Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped a 76-race losing streak at Michigan on Sunday with a fuel mileage win; but should NASCAR have allowed Junior, who passed the pace car on more than one occasion in an effort to conserve fuel, to retain the top spot?
Did You Notice? And I know it’s been mentioned countless times already, but three days later I still can’t get over the irony of Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning his first race for Rick Hendrick on Father’s Day. The bond these two share has been well-documented, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize what was on both of their minds during that special day. I mean, just think about what Junior said in Victory Circle; the first points-paying win in two years, to the point where a monkey was clearly lifted off his back, and he referenced Happy Father’s Day about three times.
2. Would You Like Fries With That? – Joe Gibbs Racing driver phenom Joey Logano, continuing to live up to high expectations set by the sports media and NASCAR insiders — such as respected veteran Mark Martin — set a new mark for the youngest driver, at 18 years and 21 days, to ever to win a Nationwide Series race. Logano, piloting the JGR No. 20 Toyota, crossed the finish line more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Scott Wimmer in the Meijer 300 at Kentucky. “Three starts, two poles, one win. He’s OK,” said a very pleased Dave Rogers, Logano’s crew chief. What were you doing at 18?
Joe Gibbs Racing scored its 10th win in 16 Nationwide Series races on Saturday night, and this time added a fourth winning driver to its roster. Joey Logano, after scoring his second consecutive pole award, scored his first career Nationwide Series win in convincing fashion, leading five times for 76 laps, including the final 54. Logano took the lead for the final time on lap 147 when he passed teammate Kyle Busch. Busch, who started at the rear of the field after missing qualifying due to running the truck race at Michigan, rocketed to the front of the field and led 85 laps before wrecking himself late in the running in a single-car incident.
When asked if the races at Pocono Raceway should be shortened to 400 miles, track owner Dr. Joe Mattioli said that the 500-mile races are done for television, and that the networks want the extra 100 miles to sell more advertising. Is there merit to this argument, or are the races at Pocono so long as to be detrimental to TV? Based on this week’s race, is there any reason for Pocono to stay at 500 miles?
Did You Notice? That one of the compelling themes in NASCAR as of late is proof of the phrase, “Nice guys finish last?” David Reutimann is the latest example; known as a man who won’t bump anyone out of the way in order to get to the front, Reutimann got loose with Clint Bowyer oh-so-close behind him in the final laps of the Nashville race on Saturday night. While Brad Keselowski went on to win, Reutimann – who had been in position to take the checkers before a late-race caution bunched up the field — fell back to a fourth-place finish on older tires.
This weekend saw a changing of the guard of sorts in professional motorsports, as two young drivers finally broke through to score their first career victories in their respective series of competition. Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tennessee, 24-year-old Brad Keselowski began his own Cedar Revolution of sorts, able to finally escape trouble and notch his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory. And only 12 hours later, just north of the border at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, 23-year-old Robert Kubica of Poland recorded his first win in Formula 1 competition, taking the checkers in his BMW-powered Sauber machine.
In a Nutshell: Saturday’s race was dubbed the “Opportunity 300,” the first of numerous standalone events for the Nationwide Series this summer — and a number of drivers took advantage, making runs at their first career wins. But while Joey Logano was untouchable in the early going, and David Stremme ran up front all race long, it was Brad Keselowski in the No. 88 who cashed in, scoring his first career NASCAR victory on the 1.33-mile speedway. Stremme, David Reutimann and Clint Bowyer all stayed out on the track trying to stretch their fuel to the end, but a late-race caution allowed Keselowski — who took four tires later in the race — to run down the leaders and score JR Motorsports’ second series victory this season.
A rookie phenom’s “potential for success” has an ephemeral quality with a fragile will-o-the-wisp consistency. Yes, it could happen and the budding star might become one of the greatest of them all but those cases are, for obvious reasons, rare. Sometimes it does happen as scripted and a kid comes from nowhere to become first a star, then a legend, and finally an icon. More often than not, early promise burns out – snuffed out by a combination of being pushed too fast too early and unrealistic expectations generated by too much hype. It’s too early to tell on which side of the equation Joey Logano will ultimately fall. But on the ridiculously small sample of one race weekend, you have to like the teenager from Middletown, Conn., who has all the right pieces and parts to make the transition from over-hyped teen to full-fledged NASCAR star.
Q: How about my boy Kyle Busch? Not only is he dominating on the track, but he’s become NASCAR’s bad boy. Am I wrong to think that his driving style and persona are more like Dale Earnhardt’s than even the Intimidator’s son and fellow 2007 free agent Dale Earnhardt Jr.?