Another weekend, another wild finish, and another Jimmie Johnson win. In some ways, the race and result brought a collective yawn. Johnson racking up another win is about as surprising as the sun rising in the morning (at least that’s how it seems sometimes). That Kevin Harvick ruled three-quarters of the race may have also been part of the overall reaction.
Johnson’s win, as he earned his second of the season, broke the pattern of drivers claiming a spot in the Chase field. If you’re a Johnson fan you’re now free to check out on the regular season – though it wouldn’t be surprising to see the No. 48 team rip off a few more wins now that they have no pressure and are free to tinker at will.
For Harvick, the second-place finish continued his habit of not winning. For a driver nicknamed “The Closer,” one that has always seemed more media contrived than one of truth, Harvick should be racking up wins on a better basis, especially with the fast cars he’s had. Instead, a quick glance at the wins list shows that Kyle Busch has more wins than Harvick, besting him 34-32.
The Johnson-Harvick dynamic is an interesting one considering that it often looks like Harvick controls 90% of a race only to have Johnson sweep by and ostensibly steal the win. But it’s not like those two are the only ones running up front. And perhaps the biggest issue with some of the racing is how late cautions, manufactured or not, have been the thing to influence the outcome of the races.
What once was the green-white-checkered is now overtime, but the name change has changed little. Running 99% of the race only to watch all the strategy get compromised for a two-lap battle that is hardly indicative of the preceding events has become a norm in a way. Go figure.
While bunching up the field is entertaining, maybe it’s time to look at everything surrounding overtime – from pit regulations, to how many laps the overtime should have, to whether or not there should be one at all.
Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Just like the Chase isn’t going to go away.
Let’s get happy.
Happiness Is…Lawsuits. Perhaps one of the more intriguing storylines that has come about this season is Mike Hillman’s lawsuit against Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing. Our Sean Fesko covered it here. Basically, Hillman was left out of the deal that brought a charter to CSLFR. There are a number of things surrounding this story that provide insight into the inner workings of NASCAR and how the charter system is part of it.
First, the lawsuit itself shows how important the new charter medallions are. These medallions are the new currency, something that, for now, holds massive value. That value will likely fluctuate but for now it brings guaranteed money and that is what really matters. For the teams struggling in the 37-40 overall points standings, their return on investment is speculative, but a charter medallions is solid.
A second aspect that the lawsuit shows is the money involved in buying owner’s points as well as the cost of running a one-off for a given race. While the new system makes for a switch from owner’s points to renting a medallion, the cost seems to start at $25,000 a race, provided that race is not Daytona.
Though NASCAR indicated that they will publish the cost of medallion sales in the future, as an organization they cannot be happy that these figures are making their way to the public. The lawsuit has the potential to show many of the workings of the sport and should be fascinating to follow.
Happiness Is…Consistency. Cup series champion Kyle Busch had quite a weekend at Fontana. He made a mockery of the field in the XFINITY race at Auto Club Speedway, only to watch it slip away when his left front tire blew out and he limped his car to the finish. The brash Busch rejected all media obligations owing much of it to his frustration in losing, but also in the fact that NASCAR failed to throw a caution as his car spewed debris around the track.
The next day Busch found himself on the other end of the questionable caution call when he blew his right front tire with a couple laps left. This time NASCAR threw the yellow, though Busch wondered why it hadn’t been thrown much earlier.
The issue that comes to the front is something that has been a problem for quite a while: just what brings out a caution? Much like the National Football League seems to have difficulty determining what a catch is, NASCAR hasn’t quite settled on what is and what is not a caution. For the weekend, and to Busch’s chagrin, both instances made for rather entertaining endings.
Happiness Is…Rumors. Silly season isn’t what it used to be. Hasn’t been that way for a while. The one rumor that has circled about is the one involving Kevin Harvick replacing Kasey Kahne at Hendrick Motorsports. This rumor is one that makes too much sense to actually happen. Harvick not happy driving a Ford next year. Kasey Kahne struggling to be even a mediocre driver. Hendrick with money. It’s not likely to happen, but the mystery surrounding the possibility is at least enjoyable as drama.
The other rumor that surrounds the sport is the possible inclusion of a new manufacturer. This one seems to come about every four or five years with little happening. But Brian France threw this one out last week and one wonders whether or not there’s any validity to it. Matt Dillner, however, dropped a note stating that Audi (of all companies) may be the one looking to join – a move that would be a good deal cheaper than trying to get into F1. Either way, both rumors are worth some attention.