Random Lugnuts: NASCAR Drivers, Raindrops, and RCR
Topics: Auto Club 500, Ford, Richard Childress Racing What is Random Lugnuts? It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan. The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop: you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
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February 21, 2010
It looked like the end of the Auto Club 500 was going to be a memorable battle between two California locals, at least until Kevin Harvick got into the wall a little bit and let Jimmie Johnson cruise to yet another forgettable victory. Overall, it was a better race than other California cup events, but the end was anticlimatic compared to the finishes at Daytona and or even yesterday's Nationwide Series finish at the same track.
Unfortunately, what you saw today is what happens when you have real professionals running on a non-restrictor plate track. Spinning a car through the infield with 7 laps to go would have really made for an exciting finish, but everybody kept their cars in line and there was enough room for everybody to move up or move back as their cars faded less or faded more through the long green flag run. Johnson got loose, Harvick bumped the wall, and there were all sorts of opportunities late in the race for spinning cars and caution flags, but the caliber of drivers in the Sprint Cup kept the cars in line and kept the flag green. Perhaps the high level of competition is too much of a good thing, all we needed was one amateur idiot who forgot to park his car after 5 laps and Jimmie Johnson could have had a half dozen cars at his rear bumper.
Such is the price of success: NASCAR has attracted an outstanding group of racers and can afford to build huge superspeedways, and now the combination of the two has produced a reaction in the fans similar to the combination of tryptophan and alcohol.
What's the cure? Well, Bristol and Martinsville are coming up in the schedule. As for California, which has 2 race dates in the Cup schedule, maybe restrictor plates would help keep the cars from spreading out too much?
As the dust settled, the one thought on my mind was, WTF? As in, Where's The Fords? No Blue Ovals in the top 5, and only 2 in the top 10 with Matt Kenseth's 7th place and Greg Biffle's 10th place. This sort of Fordless finish has happened before, but at the California spring race it was quite unexpected. I figured even if a Chevrolet or Toyota won, it would be chased to the checkered flag by a herd of Fusions.
Unfortunately for NASCAR fans, at least those not fans of Jimmie Johnson, the substitute for another Ford domination was yet another win for the 48 team. It was Jimmie's 48th win in the number, so it's a fun win for Johnson's fans. However, if as some people say the season really starts at California, this isn't a good sign for those who won't sit around and watch a fifth championship in a row.
Thanks to a timely bit of rain in California, those of us still upset about the road repair delay at Daytona last week are reminded that race delays happen, we're used to them, and often they're no fault of NASCAR's.
Unless they are, yet again, whining that NASCAR should have rain tires...
I won't get into any of the other rain-related topics I've already gone over again. However, as one major thing has changed since I mentioned them before, I want to take a moment to bring up one point about perhaps why racing in the rain isn't a good idea for NASCAR right now. I just want to mention this before the lack of rain ready rubber becomes an issue:
It's the economy. Consider the costs of implementing a rain tire in NASCAR. Goodyear has to develop a tire. Then they have to manufacture, store, and transport more tires to the races. Tires that, in all likelihood, won't be used. Teams would have to figure out some way to prepare for using rain tires, which would mean some sort of testing. Anything that increases the costs on the teams increases the gap between the teams who can afford the new costs and those who cannot, undoing some of the cost-cutting measures NASCAR has implemented over the years.
I've thought for a long time that racing stock cars in the rain would be really interesting, but in the current economic situation I don't think it's a good idea to start throwing new costs of doing business into stock car racing.
It looks like Richard Childress Racing has returned to the front of the field. After taking a season off last year, RCR has accumulated 6 starts (2 races X 3 drivers) and the worst finish they've scored is Jeff Burton's 11th at Daytona.
In the unofficial standings, all 3 RCR cars are scored in the top 5, with Kevin Harvick leading in points, followed by Clint Bowyer in second and Jeff Burton in fifth. It's not too early to think about points, as there's already 79 points between 1st and 13th, and 137 points between 13th and 36th, and there are now just 24 races to climb into the top 12 and get into the Chase.
Richard Childress Racing has a great start towards another season with 3 cars in the Chase, and if they accomplish that and RCR accounts for 1/4 of the Chase contenders, they could be the team to watch if you're looking for someone to keep Jimmie and Chad from completing their Drive for Five. Fantasy Racing
CarsAndRacingStuff.com Racing had a slightly less dismal race than I did at Daytona. After wasting a Jimmie Johnson pick on last weekend's DNF, I took him off the team as I was going for an all-Ford strategy. Which, it turns out, failed epically. Matt Kenseth's top 10 was the only bright spot in my team at 7th place, followed by Carl Edwards in 13th, Paul Menard in 18th and Kasey Kahne all the way back in 34th.
Join Fans of Random Lugnuts with group ID#28844 and the password "lugnuts". I'd like to welcome Redneck Racing to the group!
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