Rating the race – Las Vegas can be exciting, sometimes just a real relaxing way to spend a SundayBy Ron Thornton
Why did I watch?
Well, I wanted to see if Denny Hamlin was going to race or not. I do not much care for Hamlin. Something about him has always rubbed me the wrong way. That may be about to change. After Phoenix, Hamlin made what I thought was a rather respectful critique of the Gen 6 car, and for that NASCAR got its granny panties all in a knot and fined him $25,000. Have at ‘er boys, but Lord help you if you hurt NASCAR’s feelings. Hey, if you got a nice sleek muscle car and you pull out to pass a line of traffic, and I can’t, you would be rather put out, too. You probably would not be near as respectful as Hamlin was. Was. Heading into the weekend, he was not going to pay that fine, they could suspend him in they want. This is a sport spawned from moonshine, oil, grease, and gas. Tell me, when did the governing body of ladies soccer take it over?
Hamlin is appealing the penalty, he got to race, and we know that in time cooler heads will prevail with the boy eventually paying the cash. We were left watching to see if the car might pay off on the first of the numerous mile-and-a-half tracks it was truly designed for.
It was bumpy on the inside and just plain slick everywhere else. We lost of lot of the boys, and the girl, early as ill-handling cars and a lack of cautions buried them deep. Ryan Newman was no where to be seen, until he blew up, to wind up 38th. Danica Patrick (33rd) did nothing all day. Clint Bowyer (27th) was two down and dead last 20 laps in, but at least he got one of those laps back. Jeff Gordon (25th) slid back quickly.
Where was Matt Kenseth? He was around but not the center of attention until late when all he did was win on his 41st birthday, his first win for Joe Gibbs. He did it by coming out of the pits ahead of the day’s most dominant driver, Kasey Kahne, who stayed on his tail waiting for that mistake that Matt refused to offer up. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards rounded out the Top Five, while Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Kevin Harvick all had Top Tens. Tony Stewart rode around a lap down for most of it, but he managed to get it back with just over seventy laps to go to end up 11th.
Rating the Race — 8/10
I liked it, I quietly sat back and watched it all, but I not once found myself on the edge of my seat. Maybe it was due to a track that offered some idiosyncrasies, with the bumps and the slickness and even a below the line shortcut. Only half the field stayed on the lead lap, though the top two were close right to the end. The announce team enhanced the action and the visuals were appealing, Some races can be downright exciting. This, on the other hand, was just a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
It was more than who was the leader of the pack. We watched Kyle aggressively move up on the starts, we wondered if Tony’s persistence would get him back on the lead lap, and we watched Joe Nemechek park just behind Michael McDowell early…again. This time, however, he returned to the track, to move from 42nd to 40th as Landon Cassill and Scott Speed tossed in the towel. Joe got to within a lap of moving ahead of Travis Kvapil as Nemechek earned his money on this day. It was relaxing and it was interesting to watch. Would I have had the same experience if ESPN had called this one? Probably not. However, the FOX team had me watching and kept me watching. That was good enough.
Sometimes it is hard to describe why you liked something, other than to realize that for some reason you just did. As for Hamlin, he had his issues but still managed to finish 15th. Now as long as he doesn’t try to answer another damn car question.