Sunday, November 21, 2010
Jimmie Johnson: I put him here because he won his fifth championship in a row. And he finished second in the race to Carl Edwards. He becomes the first driver since the late Alan Kulwicki in 1992 to win the championship on the final race when trailing in the points going into the race. (Kulwicki was about the same number of markers behind Bill Elliott as Johnson was today.)
Carl Edwards: as the race winner, he would normally get first billing, but the championship winner does in this case. He earns an extra Good for winning the final two races of the season and stamps himself as a legitimate championship contender next season. And an EXTRA Good for this race for leading the most laps and being dominant.
Kevin Harvick: although he didn't lead a lap, he ran the wheels off the 29 in a desperate attempt to win the title and the race. He came up short on both accounts. He also suffered a speeding penalty coming onto pit road with less than 100 laps to go, wiping out his exiting pit road in first place and taking five bonus points off the board. He was able to overcome that with timely cautions falling into place and coming in for four tires and fuel with every stop. (Harvick was using tires allotted to Jeff Burton, as he had crashed earlier and was many laps down.) He finished third in this race, and third for the season. (He wins the points under the pre-Chase scenario, though!) He'll also be a legitimate title contender next season.
Aric Almirola: his best run by FAR in the #9. He was in the top 10 all afternoon, thrilling the home-state crowd. My question is: why isn't this guy in a full-time ride in Cup?? He's shown in limited opportunities he CAN get the job done. He'll be in the 88 full-time in the Nationwide Series next year.
AJ Allmendinger: way to finish strong AJ! He'll know tomorrow if he even has a ride next year with Richard Petty Motorsports, as that whole enterprise may be shuttered due to circumstances beyond his control. He's shown he has earned a ride in Cup. Let's hope he does have a ride in Cup next year.
Kasey Kahne: his sixth place finish bodes well for him and Red Bull as he steps into the 82 car vacated by Scott Speed. (Brian Vickers will return to the 83 next year.) Kahne and his crew seemed to be clicking as the season ended.
Stewart-Haas Racing: Tony Stewart (7th) and Ryan Newman (8th) finished strong, which bodes well for them next season. Newman, in particular, looks like a legitimate Chase contender next year. (I'll have my predictions in late January.)
Bill Elliott: Awesome Bill from Dawsonville was stout in qualifying, and was in the top 10 late in the race before fading and finishing 15th. Even as a part-time driver, he's still competitive. Still a good run from one of NASCAR's all-time good guys. Great job!
Mike Ford: Denny Hamlin's crew chief made some bad decisions in the last two races that cost his driver the championship. At Phoenix, it was bad fuel strategy. Today, it was a missed pit stop. He had Hamlin stay out while a lot of other drivers pitted. It backfired as Hamlin went backwards in a hurry. Ford will learn from his mistakes and he'll be a better crew chief for it. He is fortunate that Hamlin is ultra competitive and can drive the wheels off the car.
Kyle Busch: he made contact with Harvick coming out of Turn 4, spun out, and crashed into the inside wall right in front of the start/finish line. Replays clearly showed Busch sliding in front of Harvick, who had NO WAY of avoiding him. He blamed Harvick for the crash, calling him among other things, "two-faced." Busch will see things differently when he sees the replay. Harvick had a tremendous run coming off the turn and if he slows down, both he and Busch crash. That's why Harvick stayed on the gas. Just a racing incident. If anything, it was Kyle's fault for being reckless.
Jeff Gordon: what a way to end the season--a blown engine. It was a snapshot of Gordon's season: runs strong, then something unforeseen pops up. He's still 0-for-Homestead.
My final thoughts on the season: it was a very interesting one, to say the least. Gotta thank the crew for a fantastic season. Most of all, I thank the fans for making NASCAR the great sport that it is. Hope you all have very great and blessed Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. We'll see you all at Daytona next season!! Congratulations again to Jimmie Johnson for making it five in a row!!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Coming into this season, I had hopes that Harvick would bounce back and make the Chase. At the very least break his long winless streak. He finished the 2009 season strong, giving me and many other Harvick fans hope. Happy started strong and I was hoping Daytona would be where he would break his streak. He got bit by the new three G-W-C rule. Then consecutive second place finishes to Jimmie Johnson at California and Las Vegas and the lucky horseshoe quote after California.
Harvick took the points lead early in the season and held it for 20 consecutive weeks. FINALLY, that elusive win came at Talladega when he edged Jamie McMurray in a photo finish, making a gutsy pass with roughly a quarter mile to go. The pass was perfect; if Harvick passed too soon, McMurray could respond. If it was too late, he wouldn't have enough room to pass McMurray.
