The Frontstretch: The Top Spot: California Dreaming by Brandon Daun -- Tuesday March 1, 2005

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The Top Spot: California Dreaming

Brandon Daun · Tuesday March 1, 2005

 

Last season, following every Nextel Cup event, I wrote an installment discussing the best and worst moments of the race. Well, with a new season comes new articles. Now the focus is primarily on the best moments, the top spots of the race. From the top driver to the top team, the top surprise to the top heartache, the best and worst installments are now much more interesting, and that much more optimistic.

Now that North Carolina is a simple memoir in the scrapbook of the NASCAR world, fans now look to Fontana for the second event of the season. This year, the drivers did not disappoint. After tire troubles and engine failures, the race narrowed down to a three car battle in the closing laps. Greg Biffle emerged the winner, while drivers such as Jimmie Johnson and Joe Nemechek were left wondering what could have been.

I usually try to find someone other than the race winner to be the top driver, but in this case I have to go with Greg Biffle. Biffle told the world he would lead by lap 5, and did not falter in keeping his word. Then, the third year veteran outraced Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson with a poor handling race car to claim his fourth victory in his career, and a second win in the last three races.

The top team at Fontana was the 48 crew. After every car using anything close to a Hendrick engine struggled to finish the 500 miles, team 48 managed to earn a second place finish. They were the only Hendrick team to finish in the top 20. After the performance they delivered at California, look for the 48 team to return to their winning ways in the next few weeks.

Joe Nemechek had the top heartache in the Auto Club 500. The 01 team led the most laps in the event and looked to be destined for victory lane, however engine woes resulted in a lowly 39th place finish. Nemechek had an opportunity to gain ground in the points, but after only earning 56 points in the Auto Club 500, Nemechek fell 12 positions in the points standings, and now ranks 24th in season standings.

The top surprise of the race? Obviously, the Hendrick engine fiasco tops the list. Jeff Gordon lost his points lead, Scott Riggs and Joe Nemechek had great runs ended by malfunctions, and only one Hendrick engine finished inside the top 20. It is always unusual to see a Hendrick car malfunction in a race, it is truly amazing to see all but one Hendrick engine fail an event.

At the next Nextel Cup race, Joe Nemechek and Scott Riggs will certainly be drivers to watch. Riggs had a great run at Daytona, Nemechek was near victory at California, and the team will be looking to continue their streak of success heading into the third event of the season.

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NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
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