Consistency can be a cruel mistress. On the one hand, you have Mark Martin, nicknamed Mr. Consistency for his steady performance over a healthy 25+-year career. Martin wasn’t always the winner, but he was near the top constantly, gaining the respect of fans, drivers and owners for simply being there at the finish almost all …
Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked about racing at Charlotte after dark this week. “As late as it gets in the night, at this track,” he said, “The groove narrows up. It gets faster and faster on the bottom and there’s no time to be gained in trying to step up the race track or run the high line like you might during the afternoon. So, it’s a really fascinating race track in the middle of the day. But, as it gets darker and darker and cooler and cooler, the groove really shortens up. So you need to be in that top three, I think, to have a shot at it.”
Key Moment – On the final restart of the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. chose to start in front of teammate Jeff Gordon. When the green flag flew, Gordon stayed tight to Earnhardt’s bumper while Kyle Busch was several feet off of the bumper of Brad Keselowski. The resultant push put Earnhardt solidly in the lead …
He didn’t quite have what it took to get by Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the trifecta, but Denny Hamlin was stellar throughout Speedweeks, winning the Sprint Unlimited and his Budweiser Duel before coming home second in the 500. Hamlin, who also finished 2013 with a win at Homestead, is trying to bounce back from a back injury suffered in a crash at Auto Club Speedway last season. Hamlin made the decision not to have surgery on his back after fracturing a vertebra in the incident, and many questioned his decision as he struggled for most of the season following a return to the seat.
Denny Hamlin won the first two segments of the race and, even though he was at the back of the pack late in the event, was still the car to beat. Hamlin grabbed the lead for good on lap 74 and held off a charge by Brad Keselowski to claim his second Sprint Unlimited victory.
The Duels aren’t points races, so nobody saw their title hopes go up in flames like you might see at Talladega in October. However, the week’s activities did leave a few drivers behind the eight-ball to start the season. In particular, Carl Edwards has suffered what could be an early season blow, beginning with a hard crash in preseason Daytona testing. Last week, practicing for the Sprint Unlimited, Edwards wrecked his car for that race, forcing him to go to his Daytona 500 backup. His team made preparations to return to Charlotte for a replacement, which was a smart move because they’d need it: Edwards suffered another practice crash before having his primary car turned into sheet metal spaghetti in the first Duel.
Duel One – Kevin Harvick thought it was time to go, prior to the first green-flag pit stop of the race and he went, blowing by Trevor Bayne on Lap 37. That was pretty much all she wrote. The field spent the rest of the day simply trying to lap up Harvick’s beer exhaust, the Bud Chevy in another time zone just like the Sprint Unlimited Saturday night.
Duel Two – Jeff Gordon led. Then he sped… on pit road, so Kyle Busch pretty much took control from there. Kasey Kahne tried, and failed on the last lap to make a charge as teammate Matt Kenseth served as sacrificial lamb for Busch’s second career Duel victory.
Austin Dillon won both trips to the Bluegrass State in 2012 for the Nationwide Series, but his first one, the first Nationwide win of his career, was in dominating fashion.
NASCAR’s got to change! Isn’t that the platform just about all of NASCAR Nation has been chanting for the past few years? And yet even though we go to the voting booth (um, er, track) or don’t, things haven’t changed. Somehow the cookie-cutter tracks still make up the vast majority of our schedule, the leader …
Which of the smaller teams has been most impressive in 2012 and why?
Each week, Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch during the week ahead.
Kurt Busch was able to go from zero to hero on Friday night at Daytona.