I'm going to say it straight up: I love the Lowe's Motor Speedway. It's always been my favorite track because of the competition and what the speedway represents. Based right at the home of many of the teams, it truly is NASCAR's "Home Track."
This track has provided some of the most breathtaking moments in the sport's history. Each race provides a memory that every fan can remember for years to come.
Saturday night, the track added another chapter to it's book as NASCAR's finest did battle in the NASCAR Banking 500. This week's "Parks Race Reactions" will tackle some of the things that came about during and after the race.
Right away, I'm going to get the obvious point out of the way. I said it earlier, and this weekend it was proved beyond any doubt—Lowe's Motor Speedway is Jimmie Johnson's house. If there was ever a dominant car for an entire weekend, the No. 48 car was it.
Johnson led the first practice, then the second practice, qualified on the pole, and then led Happy Hour.
Then in the race, Johnson goes out and leads the most laps. Despite falling back in the middle of the race, Johnson powered back to win.
That gives him six wins at this track—the most among active drivers. Now, with a 90 point lead over Mark Martin, the championship seems to be coming ever so close to being in the hands of the No. 48 team yet again.
The only true obstacle left in the way of Johnson's quest is Talladega. It's unpredictable nature could change the standings immensely. That race is still two weeks away.
If Johnson survives 500 miles at that track, it's his title to lose.
You also have to give big props to Matt Kenseth. It certainly has been a year of more low points than highs for the No. 17 team. Saturday night, the entire team showed they can still run well and are capable of winning races.
A runner-up finish to Johnson is nothing to be ashamed of. Kenseth led laps, the pit crew once again did an awesome job on pit road, and stayed up front the entire race.
Very good night for the entire team.
The biggest night definitely had to go to the Richard Childress Racing teams. All four cars ran well the entire night. Both Clint Bowyer and Casey Mears finished in the top ten, with Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick finishing just behind them.
There is a lot of uncertainty with this operation right now. Questions are still being asked about Harvick's future at RCR, and sponsorship of Casey Mears's No. 07 has not been finalized for next season.
A night where all the cars ran well has been long overdue, so big congratulations go out to the Childress teams on a solid performance.
The two drivers you have to feel bad for coming out of Charlotte have to be Juan Montoya and Denny Hamlin. Montoya was running so well and has provided the biggest surprise in this championship run.
But, one restart led things on a major downturn. A crumpled up quarter panel, followed by some quick repairs, and then having the repairs fly off on the track. Montoya would finish 35th, dropping him to sixth in the standings.
Hamlin definitely had the worst night of any of the Chase drivers. He was poised to have a great finish after leading 54 laps early, the engine in his FedEx Toyota dropped a valve.
Rather than run on seven cylinders and risk bigger damage, Hamlin parked the car. His frustration was heard on the radio, but it was an issue beyond his control. His 42nd place finish moved him down to 11th in the standings.
It's been two very tough weeks for Hamlin. Next weekend is a trip back to Hamlin's home state in Virginia, as the Sprint Cup Series moves to Martinsville.
He won at this track last year, which was the only time in the last six races a driver other than Johnson has gone to victory lane.
Next Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 could play into the hands of some drivers behind Johnson in the points. But, they first must beat the No. 48 team. Just like Charlotte, he's got a stranglehold on this "paper clip" and he won't give it up that easily.
Coverage from Martinsville will be on ABC starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
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