Pocono Round Up

NASCAR ran out of luck with the weather man. The fastest traveling circus around got washed out at Pocono over the weekend. I’ve sat through rain delays, watching people try to dry the track. It’s not fun, especially since I remember when it was just old tires dragged around behind pickup trucks. It’s doubly worse when the whole show gets rained out. Locals can skip out another day of work, anyone who travels in is hosed.

I’m sure there are people clamoring for NASCAR to get rain tires. Happens every time there’s a delay. Let’s not push our luck with safety. NASCAR doesn’t need rain tires. Honestly, who the hell wants to sit four hours in the rain? Track promoters have enough work cut out for them. No one needs rain tickets.

kurt wins poconoOnce the rain finally stopped and the race happened for real, Kurt Busch won his first of the year, stretching out his fuel mileage to the max. It may be his first win of the year, but continues an extremely impressive start to the year for him. We’re fourteen races into the year and only two of Kurt Busch’s finishes were outside the top ten (Fontana and Martinsville). I had to double check that stat because he’s sitting second in the points, but it’s been a very quiet second. He’s been a top ten machine even if he hasn’t been mixing it up for wins. Add that up with a pair of pole starts this year and it was only a matter of time before he was going to win again. It’s been almost ten years since he last won at Pocono, but the track has always given him solid results if not a W.

Now, I know fuel mileage races aren’t the most exciting for the outsider (or the NASCAR Twitternauts that need something to complain about), but this is a very impressive fuel mileage win. His crew chief, the old school Tony Gibson, was suspended  because of NASCAR’s omnipresent lug nut drama. The lead engineer for the team, Johnny Klausmeier, stepped in and told Busch he was two laps shy of fuel and to start saving.

That’s not just a little bit short.

He was dropping 40mph of speed in the corners and coasting through them to horde every drop of fuel he could and then put the hammer down on the white flag lap to make sure it all stuck. That’s some fancy driving and a fancy call from Klausmeier to even try to stretch it.

Keselowski and Gordon going at it again

keselowski at poconoSo Keselowski and the #2 team finished third at Pocono. That’s a sweet finish, but early on in the race, Keselowski’s team was penalized in the pits. The jackman pulled one of those hip checks just forward of the rear tire. Pops out the panel, adds more sideforce, and now the car has an aero advantage. NASCAR has been policing this a lot lately. And it may be more just a matter that they’re catching it more with the camera run pit monitors the officials use now. Regardless, Keselowski was irked.

“I don’t know what (NASCAR) saw so it is not really fair for me to say anything about that,” Keselowski said. “I can tell you that every car I saw had some body modifications on it after pit stops out there. I don’t know if ours was more egregious or even if we had one. That is for the team guys to really answer.”

Ok cool. “Every car I saw had some body modifications on it.” I’m going to call a “DUH” on this one. A crew chief, and by extension, the crew, are supposed to push the envelope as much as they possibly can. It’s part of the game. You push and push and push the limits of what NASCAR is going to allow. That’s how you get ahead. With the competition up front being so close, every little bit counts and can be the difference between a W and a 10th, a Championship and a busted season.

Conversely, sometimes the NASCAR officials are going to bite back. Does that make the #2 team a bunch of cheaters? Nope. Not at all. It’s part of the game. That’s how it’s always been in NASCAR, a constant push and pull between teams and The Rules. Like bleeding the air out of the tires last year. It’s also why NASCAR has a sliding scale of penalties. There are the gross and obvious “What the hell were you thinking” penalties and the “You pushed, but this is as far as you can go” penalties. We move on with them.

That’s a whole lot of words without getting back to the bold header of this section but it relates, I swear.

Keselowski called out Gordon up in the booth because Gordon talked about similar crew tactics from the 2 team won in Vegas earlier in the year. Fact checking later, NASCAR didn’t penalize the Penske crew for any body mods at Vegas, it was a speeding penalty on the same stop. Gordon owned up to that one later on ye olde twitter.

jeff gordon mug shotKeselowski does bring up a point about having people biased in the booth. Gordon and Keselowski have a history as drivers. Gordon has been a part owner in Jimmie Johnson’s #48 team since the start of that ride. Keselowski is saying that the commentators need to be neutral parties.

