The Shelby American at Las Vegas was dominated from the first lap by Jeff Gordon and the #24 Hendrick team. A late race gamble to take two tires instead of four by crew chief, Steve Letarte, just didn’t quite work out and Jimmie Johnson ended up in Victory Lane, winning for the second week in a row while Jeff Gordon finished third behind Kevin Harvick. (Wasn’t that a surprise?)
Now I know some are probably saying, “It figures, they win all the time… I’m already bored this season.” While others could be saying, “Letarte just threw the race away for Jeff so Jimmie could win again.”
I haven’t actually heard any of the above mentioned statements, but I don’t discount the fact that there are those that are, or have, uttered them since the race. Yeah, it’s true; Jimmie Johnson has won two out of the first three point races for the 2010 season but this season is far from over. A lot of things can, and will, happen over the coming weeks. To listen to some distraught race fans, you would think the #48 team had already won its fifth Sprint Cup Championship in a row.
Well, now that that little rant is out of the way, let’s look at the facts of what actually happened on Sunday at Las Vegas:
- Jeff Gordon did dominate the race from the very first lap.
- Matt Kenseth did have a strong run;
- Kevin Harvick did finish second and is leading the Sprint Cup points and
- Jimmie Johnson did win the race and take home the trophy.
It seems the only thing some fans remember about the race is that Juan Pablo Montoya was taken out of contention by his team-mate, Jamie McMurray, which led to some pretty hefty criticism from JPM towards Jamie Mac. Of course, one of the most discussed moments for the week came from Montoya’s use of a certain “s” word that managed to make the national broadcast, (imagine that), and Nascar decided not to fine him, (another imagine that), which served to further the conversation after the fact.
Jeff Gordon’s Crew Chief, Steve Letarte, has really taken a lot of flack from fans all week for the decision he made to take two tires on the last stop. The idea was to keep the #24 out front in the clean air. If there had been more yellow flags, or some other kind of interruption, perhaps the result would have been different, (and let’s not forget the #48 team banged off an eleven second, four-tire pit stop at the same time which definitely shifted the momentum for the two-tire strategy and put the #48 team in a much better position for the last 30 some laps.)
I have to admit, it does look as though the Hendrick teams finally have some competition this year. The much improved RCR teams of Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton makes the racing, at least for the near future, look to be interesting. Not far behind, at least for now, would be the Roush/Fenway teams of Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and, yes, Greg Biffle, too.
I believe I still have to point out that in the top seven finishers in Sunday’s race in Las Vegas, four were either Hendrick teams or Hendrick equipment and that says they are still teams that must be beaten every week. That may not make some fans very happy and it certainly may mean that Jimmie Johnson is going to win more races this year.
With that said, it is this fan’s view the racing for the rest of this year is going to be interesting and full of surprises. One thing is certain, the #48 team has set the bar very high for the rest of the competitors and they are going to have to be beaten on a regular basis if someone other than them is going to win the Sprint Cup by the end of the year. I guess we’ll just have to keep watching and see whether its going to be five in a row for Jimmie Johnson and the #48 team or if someone expected, or totally unexpected, rises to the occasion and takes the top spot in Nascar… I reckon we won’t know until all the racing’s done. (I also reckon I know what I’ll be doing on race weekends for the rest of the year.)
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 4, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com