For some, the Monster still looms as big and ominous as ever. For Kyle Bush, however, the monster may still have teeth but he made it purr like a kitten and he did it on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Yes it’s true, he only won Nationwide on Saturday and Cup on Sunday, but had things gone slightly different on Friday (and the fuel stops had fallen slightly different) he would have won the Camping World Truck race, too.
Kyle’s closest competition on Sunday was Jimmie Johnson but a speeding penalty on the last caution and pit stop put him a lap down well back in the field and ruined any chance for the #48 to finish near the front. Once Jimmie Johnson was out of contention, there really wasn’t anyone else that could run with the #18 JGR car for the last laps of the race.
Taking a look at the finishing order, I can’t help but think the JGR teams are happy with their performance with all three in the top ten. RCR also had a pretty good finish with Jeff Burton finishing second and Kevin Harvick finishing seventh.
The big surprise to this fan this weekend was the Roush cars. Even though it was rumored they would perform well at the Monster, they actually followed up on the rumors and threats with strong performances by Matt Kenseth finishing third, Greg Biffle finishing sixth and Carl Edwards finishing eighth. Could it be that they are finally getting a grip on things over there at Roush/Fenway? Well… I think that remains to be seen, but it could be they are ready to get back into the mix of things for the Championship at the end of the year. Sure, I know the three of them are already in the top twelve, but they just haven’t shown the strength they did a couple of years ago, especially at the end of the season.
It really wasn’t a surprise to me, although to some, David Reutimann finishing in the top five was quite surprising. I still think this will be the year that Michael Waltrip Racing will win a couple of races and could actually have at least one of his cars in the Chase. Both Reutimann and Truex have been finishing closer to the top ten on a regular basis and that is a testament to the work they’ve put in over at MWR .
Many have been quick to criticize the Hendrick teams for their performance in recent weeks, in particular, the #24 team and their inability to “close” the deal at the end of the race. The criticism of the #48 team has been lack of performance and wins since Cup returned to the spoiler and got rid of the wing. Several have been critical of the #5 team simply because they haven’t shown the strength they did last year at this time in the season. And the #88 team… well… you know.
From this fan’s view, here is what I have to say about the Hendrick teams and the criticism. I know this could possibly, and will, be construed as partiality by some out there on my part and I have to be honest, I do like Hendrick Motorsports. But at the same time, let me be very clear in stating I have a lot of favorites spread over all of the teams and throughout NASCAR.
As for the #24, (in my opinion of course), in the last couple of years, Jeff Gordon and the #24 team finished many races in the top ten and also had many top fives. He led the points, was in the top twelve and finished strong in the last two Chases.
When it comes to the #48 team, (also in my opinion), Jimmie Johnson has generally been the beneficiary of what could be interpreted as “good racing luck.” Even when something bad happened during a race in the past couple of years, it seemed the bad luck turned into something good. Let’s not forget, the #48 team is Cup Champion for the last four consecutive years. As far as “racing luck” this year is has been a different story.
Mark Martin and the #5 team have had a decent year though it has not been as stellar as last year. If you take a quick glance at the standings though, you’ll notice the #5 team is in eleventh place and that puts three of the four Hendrick teams in the top twelve in the standings for the Chase (and let’s not forget who finished 1-2-3 in last year’s Chase…)
As for the #88 team… well… you know… (Some may say, well, at least it’s not as bad as last year?)
I speak now as an opinionated observer. Don’t count out any of the Hendrick teams for being right there fighting for the Cup Championship at the end of the year. I really don’t think we’ve heard all we’re going to hear from any of them. Consider this…
- If Jeff Gordon and the #24 team take all of their shoulda-woulda-couldas and put them at the end of the season in the Chase, it could be a fifth championship for the #24 Hendrick team.
- If Jimmie Johnson and the #48 Hendrick team get over their bad luck and possible test sessions and begin performing like they did at or near the final ten races in the past years, it could be a fifth Cup Championship in a row for them.
- If Mark Martin and the #5 Hendrick team just begin performing at or near the way they did leading into and during the Chase last year, it could very well be the first Cup Championship for the “old man” in NASCAR and his #5 Hendrick team.
- If Dale Jr actually starts performing consistently… well… you know…
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 19, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com
(All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PCNProductions.com)