I’m not sure how you saw it but it looked like it was going to be another one of those days where the least likely make would end up taking the checkered flag, (and show us all just how little we know about how races are going to end.) I mean, if you look at the way the practices went before the actual race on Sunday, you would have never thought a Chevy would have lead the most laps. In fact, I would venture to say, you would have never thought they would lead any laps after the way they performed during the practice and qualifying sessions.
Instead… it looks like the Fords finally made it to the end of a race and ended up in Victory Lane on the same day (at least since Trevor Bayne and the Daytona 500). It really wasn’t a surprise to anyone as all the commentators, pundits and just about everyone, (including me), analyzed how the race would go judging from the practice and qualifying sessions before Sunday. I know I was swayed by how strong the Fords appeared and how the other teams seemed to be struggling, but Sunday proved to be different and Tony Stewart threw a wrench in the works until a late race mistake on pit road and a pit strategy to make up for that mistake that turned against him afterwards.
Even though Tony Stewart led the most laps, that hooked air hose and the decision to take two tires on the next to last last pit stop, cost him the victory and left him with a disappointing second place, even though he appeared to have the car to beat much of the afternoon. Needless to say, he was not at all happy after the race but did manage a pained interview immediately after the race and in the press center also.
Matt Kenseth on the other hand was fast in all the practice sessions and qualified on pole, (but as we mentioned in our article on Saturday before the race, Sunday doesn’t always go like the rest of the weekend), and he had a tire go down early in the race and ended up spending the most of the afternoon trying to get back onto the lead lap. He did manage to get back on the lead lap when Jeff Gordon’s right front went down and ended up with an eleventh place finish on the day.
Jeff smacked the wall hard, ending his day and leaving him on the trailer with a thirty-sixth place finish and very few points to go with it, kind of canceling out what he accomplished in Phoenix.
A quick look at the finishing order shows the times the teams spent on the track leading up to the race were just a bit deceptive. Just look at the difference between the way teams qualified and the way they finished; (to simplify things, I’ll just look at the top twelve qualifiers. I’m sure you know where to find them and the rest.) And remember, Fords filled up the first two rows…
Yes, it’s true… Fords did fill up the front two rows and Toyotas filled up the third row. In the next three rows there was one more Ford, one Toyota and four Chevys. Adding them all up tells us there were five Fords starting up front, four Chevys and three Toyotas. It makes it pretty obvious why many thought the Fords were going to do well on Sunday. As we found out, a Ford did actually win but the Chevys and Toyotas did much better than expected.
Honestly, I don’t feel bad about being wrong abut the strength of the Fords at Vegas and I hate to say it, but, it did look like a Chevy was going to take the win, possibly even finish one-two and have several more in the top twelve. It just goes to show what this fan has said many times; you can’t tell a whole lot from practice and qualifying, especially these days when NASCAR doesn’t have testing at the tracks they race at. That could mean some teams are spending some of their time at the tracks testing for the race and for the future.
NASCAR’s decision to change the points system has made the first three races of the 2011 season very interesting. If things continue to go as they have, we could see a whole new drama emerging from the way qualifying figures into future races. We just have two more races until the top thirty-five are no longer locked in from last year. Now, I know many of the teams are saying they’re not in panic mode yet, but some of the better known names from the past couple of years may have to actually qualify on time unless their luck gets better soon.
It appears to this fan, it is harder to make up the points lost in those bad finishes than it was in the past, even though early in the season points do shuffle around much faster than they do later in the season. I’m not really trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but, it should really prove to be interesting in the coming weeks for all of those that have been having some really bad races. Hey… I’m just sayin’, if some of them don’t start finishing more consistently toward the front, it could prove to be a very tense time for them.
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 11, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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