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NBC starts slow, recovers, but ending disappoints

There's a good chance that if NBC's Bill Weber rehearsed his finish-line call, it wasn't this: "The caution is out, the race is over."

But that's what he got.

An exciting race with a record number of lead changes fizzled at the end, spoiling a nice recovery by the NBC announcing team, which seemed to find its groove about two-thirds into the race but didn't get the big payoff at the end.

NBC's sixth and final season is off and running.

Other thoughts and observations:

The NBC crew was a little soft on Tony Stewart, who was back to his old ways with some aggressive and dangerous driving, then got off pretty easy with a slap on the wrist as Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, two guys he traded paint with, got more serious punishments.

After Stewart ducked down to run Kenseth off the track, analyst Wally Dallenbach said, "For a guy that was talking about overaggressive driving, which was Tony Stewart, I don't understand what his situation was there."

When Benny Parsons suggested Stewart thought he was clear, Dallenbach shot him down.

Later, Dallenbach noted the irony again that Stewart complained about safe driving and then was involved in an altercation, but never once did he give No. 20 the harsh criticism he deserved.

Stewart also has a problem with honesty, it appears. When told that Kenseth claimed Stewart deliberately bumped him, Stewart told NBC, "Matt always thinks that."

Within seconds (and without prodding) he admitted it was retribution for something earlier in the race.

"He got back what he started in the first place," Stewart said. "He has no room to complain.

"He started the whole thing, and I finished it."

Was NASCAR listening?

Wow, NBC loaded up on commercials the first two hours, totally destroying the pace of the broadcast.

It missed the Jeff Gordon-Tony Stewart mini dust-up, was away when Stewart was penalized to the back, and twice had to break out in midcommercial because of other accidents.

When Stewart almost wrecked Kenseth, NBC cut away from a commercial and right into Dallenbach saying, "I can't believe everybody missed that."

Yeah us either.

NBC could have done a better job keeping its cameras clean. On some shots, you couldn't even make out the cars. And bad weather limited the network's helicopter from delivering shots.

After weeks of listening to drivers speak reverently of Daytona, the mecca of racing, Busch broke from the pack by telling NBC, "I hate this place," before walking off after the race.

The NBC crew likened Jimmie Johnson winning without his suspended crew chief to a football team losing its coach before the Super Bowl, an analogy WFLA-Ch. 8's Dan Lucas borrowed verbatim on the local sports broadcast after the race.