Pole positions at the July event at Daytona as well as Talladega in the fall were the highest statistical marks for Mark Martin and the No. 5 team this season.
After the chaos that is Talladega, a pair of shoutouts go out this week. One goes to Dave Blaney, who worked all day with Brad Keselowski, hanging back for much of the race only to close at the end and finish third. The finish was a career best for Blaney, who runs for a small-time team in Tommy Baldwin Racing. Speaking of the smaller teams, two others made some real noise at Talladega as Casey Mears and Landon Cassill raced at the front of the field all day until the late-race mess destroyed their hope for a great finish. These are three drivers fighting for the sponsorship just to race, and they showed this weekend that they can get it done when the playing field is truly level.
With the issues that the No. 22 Penske team had with getting Kurt Busch’s car through inspection on Sunday morning – and apparently the past few weeks – some have suggested that the issue lies with Busch’s constant berating on the radio, and demoralization by way of despondent driver. But who in this dysfunctional relationship …
Brad Keselowski beat Jeff Gordon off pit road during the race’s final caution, blew by two-tire Martin Truex, Jr. on the final restart and made the rest of the Bristol field look like they were the ones driving drunkenly impaired on Miller Lite. Gordon tried to catch him, but alas, Bristol is the new half-mile Fontana: fresher tires made little difference while aero and track position took center stage – even at 15 seconds a lap.
2011 has been a disappointing season for Greg Biffle, but it looked like this week would signal a turnaround when Biffle grabbed the pole on Friday. The No. 16 looked strong in the early going, but by the end, faded to 20th. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for the Roush Fenway team, whose sponsorship is up in the air after 2011. Really, it was a disappointing day for Ford teams in general, with just Matt Kenseth able to score a top-10 finish at the end. This after the manufacturer and their new FR9 powerplants looked to dominate the intermediate tracks earlier this year.
While David Ragan was collecting his first win (anyone else see that coming after his near-miss in the Daytona 500?), a longtime friend and competitor of Ragan’s was racing amid a swirl of rumors about his future and came up big this weekend. Joey Logano showed that his win on Friday in the Nationwide Series was no accident, finishing third on Saturday night for the weekend’s best average. Logano and Ragan grew up racing together, starting in Legends cars, and both find themselves at a career crossroads, subjects of intense speculation about their futures in the series. Both delivered at a critical point this week.
Listening to NASCAR’s preseason announcements and Saturday night’s broadcast of the Budweiser Shootout has been much the equivalent of listening to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Change. Change everywhere, as far as the eye can see. And to be fair, when the Sprint Cup Series (or much of it, anyway) took the green at Daytona …
Hendrick Motorsports played crew chief musical chairs this offseason, giving Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin a breath of fresh air. Will any of the three benefit from the arrangement, and if Junior struggles again, do you expect him to leave the Hendrick camp a year early?