The one thing about short-track racing is that no matter what you do, at the end of the day, there will be some crumpled-up sheet metal. Whether you're leading or at the back of the pack, a dent in the car is normal.
I love this kind of racing because you can have the worst-looking car on the track and still be competitive.
Sunday saw the final short-track race of the season, the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville, and what an event it was.
What a great run by Denny Hamlin. A good run was long overdue for this team. Two rough weeks at California and Charlotte really put this team behind and you could see their confidence was low.
Sometimes a trip home is exactly what a team needs. It may not be Richmond, but it was still Virginia. Hamlin was on his own stomping grounds and he proved he can still do the job.
It was a case of deja vu as Hamlin found himself again ahead of Jimmie Johnson late in the race. Flashbacks of the spring, when Johnson bumped him out of the lead for victory, had to be in his head.
Not this time. Hamlin held on in a green-white-checkered finish to win the race. Nice work by the entire FedEx team.
Speaking of Johnson, it's becoming clear that the first 26 races really don't matter to him at all beyond seeding in the Chase.
At this point, Johnson could start the Chase in last and somehow figure out a way to win. He's now got a 118-point gap over Mark Martin and is in the driver's seat for another title.
In the words of Martin himself, here comes the "lotto" race as NASCAR makes the move to Talladega. It's going from one extreme to another in consecutive weeks.
On Sunday, the drivers were braking hard and banging harder on a half-mile oval. In six days, it will be all about full-throttle, close quarters and drafting with restrictor plates.
Just thinking about this race brings back memories from the spring. The big wreck happened early in the race, wiping out many of the top contenders after just a few laps. However, the major fireworks were still to come in the race's final laps.
Seeing Carl Edwards' car airborne and into the fence is a lasting image of the season. It completely overshadowed Brad Keselowski's victory, his first in Cup and the first for owner James Finch. It's a danger that every driver faces when the series descends on the 2.66-mile tri-oval.
There is only one thing sure about Talladega, and it's that nothing is for sure. Sunday will certainly be interesting when the green flag flies at the Amp Energy 500.