I appreciate Keselowski speaking his mind, I always do even when I disagree with him. Which I do in this case. Having a wholly objective observer sounds better on paper. Ken Squier will always be known as the voice of NASCAR. He was never a driver or team owner. Neither was Mike Joy. But a lot of the best announcers in NASCAR were former drivers. Michael Waltrip still runs restrictor plate races to this day and will do his prerace duties in his firesuit before hopping in the car and running laps. I think Brad Daughtry is one of the better prerace guys and he co-owns Allmendinger’s car. Ned Jarrett in the booth calling the race as his son passed the elder Earnhardt to win the Daytona 500 is ever going to say that was wrong. That’s a classic moment in NASCAR history, in part because of Ned Jarrett being in the booth on live TV.

Where do you draw the line of being “biased” as a commentator? Are we going to say that Rusty Wallace should never do NASCAR commentary because he used to race for Penske? Or his brother Kenny, one of the funniest and well spoken people in NASCAR, can’t talk about… well, half the owners on the track? Should we stop listening to Larry Mac because he used to work for Childress?

Oh and by the way, Ken Squire owns a race track in Vermont and Mike Joy co-owns the Sonoco racing fuel distributor in New England. Does that count?

See the thing is, all these people I’m talking about, they’re professionals in the booth. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be doing this year in and year out. I for one, think that Jeff Gordon is very good in the booth and hope he has a long career in the booth.

It happens in every sport. Being a part of it gives you a leg up when covering the game. Many of the best sportscasters started out as players/coaches in their respective sports. No one honestly thinks John Madden should have gone his career without covering a Raiders game. Or Pat Summerall a Giants game.

Ditto goes for NASCAR.

Tony Stewart Troubles

tony at poconoI hate to say this, but it’s not looking good for Tony Stewart to go out with a swan song. He had his best starting position of the season so far this past week at Pocono and he was running in the top ten, but got tangled up in a wreck… with Danica of all people.

NASCAR is better with Tony Stewart in it. Doubly so when he is the happy, engaging, fiery, Tony Stewart. It’s been rough on the track for him since his come back from injury. Really, it’s been rough on track for Tony for a couple years now. I think a lot of NASCAR would love to see him hit that walk off home run and pull a mic drop by walking out with a championship. Very few in any sport get to do that. Finish 29 laps off the pace cause of a wreck isn’t going to get him very far. Remember, he’s going to finish in the top 30 in points and get a win for his waiver to matter. 34th place finishes aren’t helping.

Rough Day for Jeb Burton

burton at poconoNormally a 29th place finish for the raced-by-committee GoFAS #32 isn’t much to remark on. This week, however, they put a new driver in the seat for Pocono. Jeb Burton got the call to run his first Cup level race since he was a victim of downsizing at BK Racing in the off season. He got the call to run the Richard Petty Xfinity car though so we thought it was good for him. A better car, albeit in a lower tier.

Bad news though, RPM shut down the #43 Xfinity team because their sponsor decided not to pay their bills. Racing takes deep pockets, no matter who you are. Deeper pockets if you want to do it well. Petty isn’t like Penske, or Haas, or Hendrick, or Roush… he doesn’t have an extensive business to fall back on. (Although, just ask James Finch, that doesn’t always work either) Petty’s only business is racing, so when someone doesn’t pay their sponsor bills, there’s nothing left to soak up the hurt.

Frankly, I think this whole thing sucks. Burton is a very promising racer for the future of the sport. He’s got a Truck win and two top ten point finishes in that series. Given the right equipment, he could be one of the future stars to carry the sport like Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney. Doubly so because the traditionalists love a family connection in NASCAR. He had it rough last year with BK racing, DNQ’ing for nine races and then becoming a victim of charter system downsizing. I had figured the Petty Xfinity ride would get him back in a competitive car again and get things back on track. NASCAR’s relationship with the checkbook is a harsh mistress though. I hope he can land on his feet.

Shout Outs

elliott at poconoThis first one hardly seems like a shout out because he is running so consistently, but high five to Chase Elliott. He pulled off his 10th top ten on the season so far. Everyone expected the #24 car to still run well, after all, it’s a Hendrick team that was winning races last year with Gordon, but Elliott is exceeding everyone’s expectations. Still, I have to give a shout out for Elliott leading the most laps on the day, even if he didn’t score his first W yet. Chase is constantly impressing everyone. He’s highest in the points without a win yet at 7th on a season so far. I seriously expect him to win. Soon and often.

ty dillon at poconoThe other shout out on the day goes to another guy who’s going to carry the sport into the future. Ty Dillon got the start in the Circle Sport-Levine ride as an unofficial 4th RCR car. It’s a deal that Childress has been doing with Circle Sport for a few years now ever since the former sold the owner points for the #33 to the latter. Austin Dillon did the same thing before he was officially a rookie, running a few races as an RCR flying the Circle Sport banner. Brian Scott did too when he was running Xfinity for Childress. Ty Dillon is making the most of these starts he gets. In the thirteen starts he’s made at Cup level, his best finish is 14th at Michigan last year. He didn’t top that this past week at Pocono, finishing in 21st, but he led some laps up front. Childress will get him into a Cup car in a year or two and he’ll be leading a lot more laps than that.

