Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Western Swing An Unqualified Success
What a great race weekend! Superman (aka Jimmie Johnson) flew around the track at the end with the checkered flag. This was Jimmie's 77th win and put him alone in seventh place on the all-time win list, ahead of Dale Earnhardt.
This race offered so much of what fans say they want - lots of lead changes, lots of passing, close finish. What a pleasure it was to watch a car come up on the one in front and not get hung up behind a wall of air but rather, to be able to make the pass.
This is partially thanks to NASCAR's new downforce package. I'm as prone to criticizing NASCAR's leadership as anyone, at times, but it looks like they got this right. It's partially thanks to Auto Club Speedway's gritty old track (oh, please don't pave it any time soon!) which favors drivers who are comfortable letting the rear end hang out and who know how to manage tire wear (kudos to Goodyear for this tire). It rewards crew chiefs who know how to minimize the impact of bumps in the way their cars drive.
The one-who-will-be-my-main-driver-when-Jimmie-retires, Chase Elliott, was really rather spectacular at times, making moves that veteran drivers would be proud of, sliding through holes that didn't look big enough to fit into and ultimately finishing 6th. That said, Ryan Blaney was looking good too until he experienced some bad luck.
I was glad to see Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. with a top five , both for the sake of Ricky himself and as a sign that Roush may be coming back. And it was nice to see a top 10 for A. J. Allmendinger with the Little Team That Sometimes Can.
Lots of pissed off drivers at the end of this weekend. Kyle Busch was mad at life in general and NASCAR in particular. Come on, Kyle, no one blames you for being upset after blown tires resulted in two disappointing finishes after good runs in Xfinity and Sprint, but you're not just a driver anymore. As champion, you're the representative of the sport, and that demands a more mature response than accusing NASCAR of cheating and refusing to do your media responsibility.
Though, Austen Dillon could have been a little more gracious in victory himself. He put himself in position but it was luck that put him in front.
Danica was angry at Kasey. He did wreck her and he did say he was sorry but no getting around that, while it wasn't a purposeful action, it did show poor judgment on his part when he was a lap down. (I have a feeling, there is beginning to be a sense of desperation in the Kahne camp).
Martin Truex, Jr. was upset with Joey. Joey took the blame but it didn't make Martin or his crew chief, Cole Pearn, feel any warmer toward him. Pearn jumped on Twitter for some inappropriate name calling and had to come back later and apologize.
As I write this, there haven't been any penalties handed down from NASCAR for various rules infractions but Kyle and Danica might want to keep their checkbooks handy.
All in all, NASCAR's western trio offered terrific racing and lots of drama. That's about all a fan can ask for.