Tony Stewart has said in the past that it takes at least five races to see which teams are going to be strong for the long NASCAR Sprint Cup season. As drivers and teams move on to Race 8 of 36 point events in season 2013, some took good point results with them. Others faltered.
Jimmie Johnson retained the point lead again. Brad Keselowski kept his second-place spot. Both had top-10 finishes. Kyle Busch moved up to third after a solid win in Texas. Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle were a part of group up front at the checkered flag to move up two positions at fourth and fifth, respectively.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has struggled during the past two races and slipped three spots to sixth in the points. Teammate Kasey Kahne didn’t have a strong day either and dropped two spots to settle in at seventh.
Martin Truex Jr. couldn’t break his 210-race win drought, but he did pull off an impressive second-place run. A good late pit stop by Kyle Busch’s crew probably doomed a victory by Truex.
Select driver quotes often tell more than the math in points. Sometimes great results are not good enough. Sometimes poor finishes aren’t always devastating.
Drivers in the top five in NSCS—Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle—had comments after Texas. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. shared their feelings about recent efforts.
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
Jimmie Johnson summed up this race fast and likely moved on mentally with his stable habit of limiting distractions.
“We fought hard all day but we just didn't quite have enough to pull off a win in the Lowe's Chevy,” Johnson Said. “It was a great effort by Chad (Knaus) and everyone. We just came up a little short.”
Kyle Busch (No.18 Toyota)
Kyle moves to third place and credits his pit crew for this most recent win. Busch and Jimmie Johnson have two wins already in 2013 going into Race 8 at Kansas City.
“Great race car,” Busch said. “Dave Rogers (crew chief) and these guys gave me a great piece today. We ran up front all day long. If it wasn’t for my pit crew, who is the most awesome crew ever and since 2008 we’ve been together—haven't had any changeovers. Man, those guys were awesome. They pulled out one heck of a stop right there at the end to put us up front and give us that lead and to be able to bring it home.
“They know when it’s crunch time.”
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
Carl Edwards has had a much better showing this year than last year, but he is more cautious than buoyed by better results.
“We’re definitely in the dart-throwing phase.” Edwards said. “I think we might even have a blindfold on while we’re doing it. We’re in a little bit of trouble, honestly. We have to be better. I think Greg was decent and we got it dialed in at the end, but that was a mad panic all night. I think we just have some work to do. I think the tire kind of threw us for a little bit of a loop tonight. I think a lot of people struggled, but we definitely struggled as much as anyone. But, no, I don’t feel ultra-confident if we had to come race here next week that we could pull off a third again. We did test at Kansas and I felt pretty good about our test there, but this track here, this was a struggle.”
Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford)
Greg Biffle and team seem to speed under the radar from week to week with good finishes. Like Busch, he credits his team for good results.
“I got a pit road penalty with 100 to go and had to start at the tail-end of the longest line behind the wavearounds, so that made it a tough night to get back to fourth, but my guys did a great job,” Biffle said. “They got me back up there. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be standing here. We had a really tough car to drive. It was very hard to drive. We’ve just got to keep working on it. We’re not quite as good as a few of those guys, but we definitely had a top-five car. Maybe if we would have qualified up there and been up there all night we could have worked on it and got it a little better, but it was still a tough night.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had two tough races and slips out of the top five, but he and team are still in the top 10, and it’s early in the 2013 season. Earnhardt isn’t panicking.
"It has been rough, but we had a really good car tonight,” Earnhardt said. “If we were running bad and having these kinds of nights we would have a hard time making that Chase, but running good eventually things will turn back around for us. We will get going. We have a lot of confidence. We've got a lot of positive attitude and feel like we will have no problem rebounding."
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet)
Jeff Gordon and team are having good and bad production this season, but in 15th position right now, they are well within Chase striking distance.
"I'm not sure maybe a burned wheel bearing or something,” Gordon said. “No signs just went down the back straightaway and went to go to the brake and the brake pedal was spongy and the car just didn't turn. I thought I had a left-front tire going down. Man that was unfortunate. That Cromax Pro Chevy was awesome fast. It was so much fun to drive and what a great job this team has done to prepare for this weekend and hopefully more to come on these mile and a half's with more cars like that. We’ll learn what happened and we’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Most importantly, we know we have a fast race car and we know we can put another fast race car out there on the track.”
Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56 Toyota)
Martin Truex Jr. may seem tired of coming in second, but if that’s a frequent happening, there would be a solid place for him and his team in the Chase.
“We started near the front and had a decent car at the beginning, but not great,” Truex said. “We worked on it all night and got it to where it was the best car out there. You know, the last caution came out and we got beat out of the pits and that was the race. It was pretty frustrating to run second again. I feel like we've been in this boat and this position a bunch of times.
“You know, nothing about it is much fun. At the same time, it was a good run for us. We had a great weekend. Had a good race car all weekend long, and we learned a lot about things we can use in the future. Just running second sucks, especially when you're that fast.”
These fast drivers will have fresh words for the next race in Kansas City on April 21 and all hope their Gen-6 car that comes off the hauler there will have instant speed.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.