Pit Stall 13 Update

headshot via aricalmirola dot comAric Almirola was lucky driver to occupy the glorious Pit Stall 13 at Pocono. It didn’t translate to too much for the RPM #43 car this week though. He had a middling start in 16th and finished 20th. This day wasn’t one where just managing to stay on the lead lap was going to bring home much of anything in terms of finish. He ran as high as 14th and as low as 29th, so a 20th was right about where you figured he’d end up. They did have an “over the wall too soon” penalty pitting on lap 62 which put lost them their midpack position which the car was never fully able to recover from.

Charterless Update

  • 10th – #21 Ryan Blaney – He’s having a very good season, currently in the Chase grid on points, but is frequently overshadowed by Chase Elliott (i.e. like this week)
  • 27th – #30 Josh Wise – This is the best finish for the TMG #30 car this year finishing just one lap off the pace. This little team busts hump every race so it’s nice to see them making gains. Small steps are better than no steps.
  • 28th – #98 Reed Sorenson – The Premium Motorsports drivers swapped cars. Neither has a charter so…. reasons? Sorenson did get his best finish of the year out of it though.
  • 30th – #55 Cole Whitt – Swapped numbers with his teammate and cruised to 30th. Attrition helped.

Onward to Michigan!

Michigan is up next and I think it’s going to be a good race, unlike last year’s high drag debacle. It’s a very fast track with plenty of room to race so here’s hoping the low downforce package creates lots of passing. I think it should.

While not a plate track, this place favors teams that can put down raw speed similar to the plate tracks. I think RCR has this track circled as a place to take a huge swing and hope for a home run, especially the 31 and 27 teams. If they miss here, Newman is eyeing Daytona and New Hampshire, Menard is watching Daytona and Indy. They’ve got to take a big swing and go for a win. Newman could still point his way in, but Menard had a few races with bad racing luck and tire problems. He can’t soak those up and still point his way in. This time of year, look for the Neon Rocket, and plenty of other teams, starting to take big gambles on those W’s.

I also expect Brad Keselowski to run up front here. The best he’s ever finished at the track was 2nd during his championship year, but it really is a thorn in his side that he hasn’t won at his home track. With two wins under his belt and a spot in the Chase lined up, I expect him to go all out for that hometown crowd.


Bristol Round Up

So after the Texas Round Up (which really sounds like it should be a rodeo and/or tacky steakhouse) got lost to the whims of the internet, NASCAR heads back to the short track racing.

It’s time for Bristol, touted as a modern colosseum that hands out gladiator swords as trophies.

It wasn’t that long ago at Martinsville that I rambled on about the awesomeness of short track racing, so I shan’t get repetitive with you. I really wish NASCAR would swap the Texas and Martinsville weekends so we could follow the West Coast Swing with the Short Track Rumble, a three in a row of short tracks. I’ll happily take three of four though.

So how did this round of the “PR unapproved hashtag I just made up in the last paragraph” Short Track Rumble pan out?

edwards wins bristolCarl Edwards won from the pole, leading over half the laps of the race and doing his patented backflip of victory. Between Edwards and Kenseth, the two cars led over three quarters of the race, Kenseth ultimately wrecking in the front half of the race to finish 40 laps off the pace, the last car which did not DNF. But 16 lead changes is nothing to sneeze at. 15 caution flags. These cars were out there beating and banging in the best short track tradition. It’s my favorite kind of racing and Bristol put on a show.

Too bad not many were there to see it.

Every picture of the stands looked really sad. The estimated crowed at Thunder Valley was only 90k. That leaves 70k seats empty. This gives me a sad face. I am one of many that thinks NASCAR overbuilt in the late 90s and early 2000s. A lot of grandstands across NASCAR have been getting the ax. I’ve seen it with my own eyes at New Hampshire. Bristol used to be a guaranteed sell out but those days look long gone. I get that people’s sports viewing habits have changed a lot in the last fifteen years. People tend to go for the high def big screens with their own kitchen and bathroom a short jaunt away, or with the portable on the go pocket screen. It is what it is. I can’t fix that part, especially since I got one of those high def big screens, but Bristol is one of the most unique and exciting races on the schedule. It’s on my bucket list. Bristol should be the last place that needs to “enhance the race day experience.”

