The old joke is that I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out. Well, Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway wasn’t that bad, but it seems the little skirmish between Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears seems to have taken away from what was a fantastic finish.
The racing was good throughout. It may not have been at the front, but back in the field, it was fierce. Harvick was the first dominator and then it was Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski. Gordon led the most laps—173 of 400, but it didn’t seem like that much. He always had others trying to pounce and get by him. My selective memory was of the 2012 champ, Keselowski always being there, especially on short runs. Finally, Matt Kenseth came from the depths of the field to make a charge near the end of the race, and the show began.
Regardless of your prejudices on driver manufacturer, driver, or team, it was a great show. Let’s face it; it’s going to be a Penske and Hendrick show for awhile. Hendrick, the most well financed team will always be up front and Penske seems to have figured out the new rules and you can see the No. 2 and No. 22 cars every race. Roush-Fenway and Richard Childress Racing just haven’t figured out the situation enough to be competitive, but they will. Among the Hendrick cars, Gordon’s No. 24 team and Earnhardt’s No. 88 car are doing well. The same can’t be said for the No. 48 and No. 5. Yes, that will change. It always has. With a lot of lip service from the media, the Ganassi and Richard Petty Motorsports teams have come close, but pale in comparison with the Hendrick and Penske teams. The Gibbs cars just seem to be a tad off. Denny Hamlin was not a factor on Saturday night which shocked me. Kenseth came on at the end only to make others mad and faded at the end. Kyle Busch had to take four tires to make a run which was too little and too late. Roush-Fenway is just lost right now. It took pit strategy to get Edwards in the top 10. Greg Biffle is struggling and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. is another nationwide champ who isn’t doing much.
The result is competitive racing regardless of who is in front and who wins, if not from only a few teams. Yet, I can’t help but think that Joey Logano has finally come of age. I keep watching him and he always seems to be around at the end. Statistics say he’s only had five finishes in the top-five this year, but he’s always there. The same could be for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon. Logano, only 23 (soon to be 24 in May) is not much older than the favored “next great thing” duo of Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon. It’s a plus that Logano has what appears to be better equipment right now than either driver. Also consider that Logano has five more years experience than either of those drivers. Maybe because the 23-year old Logano has been in the top series of NASCAR so much he is considered a veteran, but he is showing the kind of dominance that Gordon and others have shown at a young age.
The fight? Oh, yeah—I forgot. Casey was upset with Marcos and Marcos must have been upset with Casey. Casey didn’t say much and we haven’t heard from Marcos. Casey grabbed and pushed Marcos and Marcos retaliated with a right hook. Casey had a swollen eye, and even though he said you couldn’t forget things like that, said the punch was good considering that most post-race fight were swings that missed. In other words, it’s no big deal, or is it? We will find out at Talladega. Maybe.