During the 2011 NASCAR season, one thing is for sure: Points matter.
The top five NASCAR drivers in points after Daytona were Carl Edwards, David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya. The top five after Phoenix were Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, A.J. Allmendinger and Jeff Gordon. Kurt Busch was the only driver to stay and move up.
Jeff Gordon advanced 21 places to get into the top 10, while Carl Edwards dropped 11 positions to be out of it.
A win or a DNF (did not finish) can have a lot of impact with the new points system, which is much easier to understand while allotting far fewer points.
Tony Stewart summed up the start of the season with a good observation about team effort:
“You don't know till you get four or five races into the season whether what you've done is good enough to be better than what they've done over the winter," Stewart said. “If you're grown as much as they've grown or caught up.”
Heading to Las Vegas for the third race of the season, this week’s top performers bring precious points and ready thoughts about the fast track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Kyle Busch [No. 18 Toyota]
“I watched Vegas being built from the ground up," Busch said. "I remember when it wasn’t anything but a gleam in Richie Clyne’s (track founder) eye—all those guys who made that place happen.”
Kurt Busch [No. 22 Dodge]
"We have shown a lot of potential through the years in the Vegas races, but we’ve yet to be able to put together many strong showings from beginning to end,” Busch said. “I just get a strong feeling that our luck on our home track is going to change for the good this time around. I only have to look at how things have changed so drastically at tracks like Charlotte and Daytona. I know we can see that trend continue this weekend at Vegas.”
Tony Stewart [No. 14 Chevrolet]
"It's no different at Las Vegas than anywhere else. You have to get the car to rotate through the corner, but still stay tight enough on entry and exit," Stewart said. "There’s no unique challenges there. The track is really smooth and that lets you work on the attitude of your car, and I think that’s a luxury that we have there that we don’t necessarily always get everywhere else because every track has its unique set of bumps. Vegas has bumps too, but for the most part, it’s so smooth that you can really fine-tune the attitude of the car."
Jeff Gordon [No. 24 Chevrolet]
“Whether it was spinning the tires on a restart or getting collected in a crash while having a fast race car, we just didn’t get it done at places like Phoenix, Las Vegas or Texas," Gordon said. “But we had a really fast car last weekend and were able to get the win. And while we get to enjoy it for less than a week, we’re going into this weekend’s race wanting to win just as much.”
Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Brad Keselowski, [No. 2 Dodge]
"Vegas is very fast for a mile-and-a-half track, and it can be one of the most challenging places for setting up a car,” Wolfe said. “There is a fine line you have to walk between fast and wrecking and there is little margin for error.”
The most points a driver can earn in a single race is 48. The race winner receives 43 points plus three additional points. Leading a lap earns one bonus point, and leading the most laps gets another bonus point.
Jeff Gordon earned the most points possible in his Phoenix win, and was awarded 48 points. That’s why he advanced 21 positions to be amongst the top five leaders. Points may not necessarily have a big impact in Las Vegas, but it’s certainly a development to watch in season 2011.
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