Rant over.

This year’s spring Bristol race was a great one. So we’ll just go with that and pretend there were butts in those seats.

Woman hit by Kyle Busch’s car

kyle hits pedestrianThis is one of the more WTF moments I’ve seen in NASCAR in a long time. Or racing period.

Kyle Busch was coming into the infield after his second crash. The right front was shot. The wheel was bent, so steering was… less than optimal. So he’s pulling into the garage and BAM! Clips a woman in the back of the leg with the car.

It looks like Busch was driving off under a rope divider. You can see a guy holding it up in the clip. And one guy had to quite literally jump out of the way. And it’s Bristol, so it’s going to be louder than other tracks. But still. Looks like she was doing something on her phone.

She rolled her ankle and went down. Frankly, I think she’s lucky the splitter didn’t hamstring her.

Even if Busch was driving in an area that one wouldn’t expect traffic, PAY ATTENTION!

I’ve had hot passes at New Hampshire before. It’s not nearly as crowded as Bristol but you PAY ATTENTION to where you are.

Every now and then we’re reminded that NASCAR can be dangerous. We’re lucky that woman wasn’t severely hurt.

Shout outs!

This is a great week for Shout Outs. Normally, restrictor place races are where you expect to see surprise finishes, they are unpredictable and the great leveler at the same time. But Bristol paid off for some people who needed great runs (or never had one before).

dibenedetto at bristolMatt DiBenedetto!

Holy crap Matt DiBenedetto!

BK Racing has been running full time for five years, taking over from the remnants of Red Bull Racing. This is a team where a top 20 finish is a great day. They finished in sixth place. Not only is that the best finish for the second year driver, it is the best finish for BK Racing period. And this is a small team that would regularly show up to the track with four cars in the pre-charter days (and still did at Daytona). Running some of the old MWR equipment that the team picked up at auction, I had this team and DiBenedetto pegged as a guy who could make some improvements this year. I expected it to come on a restrictor plate track or one of the cookie-cutters where even small teams can get some good data. Their performance this week even got the #83 team to ink a sponsor for next week at Richmond.

There’s also a twitter hashtag on now #VoteForMattD to get him in the All Star Race. Remember Josh Wise and the DogeCar? Well, wouldn’t Danica just be pissed if those internet nerds out voted her for second time.

bayne stenhouse at bristolTrevor Bayne

Here’s a guy who really needed a solid finish. Since winning the 2011 Daytona 500 as a part timer for the Wood Brothers, the fifth place finish at Bristol was his best race. Bayne is one of the people I think is on the hot seat for not having a ride next year. Roush’s struggles have been well documented across the board. Stenhouse has finally been showing improvement and I see Roush as the type of team that will have a veteran paired up with younger drivers so Biffle is safe(ish). With Bubba Wallace waiting in the wings, I figured Bayne was on the hot seat. This race was huge for that #6 team, only their third top ten since Bayne went full time and Roush resurrected the number.

Also, holy crap look at how roughed up Bayne’s car is in the picture I used here. Yay short tracks!

bowyer at bristolClint Bowyer

Bowyer didn’t forget how to drive. Looking at his numbers this year, it’s easy to think he might have. But we have to remember, even though his number and sponsors are the same, he’s running for HScott now and not MWR. Even though he’s on a winning drought for almost three and a half years, he wasn’t bad last year with twelve top 10s. Since heading to HScott for his temporary assignment before taking over Tony Stewart’s #14, California was the only top 20 he posted in the first seven races. Ricky Craven, over at ESPN, wrote a couple days ago how a driver can out think himself in a slump and how Bowyer can get his head back in the game. The best cure all in NASCAR is a good finish. One of NASCAR’s biggest characters should get a little bit of his swagger back.

cassill at bristolLandon Cassill

The finishing position of the #38 Front Row Motorsports Ford says 22nd, which is an okay day for that team. That doesn’t tell the whole story though. Cassill was mixing it up at the front of the pack at Bristol. He led laps around the mid point of the race and spent much of the second half of the race in the top ten. Unfortunately, a late race tangle with Ty Dillon, running the #95 this week, hosed that up for Cassill. Landon is one of the drivers who has been going about his career in an old school way, starting with the small teams and working his way up through the ranks. He got a top five for the Hillman-Circle Sport Tangle a while ago at Talladega. Cassill has long been one of the drivers I want to see get a chance in top shelf equipment, so even though his finish didn’t reflect it, I love seeing him mixing it up and leading laps.

