Speed was there, but luck wasn't at Daytona

Speedweeks at Daytona started out great for both the No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger team and the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Charger team.

But, man, it didn't end that way ...

We had very fast cars but didn't get the finish the teams deserved. You try so hard to worry about things you can control and then something happens that you have no control over. That pretty much sums up how my Saturday and Sunday played out at Daytona.

We were caught up in two wrecks during the Nationwide Series race and we had nothing to do with either of them. This phrase gets used a lot, but it was a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and it resulted in a 13th-place finish. I was happy for my Penske Racing teammate, Justin Allgaier, who grabbed a career-best fourth-place finish. He did a great job.

In the Daytona 500, we only made seven laps before we blew a right rear tire (If we would have taken it to a Discount Tire location they would have replaced it for free!) We must have run over something to cut it because it didn't give me much warning. Unfortunately my teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., was also involved.

The early accident didn't kill our day, but we suffered severe enough damage that we were basically logging laps and gaining as many points as possible the rest of the race. Finishing 36th puts us in a little bit of a hole to start the season, but I have a great team behind me and we can rebound at California this weekend.

I think it's cool that we start the season with the Daytona 500, but there are two things about it that are difficult. One is that it is our biggest race of the season. A lot of work goes into getting ready for that one race, yet it's only one of 36 races on the schedule. Two, it's a restrictor-plate race. We only have four restrictor-plate races on the schedule. That's a very small percentage of the season and that's why California is looked upon as the unofficial start of the season. It's a 2-mile downforce track, similar to a large majority of the tracks we will visit. So is Las Vegas, another "intermediate" venue that we will see the following weekend.

That West Coast trip is a lot of fun. Southern California and Las Vegas are two of the more unique places we go. The Penske Racing teams will stay out West for a week and a half instead of flying back and forth. Trust me, flying back and forth can wear you out. While most of the teams will head to Vegas on Sunday after the race, I'll make a pit stop in Phoenix. That is the home of Discount Tire and we'll be filming a couple of commercials out there. I've read the scripts and they are pretty funny. I could share them with you, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. Make sure to look for them soon.

After this diary you will be hearing from me every two weeks, so check back to see how we did out West. Hopefully we'll have gained a few points and will be back in the hunt for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

See you in Victory Lane!