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NASCAR at Phoenix After Thoughts: It Just Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

Denny Hamlin not only led the Cup race at Phoenix and the most laps, looked like he was going to have a big points day over Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick and then… had to pit for fuel. Yes, it looked like Denny would be traveling to Homestead with the other two having hardly a chance at catching him in points, but… yeah, that’s right… he had to pit for fuel. He literally dominated the race in Phoenix, was biding his time until the checkered flag would fall and then… Carl Edwards passed him with 46 laps to go and he… (yep, you got it)… had to pit for fuel. According to the way the day was going, he was just the first of many that should have had to pit for fuel and possibly tires on the last long green flag run of the day and, as the checkers fell, he was the one left out in the cold finishing twelfth while his closest competitors in the Chase finished 5th and 6th without a pit stop.

Yeah, for a day that looked like it was going to lead to the #11 JGR team heading to Homestead with a fairly good cushion of points (as most Chase leaders have in the past), well, it just didn’t turn out that way. In fact, there are three teams that will arrive in Homestead for the final race in the 2010 Chase with a chance of being the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion; (in case you’re really out of touch), that’s Denny Hamlin now leading Jimmie Johnson by only 15  points and Kevin Harvick by a mere 46.

From this fan’s view, that is exactly how the 2010 NASCAR season has been going. This has been one of the most competitive seasons (at the very least) and we fans have been the beneficiaries of how NASCAR can make rule changes that make racing more exciting for all involved. I know there are those that disagree with me, but it is awfully hard to argue with the facts.

Many thought Jimmie Johnson would do what he has consistently done at Chase time and jump out to a comfortable lead and coast to his fifth straight championship. Although there was a moment it looked like that may happen, so far, it hasn’t materialized. Jimmie and the #48 Hendrick team have had to fight for every point and use every tools in the tool box to stay in contention.

Denny Hamlin has made it known he and the #11 JGR team had a plan for the season. They weren’t going to show all they had until it was time and they were going to take it to the #48 team. Up until Phoenix, it looked like the plan was working and it did look like they were going to be the “Chased” at the finale in Homestead. Instead, that thing many call “racing luck” took the wind out of their “big Mo” and they enter this coming weekend with only a small lead over Jimmie Johnson and only a little larger lead over Kevin Harvick.

Speaking of Kevin Harvick, for someone that has been “flying under the radar” for so many weeks, he has certainly been the center of a lot of attention lately. If there is someone that could come from third place in points to first in the last race of the season, Kevin Harvick and the #29 RCR team could be the ones. He has consistently been counted out in many races and managed to finish at, or near, the front in more than many want to even think about. Leaving Phoenix with only a 46 point deficit between him and leader Denny Hamlin as opposed to what looked like was going to be 100 plus has to be a tremendous boost to the #29 RCR team.

From this fan’s view, Phoenix just proved what I’ve always said about Sprint Cup. No matter what it looks like is going happen, this is NASCAR and anything can, and probably will happen…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© November 17, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and

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By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.