Pit Stall 13 Update

There is now a tie at the top of the Pit Stall 13 Leaderboard. Matching Kyle Larson’s Martinsville performance, Kurt Busch took home a third place with the magic of pit stall 13 behind him.

Kurt’s driving style has always fit the short track races on the NASCAR circuit. He qualified pretty poorly in 26th place, but broke into the top ten by lap 200 and never looked back, staying the top ten for the rest of the day. Bonus points for having excellent pit stops all day too. The official NASCAR stats put him at third best average pit time of the day behind Edwards and McMurray.

Charterless Update

  • 11th – #21 Ryan Blaney – Cracked the top 15 quick and stayed there all day, much in the top 10. If it wasn’t for Chase Elliot coming home 4th, we’d be hearing a lot more Blaney Buzz
  • 28th – #98 Cole Whitt – Survived the attrition only four laps off the pace
  • 33rd – #30 Josh Wise – Survived the attrition but not as well as Whitt
  • 40th – #55 Reed Sorensen – The caboose of the field conked out at lap 169 and called it suspension

On to Richmond!

One more week of the “I just made it up” hashtag #ShortTrackRumble over at Richmond before hitting the exact opposite with Talladega the first week of May. There is going to be a lot of talk about all the important data next week what since Richmond is the final pre-Chase race in the fall. I’m just glad to watch short track NASCAR as often as I can.

whitt at bristolOf note for next week, Richmond will be only the second race of the year with more than 40 cars on the entry list. For the first time since Daytona, someone is going to have to go home and that’s kinda big in a season where we’ve only been hitting 39 cars for a lot of the races already. BK Racing, fresh off DiBenedetto’s team and career best finish, is rolling in with a third car for Ryan Ellis (who ran one Cup level race last year with Circle Sport). BK Racing got two Charterless cars into the Daytona 500 and they’ve been running decent midpack races so I think that probably leaves Premium with either Whitt or Sorensen as the odd man out.

As for predictions? After this past week at Bristol, who knows anymore. I’d say “the usual short track faces” but this past week was full of faces up front which aren’t usual. My hope is that guys like Cassill and Menard who ran well this past week can get the finishes to go with the up front face time. And of course I’d love to see DiBenedetto pull off another run like this past week. I can see Roush riding some momentum too, although, Stenhouse is better at short tracks than Bayne. The #17 is quietly solid at short tracks so I would not be surprised at a good finish.

Can-Am Duels

Can-Am_Duel_logoWhat did we learn from the Can-Am Duels?

Well, first of all, I learned how to spell Duel.

I thought this whole time it was Dual, as in two of them, not Duel, as in a face off. Spellcheck doesn’t help you when you type in a different word. Do the words Duel and Dual sound different to people with a southern accent? My Connecticut accent has them sounding the same combined with not being able to spell worth a damn meant I was wrong for a very long time.

What did we learn about the Daytona 500?

Well, we learned that really, when you get down to it, all that changes really just stays the same.

Daytona and Talladega are not quite the crapshoot that they used to be. The Let’s Never Change Cadre would be up in arms about that, except it’s their favorites that have become safe bets on plate tracks.

dale jr at daytonaDale Jr won his Duel. Kyle Busch won his. The Gibbs cars showed up to throw down and the Hendricks were their main competition. Keselowski got shuffled back in the pack, but Penske teammate Logano and affiliate Blaney were throwing down in the end. Roush, decent enough finishes all around but you’d have to look up the results afterwards because they made no real noise during the race. At this point, that doesn’t surprise anyone. RCR and affiliates were hot and cold. The Dillons ran well enough for some TV time. Mears made some waves til he ran out of gas. Menard and Newman ran strong but konked out with engine issues. McMurray and Larson were willing to dance but not a huge factor. The little teams showed some spark but that was all.

Copy and paste that general sentiment for all the plate races recently.

can-am damageThere was a lot of freight train racing with a big mess at the end. Kenseth, Truex, Johnson, Allmendinger, and Scott are all heading to back up cars for the 500. Kurt Busch took a hard hit but kept going across the finish line and the team expects to repair the car.

