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Monday, February 22, 2010

Johnson back in form; Jr. struggles again; Danica meets reality

Tell me if you’ve heard this script before. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a terrible finish while his three teammates all run up front all day. It may be 2010, but the same old script from the last two years is replaying itself again. No matter who is crew chief, there always seems to be some issue with the #88 car, and you know Rick Hendrick can’t be happy about that.

On the flip side, Jimmie Johnson apparently has a horseshoe stored somewhere on his body, because he caught a huge break when he just avoided being lapped while pitting, then went on to win yet another race (his 48th career win, actually). Remind me to hang out with Johnson next time I head to Vegas.

Another Busch win
Just as things returned to normal in Cup with the Jimmie Johnson win, Nationwide had a familiar feel this weekend, too. A bunch of Cup guys were up front all week, and Kyle Busch ended up winning yet another Nationwide race. At least the end was exciting, with Brad Keselowski making a late move that almost made it three-wide to the flag, but the rest was pretty blah.

Amid the boredom that was the Cup race at Fontana, probably the best move I saw all day was when the pit crew member from #1 team jumped over Kevin Harvick’s hood to avoid being run over as he tracked down a tire.

Reality sets in for Danica
The harsh reality that is NASCAR racing caught up with Danica Patrick this week in the Nationwide race. She struggled all weekend, ended up 31st in the race, and she’s quickly learning that finishing well in ARCA isn’t the same as finishing well in Nationwide. I’ll be curious to see if she can improve on that in Vegas, as the car she’s driving is plenty capable of a top-10 run, which Brad Keselowski proved over the past two years.

If she doesn’t do well even after getting some experience, there’s no blaming the equipment … it’ll be all on her.

Can Speed live up to his name?
Remember that guy who wrecked or spun out every week last year, named Scott Speed? Well, guess what … he’s doing pretty well in 2010. The ex-Formula 1 driver had his second solid finish of the year, finishing 10th at Fontana. He now sits 15th in points, which is worlds better than his rookie year, when he sat on the bubble of the top-35 all year, mostly on the outside of it.
Many people had written him off as a NASCAR failure, but maybe he’s not a lost cause after all. Time will tell whether this surge means anything, but the Red Bull team has to be happy with how he has started off in 2010.

Logano on right track
Another driver with a solid run was Joey Logano, who is on his way to becoming the superstar he most definitely will be in the future. He earned his first top-5 since he won last year, but look for a lot more top-5s from him this year and beyond.

Move California race to Iowa
Let me sum up Sunday’s race for everyone who didn’t see it. There were no fans in the stands, and the racing was mind-numbingly boring. I’m not quite sure why NASCAR insists on having two races a year at this track, but it’s an absolutely travesty that one of those dates isn’t given to a place like Iowa Speedway, which provides great racing every time the Trucks or Nationwide cars go there. Only one good thing came out of the California race … I was reminded that when the second race is run there, I should just set my Tivo and watch the entire race in 10 minutes.

#66 car confiscated
It appears NASCAR may finally be looking into the whole start-and-park situation and trying to do something about it. Dave Blaney’s #66 car, from Prism Motorsports, was confiscated when he went to “park” after starting an impressive 5th in the race and even leading a few laps during pit stops. The team may not get the car back in time to attempt to qualify at Las Vegas.

Prism had two cars in the race, and both parked quickly with “engine failures”. This may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, as NASCAR probably isn’t thrilled with the idea of a multi-car team that doesn’t race and still collects paychecks. Whatever the reasoning, it’s interesting to see how this start-and-park discussion has evolved. Last year, they didn’t really want the teams to talk about “starting and parking,” as it might paint the sport in a bad light. Now that everyone knows it’s happening, it’s looking like NASCAR wants to stop these teams from doing too much noncompeting.

My suggestion: If NASCAR really wants every car that qualifies to go the distance, they will have to change the rules in ways that make it unprofitable to start-and-park. There’s nothing stopping them from doing this, as it’s their sport and they can change the rules however they see fit.


Blogger Dean Collins said...

Congrats to Jimmy Johnson especially considering how he went at Daytona (and is this revival at Fontana a statistical omen for the rest of the season)

Live "in the race" chat archive available here


February 22, 2010 at 8:05 AM 
Anonymous Joseph Workman said...

I'm all Damika-ed out. Like the Brit's said in WW11, She's over paid
over hyped and over here.

February 22, 2010 at 2:19 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

im not ready to throw the towel in on jr just yet. seems to me that he had the same issues that jimmie had at daytona with the axle breaking and him thinking it was a flat. time will tell

February 23, 2010 at 12:00 AM 
Anonymous Hung Throttle Podcast said...

Drivers have commented how great the racing was at Fontana, but we believe the average NASCAR fan thinks the opposite. From the e-mails we have received, fans have lost their passion for NASCAR racing.
NASCAR has worked to add excitement to the sport, but something is missing.

February 23, 2010 at 6:13 AM 

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