Kenseth Proves Daytona Wasn’t Luck
Several fans had a bitter taste in their mouth about the ending of the Daytona 500 last week – and rightfully so. When you have a driver who hasn’t won a race in over a year and he suddenly wins the sport’s most prestigious race after taking the lead one lap before it rains, fans have a right to hesitate when giving credit to the winner. But what most people don’t realize is that Matt Kenseth put himself in position for that Daytona victory whether it rained or not; and this week at Fontana, he proved the win was no fluke.
The Wisconsin native is the first driver to win the first two races of the season since Jeff Gordon over 10 years ago; and don’t look now, but Kenseth has two wins and averaged a ninth-place finish in nine races at Las Vegas, as well.
This is not how the No. 88 team hoped to start 2009. After the controversial accident with Brian Vickers and 27th-place finish in the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. struggled off the trailer in California and succumbed to engine failure just as the team seemed to be heading towards the front, finishing 39th. There was talk of Junior feeling the pressure to succeed following Daytona; and last night, he had the look of a broken driver.
With that being said, it’s still WAY too early in the season to count Earnhardt out, and Junior Nation needs to realize that the No. 88 team is still strong. His confidence may be rattled, but you’ve got to think there will still be some good runs ahead.
Different Year, Same Story for Lil’ Busch
Kyle Busch seems to be picking up right where he left off last season when it comes to success across the sport’s three national series. After two second-place runs in the Truck and Nationwide races last week at Daytona, he answered back with two wins and a third this week at California.
Expect much of the same throughout the rest of the season, as Busch’s Truck and Nationwide equipment is far superior to the rest of the competition. His No. 18 Sprint Cup car ain’t too shabby, either, with Busch recovering nicely from his Daytona crash and subsequent 41st-place finish.
The cat in the hat seems to have this whole spring race at Auto Club Speedway figured out, as Kenseth’s second consecutive victory of the season was Jack Roush’s fifth consecutive win at the 2-mile oval. All five Roush Fenway cars spent considerable time in the top 10 and Greg Biffle had perhaps the best car on the track before running over his air hose on a late-race pit stop.
I understand the importance of trying to get kids interested in NASCAR; but if I have to see that animated gopher one more time, I’m going to have to “Wack-A-Mo.” Seriously, the Gopher Cam is cool, but do we really need to hear DW, Larry Mac and Mike Joy plug Digger during each segment? Do the millions of ADULT fans want to hear about a cartoon character every five minutes? And I thought “Boogity, boogity, boogity” was annoying.
Notes to Ponder
- Surprise Through Two Races = Waltrip: Anybody else notice Michael Waltrip sits seventh in points?
- Rookies Struggle Again: The year’s supposedly stout rookie class hasn’t quite performed as well as expected yet. Joey Logano’s 26th-place finish was the best for a freshman driver this season, and both he and Scott Speed‘s Sprint Cup teams sit outside the Top 35 in owner points.
- Atta Boy for Morgan Shepherd: One of the most impressive runs this weekend was Morgan Shepherd’s surprising 19th-place finish in Saturday’s Nationwide Series event with an unsponsored car.
- Scary Crash for McDowell: Taking the Michael Waltrip career path, Michael McDowell is making a name for himself with scary crashes. His most recent one resulted in a scary fire in the Nationwide Series event, negating a top-five qualifying run and solid race performance from the JTG Racing driver.
- From Bikes to Cars: Ricky Carmichael seems to be adjusting to NASCAR quicker than expected, finishing eighth in just his second Truck Series start.
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