Sunday, April 13, 2008

It finally happened!

After the lackluster Samsung 500, the semi-short track/semi-speedway Subway Fresh 500 was a much needed blast of excitement in Sprint Cup racing. We knew it was going to take some time for the teams to get a handle on the Sprint Cup car this season, and the level of the racing has been inconsistant as the teams have worked on the car. But Phoenix is a different story, as the teams have tested there extensively, have had some previous experience racing the new car there, and thus have extensive notes concerning the behavior of the car at PIR.
And it paid off for both the teams and the fans. We were treated to some excellent racing throughout the field and throughout the race. The race begain with several teams that seemed capable of winning, and the action was as hot as the track itself right from the start. Ryan Newman wanted to make sure he got his bonus points, and held off the competition from Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards for a few laps before dropping back. The lead was never, at any point in the race, given up easily, so the racing was always hard and admirably clean, no matter who the leader was.
Highlights and pitfalls included Carl Edwards taking a penalty in the first half of the race that put him down a lap. He recovered from that, finishing in fourth place. Elliott Sadler, who started the race from the front row, fell back early in the race, but regained postition as high as fourth place as night fell, only to have to retire from the race due to engine failure. Another driver from Dodge, polesitter Ryan Newman, also saw his hopes for a good finish disappear with catastrophic mechanical failure. Mark Martin definitely had the car to beat, but his team, like most of the other race leaders, found it necessary to refuel before the end of the race. The "what if" story here is that if Martin had pitted just a few laps earlier, he more than likely could have made his way back to the front in time to take the checkers. His car was the class of the field, and he even claimed, post race, that he thought he had had enough fuel to make it to the end before the final pit stop. "Coulda, woulda, shoulda," as the saying goes.
Mstt Kenseth seems to be using up all his bad luck early in the season. Once again, he had many problems attributed to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a cut tire pretty much put him out of the running early on in the race. Kenseth is one of the top drivers in the series, so we know his luck is going to get better. The question is, "When?"
So the big story is the gamble that paid off. Chad Knaus decided to keep the #48 car on the track during the final fifteen laps of the race, even after a lengthy green flag run, a strategy that won the race. With the other cars pitting and the closest to the lead, after the pit stops--being the #07 Chevy of Clint Bowyer--nearly ten seconds behind, Johnson had plenty of room to lay off the throttle and conserve fuel. He reportedly ran out of fuel on the backstretch of the final lap, and finished the race a little over eight seconds ahead of Bowyer. Now that's drama!
Oh, by the way, Hendrick Motorsports is back. Who didn't see that coming?


Cheyenne said...

Do you really believe Mark Martin was the class of the field? Not me, my friend. I so hoped the engine would blow on that one.
Did youy watch Junior weaving in and out of traffic after those restarts when he was mired in lapped traffic? I was on the edge of my seat every time, and he worked miracles getting through. No, MM was not the class of the field...besides Junior, there were a few others, but my money was on Junior. (Make believe money, that is)
I can't believe you didn't write a single thing about him in your blog today. And, yes, Hendrick Motorsports is back!
Finally, a great race!

RevJim said...

Cheyenne, you know I am always very impressed by Dale Jr's prowess in car control. He can get through solid objects, it seems, without getting a scratch on his car. He led 87 laps during the race, which is, I believe the most laps led. I did mention him, just not by name, when I wrote that at no time was "the lead given up easily."
I didn't even mention my favorite driver, who finished fourteenth.
Thank you for your comment, I consider myself chastized.

michael said...

A very enjoyable race