Nascar at Fontana: Will It Be “Just Another Race” In California This Weekend?

Rusty Norman



What a difference a year makes… It could be said that in 2009, Jamie McMurray struggled. It wasn’t that he didn’t perform well, it was more that he didn’t finish well. Now, in 2010, he has won the Daytona 500 and has qualified on the pole at Fontana. (Not a bad start to the 2010 season so far, I would say.)
In fact, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing locked up the front row when Juan Pablo Montoya laid down a qualifying lap just shy of Jamie McMurray’s. It could be said, “Earnhardt Ganassi Racing looks to be the team to beat for the Cup Championship this year…”
But wait a minute… wasn’t that the same thing that was said about Roush Fenway Racing last year? I mean, if you remember, Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 and followed that rain shortened event victory with a win at Fontana. Not only that, but the Roush Fenway cars had shown themselves to be strong at the end of the 2008 season (just like the EGR and RCR cars had at the end of the 2009 season), (both running Earnhardt/Childers power under the hood.) Naturally we all know what happened after that – Hendrick Teams began to dominate the racing for the rest of the season and finished 1-2-3 in the Cup Championship.
So what does that say about the apparent strength shown by the EGR teams of Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya early into this 2010 season?
Not a whole lot in this fan’s opinion… unless they continue to dominate as they have recently.
I know you understand where I’m coming from. Performance in one race does not make a race team dominant for the year and following up that win with front row starting positions the next race still doesn’t say a whole lot. In reality, and I don’t know about you, but, it will take several more weeks before I can even start to form an opinion about how one team or another is going to perform.
In fact, it is even hard for me to say who is going to perform well this weekend. With the way the Richard Childers’ teams have been running lately, I don’t think anyone will rule out the possibility of them finishing well this weekend. Kevin Harvick has looked strong since unloading off the truck in Daytona and I don’t see much to make me think this weekend in California will be any different.
Clint Bowyer started off “Speedweeks” in Daytona by wrecking everything he could but finished up front in the Daytona 500. Up until Jamie McMurray took the pole position for the race this weekend, Clint Boyer was out first to qualify and held the pole position until the two EGR teams took over the front row. He does look to be strong for this weekend also.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not expecting much from the 24 and 48 teams yet. Now that doesn’t mean they won’t show up at the front when the race is near completion, it just means I’m not expecting them to look to be the ones to beat this weekend. I think they are still testing setups a bit rather than going with what worked last year. (I mean, after all, this is another year and they probably have a few things that need to be tried that didn’t get tried near the end of last year. Yes, I know I could be wrong, but I just don’t think they come out of the box full bore… they know where they can be, they just have a few things to try yet.) Of course, they could be just off their game a bit and have some catching up to do.
So… could this be the week that the #42 EGR team breaks into the win column on an oval track? Can Jamie McMurray in the #1 repeat the same as Matt Kenseth did last year after winning the Daytona 500?
I haven’t even talked about the Toyota teams yet. How will Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin fair throughout the race on Sunday? How about Michael Waltrip Racing’s Martin Truex Jr? And then there’s Marcos Ambrose; he could actually pull off a victory, (even though that is another one of those situations I don’t expect.)
Even though there are others, like the Ford teams, that could surprise us all, I just think this is going to be the week for Earnhardt/Childer’s horsepower to make a statement. I don’t know whether it will be under the EGR or RCR banner, but I do think that is the stable the victor will emerge from on Sunday.
Exactly who will it be? Hm-m-m-m… If I was to guess, I think I would pick Kevin Harvick, but then it could be Jamie McMurray or Clint Bowyer… This is way too hard because there is just too much unknown.
Aw, heck… I think I’ll just go with Mark Martin and let you all just watch the race and see if I am right…
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 20, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and