The results were mostly as expected.

And the Let’s Never Change Cadre is happy again.

I know I’m in the unpopular minority that loved tandem racing on the plate tracks. Eighty lead changes and constant passing, yet for some reason people cried “TRADITION!” and it got tossed by the wayside. The Unlimited and the Duels are the prelude to the big show. The Daytona 500 has all the pomp and circumstance as the marquis event in the sport. We’re all excited to see a proper race after the off season.

But freight train racing at our biggest event of the year is not how NASCAR is going to grow. The Ragan/Gilliland run from 10th to 1st at Talladega in 2013 was one of the best plate races in years. Not every race is going to turn into a classic, I get that, but the tandem racing puts on fantastic racing. That’s how you grow the sport.

Tangent aside.

busch wins can-amHere’s what we really learned (tho we knew these things before the Can-Ams)…

  • Dale Jr is the favorite
  • The Gibbs cars will be his competition
  • Blaney is going to be just fine


The Charterless

The Duels are not like back in the day when a dozen cars might miss the show. There were eight charterless cars gunning for four spots. No matter what happened, Blaney and DiBenedetto were going to be in by speed, but if either ended up being the highest finisher in their Duel, then the next fastest on speed would be in, McDowell and Richardson, both driving extra rides for their teams. So there was a lot less drama than in the past, but McDowell, talking to Ryan McGee on ESPN, said it was a lot more intense since “the margin of error was zero.” Beat the other guys, you’re in.

So. Blaney. He’s going to be just fine. I figured that even before Speedweeks considering the speed and results he showed last year in the limited schedule. His Wood Brothers Ford actually had a loose wheel during his Duel, lost a lap, got it back and managed to finish third.

McDowell, running the second CSLFR car with Ty Dillon in the #95, finished 14th, beating out Wise in the TMG #30 and Cole Whitt in the #98, who spun and retired out with damage.

In the second Duel, DiBenedetto finished in 9th with a similar situation as Blaney. He was the fastest on speed, beat out the other charterless, so the other open spot fell back to #26 Richardson, his BK Racing teammate running another extra car for the team. It looks a little odd though, because Gilliland in the extra Front Row car actually had a better finishing position, but it goes highest finisher and then fastest speed. Richardson had better speed than Gilliland so that’s the end of that.

richardson dibenedetto can-amI think it is super worth noting that BK Racing managed to get four cars in the Daytona 500 with only two charters. For a small team, that is a huge accomplishment. For people who keep all their eyes on the front of the track in NASCAR, it could be easy to miss all the improvement that this little team is doing just to survive ever since they took over the old Red Bull Racing. They sunk a lot of money into buying up a bunch of the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyotas so they get to run with some proper TRD engines. They’re stepping up their game. Four cars in the show is going to hand out a solid pay day for BK.

One of the great things about the Daytona 500 is talking to those guys who get to make their first show. It was a pleasure to see DiBenedetto and Richardson, a longtime Xfinity racer, get into the 500.

The Feels

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death in the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Junior fan or not, NASCAR collectively had some feels when he won a race at Daytona on Feb 18th.

daytona can-am 2Daytona Predictions

What do I think will happen during the 2016 Daytona 500?

Winner – Junior. His vocal fan base will go nuts. It will be a great accomplishment for him. Said happy fan base will let the NASCAR officials go “Everything’s ok” no matter how the other 199 laps turn out. Junior, meanwhile, will have to park his favorite car (named Amelia) in the museum for a year and he won’t have it available to run for the other three plate tracks which may come back to haunt him later in the season.

As for the rest of the field? Well, copy and paste my summary of the Can-Ams. Gibbs, Hendrick, solid. RCR, hot and cold. Roush, decent enough. RPM, constantly improving but not quite there yet.

Someone from a little team is likely to pull off a top 10, but not threaten for the win. Cassill could do it, his best finishes are all at plate tracks and he’s played that role before. Josh Wise did it at Talladega last year but he missed the show and Phil Parsons Motorsports doesn’t exist anymore. Labonte in the Go FAS #32 might get that shot as the wily veteran. David Ragan could do the same for BK Racing. If I had to pick one guy who could pull it off though, I’m gonna call DiBenedetto’s name here. Solid finish in his Duel and showed more speed than a lot of the other minnows.

The number one prediction that I can guarantee…

Truex and Vickers running with the same sponsor is going to be confusing as hell.

two bass pros