Congrats to Tony Stewart in Las Vegas who gets his earliest ever win in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Catch NASCAR.com’s highlights here. We’ll get a little more in depth on Tony’s victory and more after the jump…
Darian Who? I mentioned in the Vegas preview that Tony Stewart wanted to get to Victory Lane quick this season before people started questioning the release of former Crew Chief Darian Grubb. You could tell that his new Crew Chief Steve Addington had this car running good at Daytona and Phoenix if you were watching the race, but not if you looked at the results. Tony got caught up in a melee in Daytona and may have had a problem with the new EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) System in Phoenix. This stuck him in 15th in the points. There were no problems Sunday in Las Vegas, however, as Tony won a race for the 14th consecutive year and rocketed up 8 spots to 7th place in the point standings. He dominated Vegas last year but a pit road mistake by his crew cost him a victory. The #14 team was able to get two birds with one stone in the desert.
Jimmie: Don’t want to beat a dead horse, but it seems as if the #48 team may want to start every year in the negative or just skip Daytona. It has sure served as motivation so far as Jimmie Johnson gets his second top five in a row and jumps up to 23rd in the points from 37th. He may get another boost there if the appeal panel reduces his points penalty for the Daytona infractions. Either way, chances are Jimmie will go into a stretch of tracks that house many he is very good at without his Crew Chief for at least a few races. The real test will be how he can get through those races and how much more he can improve his points position.
1-2 Punch? There has been no greater combination of drivers that have finished 1-2 in their careers other than Richard Petty and David Pearson. However, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have now finished 1-2 13 times with Jimmie leading the way with 7 victories. Something to keep watching for out of these two future Hall of Famers.
The Busch Bros.: Well the boys haven’t had a great start to the season. Only 1 top ten combined between the two of them. It was assumed by many that Kurt would struggle since he would be racing out of the small-time Phoenix Racing team. He had a hard hit yesterday in Vegas in a crash for his first DNF. Kyle also took a spin at Vegas after he cut a tire. He finished 23rd, one lap down. Kyle has to be more frustrated at this point as he needed some vindication after a horrible end to the season in 2011. He looked primed for a thrilling Speedweeks after a memorable Shootout victory but hasn’t made a lot of noise sense. Bristol suits both Busch brothers’ racing styles so look for improvement out of them both.
Biffle: He was my pick to win yesterday but just didn’t have enough to get it done. However, his third consecutive third place finish leaves him 10 points ahead of 2nd place Kevin Harvick in the standings. This is Biffle’s first points lead since 2005. It appears that Biffle and the #16 team have sorted out the inconsistency issues that plagued them last season. Bristol is the next test for this team.
EFI: More EFI trouble for teams. It hit Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger on Sunday. For an in depth article you can look here. Keselowski tried to gamble on fuel and stay out for track position when nearly everyone else pitted. However, under caution his car stalled and when he got to pit road they discovered there was still fuel in the tank. This is the second race in a row where the #2 Dodge had fuel pickup problems. A.J. Allmendinger also had fuel pressure issues that may be related to the new technology. Keselowski was fined last fall after EFI testing for making complaints about the system publicly. He could not be baited into commenting this time.
Dodge: Dodge unveiled the new Charger for 2013 (seen above). It looks great but who will drive it? Dodge Motorsports President Ralph Gilles says, “With the way our phone is ringing, I’m not too concerned. It’s been a pretty positive thing. With every storm there’s a sunny day later.” Who is on the other end of the line? Rumors had already placed Richard Petty Motorsports as a possible Dodge team in 2013. Who are the other teams in the mix? I doubt there are any bigger teams than RPM blowing up Dodge’s phone but what about a smaller outfit like Tommy Baldwin or BK Racing?
Danica: Decent 12th place run on a 12th place qualified car. More importantly, she needed a quiet race after the last few weeks.
Harvick: He’s quietly sitting in second place in points with finishes of 7th at Daytona, 2nd at Phoenix and 11th at Las Vegas. What’s more surprising so far is the different strategies that the team has taken so far. They have been more on board with gambling a bit with both fuel and tires than they did last season with Gil Martin as Crew Chief. New Crew Chief Shane Wilson also has Happy Harvick qualifying better with 8th at Phoenix and 3rd at Las Vegas. Qualifying was a point that the team pointed needed improvement. Also, leading laps is another improvement so far with 92 laps led already this season.
Dale Jr.: Speaking of improvement and laps led… let’s talk about Dale Jr. I’m sure you already heard that he led more laps yesterday (70) than all of 2011. But, did you know that he currently sits 4th in points which is a career high after 3 races. Now I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but this certainly bodes well for those of you thinking that Dale can finally break through for a victory. Let’s hope it is soon.
Thanks for reading and we’ll be back Friday with more about the #48 team appeal and a Bristol preview. Leave your comments about the race below!