Jr. and not worry about anything else except for his finish — and he doesn’t have to win the event, he just to beat those other guys,” said Robert Walker, USF Vice President of Strategic Planning, via phone last week. “Or you could have Kyle Larson, and he just has to beat the other nine individuals.”

The betting is pari-mutuel, which means the odds aren’t set by the sports book — they change based on the number of money being wagered by players.

Walked said USF believes NASCAR lends itself to this type of gambling, it’s just that the technology hasn’t been there to put it into place until now. Bettors will be able to play at nearly every sports book in Las Vegas (the odds sheets will be set out along with the standard wager information) and bets can be placed at any window.

As the season gets started, USF will offer wagers on things like the pole winners and Xfinity races and also have different driver group sizes (as little as four and as many as 12). The company could also expand to states outside of Nevada, which could really take the concept to a national level.

“All we want to do is put something out that’s fun and exciting for the player,” Walker said. “We’re all excited about NASCAR specifically because it lends itself to these exotics (like exactas, trifectas and daily doubles).”

Walker believes there’s also an appeal for daily fantasy players because the players are already selected and there’s no salary cap involved.

As an example, here’s one of the groups for the Daytona 500:

— Kyle Larson

— Kurt Busch

— Kasey Kahne

— Austin Dillon

— Clint Bowyer

— Jamie McMurray

— Greg Biffle for some reason

— Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

— Daniel Suarez

— Danica Patrick

News Analysis: Denny Hamlin signs contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing

What happened: FedEx signed a contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing, which ensures Denny Hamlin will remain as the driver of the No. 11 car for presumably the next few years (though the length was not disclosed). Hamlin said never considered another team. “I’ve been a horse with blinders,” he said. “Everything’s been so good at home, why venture out?”

What it means: Hamlin could have been an intriguing free agent, but now one potential Silly Season name is officially off the market. The move reaffirms Hamlin’s position as a key leader at JGR and will leave the 36-year-old in position to win races and championships in the prime of his career as older drivers continue to retire.

News value (scale of 1-10): Three. Hamlin wasn’t expected to leave JGR, nor was FedEx. Still, it’s a big-name driver signing a contract extension, so that’s notable.

Questions: With Hamlin, Daniel Suarez and Kyle Busch all seemingly staying put for awhile, where does this leave Matt Kenseth (who turns 45 next month)? At some point — maybe next year — won’t JGR want Erik Jones to come back from his temporary stay at Furniture Row Racing? Also, how much longer will Hamlin race?

The Chainsmokers, Coldplay drop ‘Something Just Like This’ overnight

I didn’t see this coming so soon, but it was a great surprise to wake up to a new song from The Chainsmokers and Coldplay this morning: “Something Just Like This.”

We knew from social media accounts the two groups had been working on a collab together, but there hadn’t been any sort of countdown or hint it was going to drop so quickly. But with The Chainsmokers on a European tour, they brought out Coldplay to unveil the new song Wednesday night and then released it to coincide with the performance.

I love the tune. The Chainsmokers continue to crush the sweet spot between EDM and pop, and Coldplay’s presence really brings out Alex and Drew’s creativity.

Similar to “Don’t Let Me Down,” The Chainsmokers let the song build to a crescendo with the third drop being the memorable one (it even has guitar riffs!).

But enough talk about it. Take a listen for yourself: