STP 400 Review: Close, But No Cigar
By Shannon Baxter On Mon, Apr. 23, 2012
Martin Truex Jr. has been on his game this season, with six Top 10 and three Top 5 finishes, including winning the pole award at Texas Motor Speedway. He has been oh so close to victory lane, but just hasn’t been able to get his second Sprint Cup career win.
It looked as if Sunday would be the day Truex would drive his No. 55 Napa Chevrolet to victory lane, after leading 173 laps and dominating the field all day. However, late in the race, his car got loose as the sun began to shine on the cold track. This caused Truex to lose speed, allowing fellow Toyota driver Denny Hamlin to steal the top position from him. Truex gave it all he had in the closing laps, pushing his car to the edge, but he couldn’t catch Hamlin’s fast FedEx Toyota.
Truex’s runner-up finish has gained him two positions in points, moving him to second place, just 15 points out of the lead. Heading to Richmond International Speedway, Truex has one Top 5 and two Top 10 finishes.
I think Truex’s next best chance of winning his first race of the season will be at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Coca Cola 600. He has good statistics on intermediate tracks, with 12 Top 5 finishes. He has also won two non-points races at Charlotte Motor Speedway – the All-star showdown race in 2007 and 2010.
Kahne’s Season Continues to Look Up
Kasey Kahne started the STP 400 in ninth position and remained in the Top 10 for most of the race. His eighth place finish at Kansas is only his second Top 10 of the season. Kahne’s back-to-back Top 10 finishes, at Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas, have moved him from 31st to 26th in the standings.
Kasey Kahne used a new spotter on Sunday – Kevin Hamlin, who is a former driver and a Richard Childress Racing employee. Kahne will use Hamlin for the upcoming races at Richmond International Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway while he searches for a solution to his spotter woes. Jeff Gordon’s former spotter, Shannon McGlammery, replaced Kole Kahne at Martinsville Speedway after confusion that led to a wreck at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kahne has been weighing out his options since, trying to decide which spotter he feels most comfortable with.
This week Kahne heads to the track where he won his first Sprint Cup Series race in 2005. He has three Top 5 and six Top 10 finishes at Richmond International Raceway. Although the season is still young, Kahne will need to get the ball rolling if he wants to make the Chase this year. With the wild-card Chase format, Kahne could also make the Chase simply by winning a race.
Earnhardt Currently Leads Hendrick Motorsports
If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season which driver of Hendrick Motorsports would be the most competitive this season, I wouldn’t have chosen Dale Earnhardt Jr. However, Earnhardt has regained his competitive nature that he seemed to have lost the past few seasons and his consistency is impeccable. So far in 2012, Earnhardt has six Top 10 finishes, including a second place finish in the Daytona 500. It seems as if his No. 88 team has finally found that chemistry they have been looking for and are ready to be competitive every week.
What’s most shocking about this season for HMS is not the fact that Earnhardt is running so well, but that the rest of HMS has had a less than mediocre year. As previously stated, Kahne is just starting to get his season rolling after struggling for the first part of the season - while Kahne’s teammates, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, have been flying under the radar.
Gordon has an average finish this season of 20th position and is 18th in points standings. His dissapointment after Kansas was evident after suffering engine issues and finishing in 21st position. Johnson has yet to win a race this season, but seems to be okay with just consistent finishes. So far Johnson has six Top 10 finishes this season. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out among the HMS team.