Jeff Gordon’s large winless streak came to an end Sunday in Texas – where everything is big. But while Gordon had a giant weight lifted off his shoulders, other drivers felt huge swings in the points. Greg Biffle gained eight spots in the standings after his third-place Texas run, while Mark Martin’s sixth-place finish gained him nine positions. AJ Allmendinger’s ignition issues relegated him to a 34th-place finish and lost him five spots in the points, while Kevin Harvick and Michael Waltrip each lost four places after lousy runs. Inside the top 12, most drivers changed at least one spot, with Matt Kenseth leading the charge, climbing three spots to ninth after running fifth in Texas. Gordon also is seeing his points lead stretch, as you will find out in this week’s list of HOT, WARM and COLD drivers.
Jeff Gordon emerged from the final round of pit stops with the lead as Carl Edwards’s No. 99 team fumbled the ball badly, dropping their boy to 11th. Gordon won for the first time in 47 races. You knew it was coming eventually – just not at Texas.
How fitting is it that Jeff Gordon’s 47-race winless streak comes to an end at a track where he’s been winless for his entire career? Gordon was strong for much of the race, but it was a combination of a good pit stop by the No. 24 bunch and yet another poor stop by the No. 99 team that led to the coveted clean air needed for Gordon to pull away for the victory. The win may have been a long time coming, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise with the way the No. 24 team has been running this season.
Optimism ran rampant amongst several bubble drivers this weekend as Paul Menard, Sam Hornish Jr., and Joey Logano all posted top-12 qualifying runs. But qualifying pays no points and Texas is a big, fast, nasty track that some of the best drivers have yet to master. So, as the race began questions loomed for those with solid starts – would Logano finally break through with a great finish? Would Menard continue his success at Texas? Would Hornish run a race and not hit anything? For the answers to these questions as well as who’s in and who’s out of the Top 35, read on for this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown.
They say that everything is bigger in Texas; and in the case for most of the rookies and almost rookies, it was bad news that loomed large this past weekend. Brad Keselowski offered the lone bright spot as he once again shined in his Hendrick ride, finishing in the top 25 for the second consecutive race at the track. Marcos Ambrose may have also offered some good news if it weren’t for a faulty engine. I mentioned earlier this season that the No. 47 team may have an outside shot at the Chase, but they are quickly seeing those chances disappear as their engine department has not been able to keep pace with the rest of the team.
The 2009 Sprint Cup season rolls into April, and while nothing is carved in the sand, let alone stone, things are starting to become a little clearer for several teams. While some are living up to preseason expectations, others are struggling to live up to them. I’m going to take a closer look at the seasons of five of our preseason favorites – and see where they shake down six races into the year.
The lack of rookie incidents in last week’s race at Bristol certainly surprised me, but the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 sure made up for it. In an event that was appropriately named for this year’s freshmen, all rookies and almost rookies not named Ambrose ran into some sort of issue on the track or with their equipment. Speed certainly had to be the most disappointed leaving the track on Sunday evening. In a very similar fashion to what happened during the Las Vegas Nationwide race earlier this season, Speed fell victim to Busch, who uncharacteristically lost control of his car in the corner. If you think about it, Busch probably does not make a mistake like that more than twice a year – and Speed was the “lucky” man to be a part of both. Seems like that guy has to shake some bad karma moving forward!
The label of future Sprint Cup champion is liberally dispensed — but rarely achieved. In the 60 years of NASCAR competition, only 28 drivers have attained the hallowed crown – and it’s a pretty excusive club. 12 drivers have won a solitary championship, while another eight have won two titles. Five men – Jimmie Johnson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson and Lee Petty – have won three; Jeff Gordon owns four, while both the King and the Intimidator won a record seven apiece. I’m going to pick a number of current drivers and analyze their chances of winning a Sprint Cup championship at some point in the near (or far) future.
Kyle Busch was able to hold off teammate Denny Hamlin in the final two-lap shootout that decided the race. Geographically, it’s in the same place, but this joint just doesn’t seem like Bristol anymore, does it?
The results certainly weren’t much to get excited about, but I said last week that given their experience levels, both Rookie of the Year candidates should only worry about finishing at Bristol. Looking at it from that perspective, Speed met his goal and Logano certainly would have if it weren’t for some nasty engine gremlins. However, with five races in the books, both drivers should look at their respective points position as wakeup calls for the remainder of the season. Given the fact that there is no testing this year, don’t expect the duo to light the series on fire. However, with Speed now outside of the Top 35 and Logano squarely on the bubble, they’re going to need to step it up to avoid putting themselves in jeopardy of missing races. One top-20 finish between the two certainly cannot be acceptable to their teams, crews and most importantly, the drivers themselves.