[media-credit id=40 align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]This weekend it was a race against Mother Nature. The rain was coming. They could see it coming on radar and they could feel it coming as the temperatures began to drop. But the on track action at California Speedway never cooled off. Not until the rain was falling hard enough that the cars were circling on a track that was already lost. The rain was relentless and it only took 30 minutes for NASCAR to say “Lets Go Home Boys.” That left the series champion and the fastest car on the track to win the race while sitting on pit road.
California has long been known as a fuel mileage race. Its reputation of being a snoozer of a race cost it ticket sales and eventually a date on the schedule. But today, it was anything but. The racing was dynamic with cars running side by side daring passes and speed. Many teams were racing for half way feeling sure the rains would come. Come they did but a little later than most had planned.
Kyle Busch would lead the most laps in a dominating style. He took the lead from team mate Denny Hamlin on lap number two and held it until Tony Stewart made a gutsy pass in traffic as Juan Pablo Montoya held up the leader. A kiss with the wall a few laps later would drop Busch back in the running order and leave Stewart to dominate the rest of the race.
By the end of the green flag run Hamlin had made it to Smoke’s rear bumper but the rain began to fall on the back stretch and the yellow flew. Hamlin’s crew chief felt that there was a clearing in the radar and they would get the race restarted and called Hamlin to pit road. Smoke pulled the fake and then back on to the track but said later, “I doubt very seriously that we suckered him onto pit road, so to speak. I’m sure him and Darian had their mind before they got there,” stated Stewart. Hamlin would finish 11th.
Stewart’s second win in 5 races gives him his 7th win in the last 15 Sprint Cup Races an impressive statistic. More impressive when you realize that it is his 46th career win tying him with Buddy Baker on the all time win list. Stewart doesn’t usually show strong this early in the year however. He is normally a summer bloomer. When asked about his early success Smoke said, “It’s been nice to get off to a good start this year the way we have. Like you said, the history shows in the last 13 years we have not had the strongest starts the first third of the year. I’m really, really excited about the start that we’ve got going. “
Kyle Busch would finish the day in second place after his brief encounter with the wall and dominating early. But he wasn’t sad to see the race called for rain. “Had a great car. The Interstate Batteries Camry was fast. Can’t say enough about those guys, Dave and everybody, for putting together a really good car this weekend. Wish we would have been able to race the whole thing on one hand, but on the other hand I’m kind of glad we’re not because we kind of have a little bit of damage that slowed us down there about 20 laps ago,” said Busch.
Perhaps the most impressive run of the day came from Dale Earnhardt Jr who put together a flawless day. Flawless on the track. Flawless in the pits. And it garnered him a 3rd place finish. Earnhardt Jr seemed pleased with the result saying, “We had a really good car. The car was really quick in practice at the end of the day yesterday. We carried the same car into the race. I was real happy about that. We started off moving forward. Had some really good pit strategies, pitting a little bit earlier than most guys. Steve brought us down pit road and we gained a little bit of time, passed some guys on pit road.
We drove the car up to fifth before the weather came. We had been watching the weather all day. We felt certain if it started to rain it wasn’t going to stop. We made the right choice by staying out and building ourselves into the top three.”
All in all, it was a great race. Great action all around the track no cautions, the cars ran pretty much together allowing for lots of passes and the display of many skill sets. Yes it was shortened by rain but the pace of the race didn’t show any signs of dropping off. Maybe that is the answer for California. Shorter races with more intensity instead of long fuel managed races. It would certainly improve the strength of the competition for an already challenged venue.
Team Chevy had an incredible weekend as well. Winning at Chico in the World of Outlaws with Donny Schatz, Sprint Cup with Tony Stewart and IndyCar with Helio Castroneves.
Another item this weekend from the social media of NASCAR was the call from Jennifer Jo Cobb for tire money for Talladega. This irks me. It also irks me when Kenny Wallace begs for sponsor support on Social Media. Why you ask? Because I can’t help but think that the least endorsed and the man with the least money in NASCAR never takes to the social media waves or fan sites and begs. Not one time have you ever seen Morgan Shepard ask a fan for money or to help him find a sponsor. Instead Morgan leans on his faith and offers help to his fans and any fan that asks him for help. Whether that is a few moments of his time or a prayer to guide them through a difficulty. Morgan Shepard races with a dignity and professionalism that we seldom see anymore. But then if we take the sponsor that is on his hood to heart we find the reason he does what he does. I would highly encourage you to look beyond the celebrity and notoriety and ask yourself before giving money or working to help a team find a sponsor how will they manage next week? If I give them $10,000 for tires this week who will give them $10,000 for tires next week? Will they even finish the race or will they have the same mechanical issues that keep them from finishing the race every week?
Congratulations to this weeks winners. Donny Schatz in Outlaws, Joey Logano in Nationwide, Helio Castroneves in IndyCar and Tony Stewart in Sprint Cup the competition was awesome and enjoyed. And somehow even though Mother Nature cut short the Sprint Cup race one has to feel that for a change Motorsports beat Nature.
That said, to all the competitors in all the series thanks for giving us everything you have to give, you are our heroes. Most importantly, thanks to all the families who shared their loved ones with us so we could cheer our favorite driver and favorite teams. You are the true heroes of the sport and we are forever in your debt.