Happy would follow up with wins at Daytona and Michigan. The win at Michigan totally floored and surprised me. He not only won, he led the most laps en route to the win. He was STOUT. The late Dale Earnhardt won at Michigan ONE TIME, in 1990. Up to that point, it was RCR's only win at Michigan. If a Chevy won, it was usually from Hendrick Motorsports. But Michigan is where Roush Fenway Racing is usually dominant. I'd have been happy with a top 10!
Going into the Chase, Harvick lost his points lead to Denny Hamlin. He was 40 points behind Hamlin at Loudon. He's lost six points since. Now he has to make up all 46 points. It doesn't look good for Harvick, but 46 points is not a lot of ground to make up, particularly if Hamlin struggles and Harvick has a strong run. And Homestead may be Harvick's strongest track. He's completed every lap of every race, and has a slew of top 10's. In fact, in his last five Homestead starts, Harvick has four top 5's.
NOW the drama. As mentioned earlier, the top three drivers (Hamlin, Johnson, and Harvick) are within 46 points of each other. NONE of these drivers can afford even a minor slip up. A mistake or penalty can cost a driver a championship. Although Hamlin leads Johnson by 15 points, he's feeling the pressure of being the hunted. Johnson has not trailed going into the final race since 2005. Normally this race is a coronation for Johnson.
- Hamlin: if he finishes ahead of Johnson and Harvick, he wins the title. Hamlin can still win the title if: 1) he wins the race and Johnson finishes second and leads the most laps; 2) he finishes second to Johnson AND leads the most laps.
- Johnson: HE wins IF he wins the race, leads the most laps, and Hamlin finishes fourth or worse; or he finishes four positions AHEAD of Hamlin and ahead of Harvick.
- Harvick: HE wins the title IF 1) he wins the race and leads the most laps AND Johnson finishes fourth or worse AND Hamlin finishes 8th or worse. But assuming none of the three wins the race but each leads laps, Harvick wins the title if he finishes six positions AHEAD of Johnson and ten positions ahead of Hamlin.
While Harvick has the toughest road to climb, he does have the experience of winning two Busch Series titles, so he knows how to win a championship. Obviously Johnson is Four-Time, and the record speaks for itself. While I'd love for Harvick to win, my head says Johnson is Five-Time, with Harvick finishing second in the points and Hamlin third. Something tells me Hamlin is going to struggle big time, and Johnson and Harvick will fight it out for the title.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Carl Edwards: he gets first billing as the race winner. He benefitted from saving fuel on the final green flag run and getting great fuel mileage (around 5 MPG, as compared to 3.8-4 MPG under normal green flag conditions). He also benefitted when his main rival, Denny Hamlin, had to pit with 14 laps to go. Edwards is one of the best, if not the best, at saving fuel. The Quack Attack was stout from the time the 99 was unloaded to the checkers. He would be on here regardless if he won or not. With the win, Edwards breaks a 70-race winless streak, dating to Homestead in 2008. This can be a springboard to him being the Edwards of 2008 and being a threat to win every race.
Ryan Newman: although he didn't lead a lap, it didn't take the Rocket Man to work his way to the front. He pretty much stayed in the top 10-15 throughout the race. He also got great fuel mileage and benefitted from that final run.
Joey Logano: how's this for finishes--in five consecutive races, Logano has finished seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth, and now third. At this pace, he'll finish second at Homestead, then be your 2011 Daytona 500 champion!
Greg Biffle: had his typical Biffle run--hanging around the latter half of the top 10 and being there at the end.
Jimmie Johnson: he started in the middle of the field and worked his way towards the front. For the first time in the last 10 Phoenix races, he did not lead a lap. He did an excellent job in saving fuel to finish fifth and gain ground on Denny Hamlin. Johnson is now 15 points behind Hamlin in the closest Chase in history.
Kevin Harvick: he started somewhere around Tempe (actually, 29th) and quickly worked his way up the field, all the way to fourth at one point. The 29 crew committed a very costly penalty in forgetting a lug nut late in the race. Fortunately, a caution flag came out 10 laps later, and Harvick came in for four tires and fuel (he was mired in 19th at the time, the last car on the lead lap). What could have been lethal actually worked to his benefit, as both he and Johnson finished ahead of Hamlin, who finished 12th. Harvick is now 46 points behind Hamlin and 31 behind Johnson.
Denny Hamlin: he was STOUT in the early part of the race. By lap 200 he had already clinched the 10 bonus points for leading the most laps in the race. But a long green flag run was his undoing. He did well in rebounding to a 12th place finish.
Bobby Labonte: I hardly ever put a driver that finishes a lap down in here, but with Edwards and Hamlin being so stout, I will. Labonte piloted the 09 to a top 20 finish, huge for that team. With him going to the 47 next season, I look for him to be competitive.
