One thing is certain concerning the racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway over the last two weekends… The Bush brothers, in particular Kurt Bush along with Steve Addington and Penske Racing, put a hurting on the rest of the competitors. Not many thought a car that started out strong in the daylight would finish strong at night in the 600, (and I was one of them), but Kurt Bush’s #2 Miller Lite Dodge did exactly that. He led the most laps and the outcome of the 600 mile race was hardly ever in question, although circumstances did try to make it exciting at the end. The Steve Addington led Penske team was the class of the field and took home the big money and bragging rights for performance in the May races at CMS this year.
Racing during the 600 was a little different than I expected it would be. As a fan, I expected some of the teams would flex a little muscle early and then settle in for a little follow the leader for several hundred miles, tweaking during the pit stops and saving most of what they had for the last 50 or so laps. I’m not saying that some of that didn’t go on but I have to admit there was a lot of racing going on.
Several of the teams had problems early and were either out of contention or in the garage for extended periods. One of the stronger cars for both weekends never made much of a showing and that would be the #42 car of Juan Pablo Montoya. During practice both weekends he was fast and it looked as though he might be one of the ones to beat. As it turned out, he had handling problems that took him out of contention early both weekends and had disappointing finishes, further complicating his hopes of being in the Chase this year. Jamie McMurray finished a strong second for EGR and sits only 26 points out of the top twelve and looking pretty good for getting into the Chase.
Montoya wasn’t the only one having difficulty either. Jimmie Johnson struggled all night and finished many laps behind after two tangles with the speedway walls. Denny Hamlin blamed his performance for the night on the out-of-control #48 car and it appeared that may have been the case. Unfortunately, I disagree with his assessment and would more likely chalk it up to just being in the wrong place at the right time. (I never have understood why people say, “wrong place, wrong time.” To me, if they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, nothing would have happened; but that’s just the way I look at it and probably a story better left for another time.)
One of the problems for many teams appeared to be associated with the tire combination Goodyear brought to CMS. Some just couldn’t get the feel right for their driver and there were a lot of tail-slapping-happy cars that struggled much of the night. One of the complaints I heard most often was that the cars were just all of the sudden losing rear grip and causing the drivers to have to chase it up the track in the turns. That is a very uncomfortable feeling for a driver that would really like to take it deep into the turn, (but then, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that, did you?)
Even though they finished fourth and sixth respectively, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon struggled the whole night and probably left Charlotte very happy to finish in the top ten. They both stayed out at the final caution and that gained them track position, but they never did show the strength that Hendrick cars generally do at Charlotte Motor Speedway. From this fan’s view, it appeared they never did quite get the handle on the tire combination (or the handling, period.) (Perhaps they were just testing for their return to CMS in the fall; what do you think? Hm-m-m-m…) Both of them were able to finish near the front but neither of them ever looked to be the ones to beat, especially at the end of the race.
As I expected, the Roush cars didn’t show much strength either, even though Matt Kenseth did finish tenth. Greg Biffle had high hopes going into the 600 but just couldn’t stay away from the wall. He definitely took advantage of “the closer to the wall, the less the damage” situation I talked about in the earlier Charlotte article as he took the opportunity to swap paint with the wall more than once and finished a very disappointing six laps down. Carl Edwards finished 16th and I think that pretty much makes the statement for the Roush teams as David Ragan finished 24th as the last car on the lead lap.
After the way things turned out for so many in NASCAR’s longest race, it is this fan’s opinion that a lot of teams are just happy they didn’t have far to travel to get home after the race. It was either a night of feeling successful or one of utter disappointment and one many would simply like to forget. One thing is certain… the Bush brothers have definitely had a great May and a great weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The only thing that remains to be seen is if their good fortune carries over to Pocono this coming weekend…
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 2, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com
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