A Wild Start to 2013By Jason Schultz
Wild is just one word to describe the start to the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season. After five races last season, we sure didn’t have any rivalries and we were just complaining about the lack of action in the races. 2013 is a different story. The action we’ve seen so far this season has just been incredible. From heated tempers to Danica mania, the storylines just keep rolling in. NASCAR introduced the Gen 6 car for this season and that car is likely the result of the electrifying start to the season we have had.
Each race so far in 2013 has had its own storylines. Daytona had the anticipation of the start of the season along with Jimmie Johnson winning his second Daytona 500. Phoenix included Carl Edwards breaking his winless streak. Vegas contained a chase between Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth. Bristol featured hot tempers between former teammates. Fontana had a wild last lap that left everyone speechless. To say 2013 is off to a good start would be an understatement; it is off to a phenomenal start that no one had expected.
It was only six short weeks ago that the anticipation meter for the start of the season was at an all-time high. Gen 6, Danica, and Daytona racing were what fans were most looking forward to when the green-flag dropped in the Great American Race. February 24, 2013 was the day we were all waiting for since the 2012 season ended. The 500 didn’t disappoint, but it didn’t include the wild racing we were sort of expecting.
Once the checkered flag fell in the race, Jimmie Johnson was in victory lane again and everyone was reflecting on the race. It was a calm-natured race which was what we weren’t expecting up until the Saturday before the race. The Nationwide Series wreck that sent 28 fans to the hospital the day prior to the Daytona 500 sort of scared the drivers and told them to run a safe and clean race which is what they did.
Danica finished eighth which was better than we expected and the one thing we could all agree on was that we hoped NASCAR could make a few changes to the restrictor plate package before we head to Talladega. The Gen 6 car didn’t entirely disappoint, but it could have been better. As the Daytona weekend went away, some people were scratching their heads and reality had set in for others since the season was about to get rolling real quickly.
The race out in the desert was another calm race which featured teams still trying to figure out the Gen 6 car. Passing was at a minimum and drivers were starting to get anxious, because they wanted their teams to figure out this car a little bit faster so they can be more competitive. Carl Edwards broke his winless streak that afternoon after having the dominant car of the day. The Denny Hamlin spotlight was placed on Hamlin after he said a few words after the race regarding the performance of the Gen 6 car. That led NASCAR to issue Hamlin a fine which would begin the talk of Hamlin for at least the next four weeks.
Finally, it happened in Vegas. The true identity of the Gen 6 car showed through and most everyone was pleased with the race in which Birthday boy, Matt Kenseth, won. Passing was seen regularly throughout the race and the last few laps featured an intense battle for the win between Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne. NASCAR said prior to the season that they hope the Gen 6 car would bring more excitement to the sport and the finish in Vegas proved what they had thought. Overall, the race was definitely thrilling and the exciting racing would carry over to the next two races.
This race had almost everything we hoped a Bristol race would have. The race featured hot tempers, plenty of carnage, and good hard racing. Kasey Kahne redeemed himself after coming up short at Vegas and he took the checkers. Much like the race last August on the revamped surface, the race had plenty of carnage. Most notably, when Jeff Gordon was leading, his tire blew out and he went up into the wall and second-place driver, Matt Kenseth plowed right into him. That wreck was a game changing incident in the race, but it was overshadowed by the wreck that came before it.
We all know what happened that afternoon with Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. The wreck and then the exchange of words in the garage area is what have had everyone talking for the past few weeks. This feud between the former teammates boiled over into the next race at Fontana and it all started in classic Bristol fashion.
To be honest, everyone had this race marked as a snooze-fest. The opening laps sure indicated that, but the Logano/Hamlin incident that carried over from Bristol is what made this usually boring race, a must-see. Kyle Busch had held the keys to the race throughout the day and after a last-lap pass which was full of luck, Busch opened victory lane with those keys. Much like the race in Vegas, the last few laps featured an intense battle between the drivers going after the win. What was special about this battle was that it showcased two rivals who didn’t want each other to win.
Logano and Hamlin were battling side-by-side as they went down the backstretch and once they entered turn 3, everyone watching the race knew what was going to happen. Logano slid up into Hamlin and both drivers wrecked while Busch sneaked by on the outside to grab the victory. Logano was able to salvage a third-place finish out of the race following his wreck, but Hamlin was less fortunate. As you all know, Hamlin crashed hard into the concrete wall prior to pit entrance and all he could murmur out was “my back, my back, my back.” Hamlin was seriously hurt and Logano had gotten his “pay-back,” but this was much worse than it should have been. The race at Fontana sure wasn’t the calm race we thought it would be and the action didn’t end on the track.
Logano had picked another fight with Tony Stewart on the late restart and the two went at it on pit road following the race. Stewart threw a punch and Logano threw a water bottle. Stewart then called Logano “a little girl” and a rivalry was born. These incidents left everyone saying, “I can’t wait for Fontana next year” and that is something no one ever expected to say. The Gen 6 car had done its job and Fontana was a perfect example of NASCAR’s goal with the car.
What a start to the season. This was one beginning that no one had ever predicted. It only took four races for the drivers’ tempers to melt and that is something that will make the next 31 races must-see events. NASCAR hit the jackpot with the Gen 6 car and it only took five races for us to come to this conclusion. If it only took five races for the season’s action to pick up, what could possibly happen in the next five and beyond? One way to find out is to continue watching NASCAR’s drama unfold as the season hits full-speed.