Sebastian Vettel: no, he's not a NASCAR driver. But he deserves a mention because he became the youngest driver to win a Formula One drivers' championship by winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix along with Fernando Alonso faltering. Vettel is six months younger than the previous youngest champion, Lewis Hamilton. Congratulations Sebastian from the folks here at Crappafoni Pictures and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!
Honorable Mention: Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray.
David Reutimann: whatever it was, the 00 team missed on the setup and he struggled. He went backwards at the drop of the green flag. Up to today, he's been running as well as any of the Chasers. Perhaps some home cooking next week will do the trick.
Kasey Kahne: he got nary a mention until somehow his fuel can got stuck on his spoiler after a pit stop under caution. A bad day got worse.
Kasey Kahne: see above.
Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in with yours!
Saturday, November 13, 2010
- Denny Hamlin: the points leader selected stall #18, behind the 88 team of Dale Earnhardt Jr, and ahead of the 31 team of Jeff Burton. This selection is a crapshoot, particularly if both Jr and Burton are running well. Hamlin could potentially have problems either coming into or going out of the pits, or both. Then again, Hamlin could have clear sailing later in the race, saving precious seconds.
- Jimmie Johnson: the 48 team selected stall #39, behind the 09 team and ahead of the 98 team of Paul Menard. This is less dangerous than the 11's selection for two reasons: 1) the 09 team is typically a start and park team and Johnson would have clear sailing going OUT of the pits; 2) it's one of the first stalls coming into pit road. Based on this, Johnson has a slight advantage over Hamlin to start, but could be neutralized if Burton and Earnhardt Jr. are off the lead lap.
- Kevin Harvick: he ended up with a GREAT selection. Here's why: he is behind the #36 and ahead of the #09, both start and park teams. By mid-race, he'll have clear sailing into and out of stall #37. Plus he's two stalls ahead of Johnson, so the #29 crew can play Jedi mind tricks on the #48 crew!
Based on the circumstances, Kevin Harvick has a clear advantage over both Johnson and Hamlin. Of course, things can change in an instant. Harvick could have clear sailing as soon as the first pit stop. This irony cannot be lost: Menard was also behind Johnson at Texas. Something to think about.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Denny Hamlin: this week's winner gets to be first in line. I think he started somewhere around Irving and worked his way to the front. (Actually, he started 30th.) Give credit to Mike Ford and the rest of the 11 crew in making the car better as the race went on. He takes the points lead over Jimmie Johnson with two races left. But it's far from over.
Roush Fenway Racing: led by Matt Kenseth (2nd), they had two other drivers in the top 10: Greg Biffle (5th) and David Ragan (8th). Even Carl Edwards ran well until fading to 19th. They were strong when they unloaded and stayed strong throughout the race weekend.
Mark Martin: he's running like the Martin of last year--being there at the end and giving himself a chance to win the race. Since Dover, the 5 team has turned the corner, giving them optimism going into next year.
Joey Logano: easily his best career finish at Texas. He ran strong all race long and even led late. Good job kid!
Paul Menard: another strong effort from the #98 driver. I'm looking forward to seeing him run in an RCR car next season.
Kevin Harvick: he started 26th but as is his MO, he worked his way to the front. Was about to fade into oblivion until a very late caution came out and he pitted. Benefitted from being on the opposite side of Greg Biffle and JJ being behind Biff. (Biffle had no second gear and had to lay back on restarts.)
Jeff Gordon/Jeff Burton: I'm only putting these two in here for what happened after a caution. Burton wrecked Gordon under caution, Gordon was none too happy (and I don't blame him ONE BIT) and brawled with Burton on the backstretch. Gordon threw a punch that grazed Burton in the ear. In the words of my fellow blogger YeeMum, HE (Gordon) HITS LIKE A GIRL! THOSE ARE NOT MY WORDS! It looked like Gordon confronted Burton with bad intentions and was ready to kick some serious ass. GOOD FOR HIM! I'm an RCR fan (Harvick being my favorite RCR driver) and that was totally unnecessary by Burton. Needless to say, it ruined a strong run by Gordon.
Honorable Mention: Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Marcos Ambrose.
The 48 pit crew: to put it mildly, they were PUTRID. In fact, they were so bad they were replaced IN MID-RACE by the 24 crew after Gordon and Burton's wreck. Prior to the mid-race yanking, the 48 crew was consistently costing JJ positions on pit road. The 24 crew did a much better job and put JJ in a position to steal a win. Could a crew swap be in the works? It worked for the 29.
Martin Truex Jr.: he brought out multiple cautions for accidents. No matter what the 56 crew tried to do to the car to tighten it up, it wouldn't tighten. The final caution he caused finished off the 56, bringing an end to a VERY ugly day.
Those are my nominees for the race. Feel free to come in with yours!