Historically, Fontana has been known as something of a snoozefest. It got so bad, they dumped one of their two precious races in an attempt to make it look like fans were actually filling the stands. Really, nothing ever happened here! We were guaranteed seconds between the leader and the rest of the field. The super-wide surface does little to impress if you never see cars going side-by-side.
However, despite our long-lived ambivalent relationship with the two-mile track in the middle of the California desert, Sunday actually gave us a really entertaining race. What? Did the track pick up and move? Find a new configuration?
Nope, there was a perfect storm of racing and drama all mixed together. Remember when we were waiting for the season to start? It just did.
Kevin Harvick threatened to pull off a feat not seen since King Petty in his heyday, winning every race he attended for the past forever. Soiled Kurt Busch was given a car worthy of a champion, and he drove it like one. All the whispers of domestic violence were left on the sideline for the moment. The man who can drive like mad but can’t stay in a car long enough to prove it returned to his doctor’s office for yet more long-term treatment. You just want to cry for Mr. Vickers. The Gibbs crew figured out how to set-up their machines this week, with Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin running quietly upfront for the first time in what seems like forever. Normally silent Greg Biffle admitted that the Roush crew is suffering a slow implosion, and proved it by causing a wadded up mess on a restart when he failed to take tires and yet again on the last lap—feeding the conspiracy theorists. Meanwhile, the Hendrick Horsemen never really challenged for the win, which is beginning to be something to comment on. Why is it that their clones at SHR are having a much better time at the track? Even Tony had his moments of brilliance, finishing in the top half of the field for a change. Even the pair of Penske machines continued to dazzle, despite when it looks like they can’t change tires without garnering penalties.
How is it we went from a dearth of stuff to talk about to this wide selection, and so quickly? Well, it might have something to do with that California sunshine. Life is never interesting when you want it to be. We expected California to be fast, but yet somewhat benign. Not 180mph, three and four wide, rim-riding, bumpy thrills and spills. Heck, we even had a gas-mileage challenge threaten to end the day.
Thanks goodness for Lady Luck and Miss Fortune.
I realize that when they repave the now aged surface, we’ll likely return to the days of yore. However, until that time we can enjoy the shreds of excitement we were offered up this past weekend. Will we ever have as much to gossip about as the cars tick down the laps? You’ll have to check with the two ladies above.
2003 Subway 500
What a way to bookend the season. Jeff Gordon took the pole at Martinsville in both the Spring and Fall at the paperclip in 2003. Then he decided to pretty much dominate both races, adding a couple grandfather clocks to his already crowded halls. On such a small track, a dominant performance might only be marked by laps led, not by seconds. However, in the Subway 500 during the long green run to the finish, his teammate Jimmie Johnson never managed to stay within a second of the No. 24 for more than a lap or two. Considering up to this point in Gordon’s year he had led a grand total of 1500 laps, the fact that nearly 500 of them were collected in the hills of Virginia is remarkable.
Enjoy the YouTube clip, with Bestwick, Bennie and yes, even Wally Dallenbach calling the somewhat sedate race.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.