The Southern 500 was back, and it seemed like every few laps we had a wreck or spinout. The lady in black was ready for NASCAR's best to hit the track tonight, check out who made this week’s winners and losers.
I think with all the talk of Mark Martin returning next year full time, we saw why tonight. They quietly ran what could be described a perfect race. They gambled and stayed out on one of the final cautions and were able to hold off a hard charging Jimmie Johnson.
These guys will be a team to watch as we go forward; they are tied with Matt Kenseth for wins and will be visiting victory circle many more times this year.
Martin still won’t do a burn out, but we won’t be to upset at 50 he is putting on a show for the young guys.
They are the organization to beat this season. Tonight they place four of the five drivers in the top 10; including Keselowski.
Jimmie Johnson he crashed in qualifying and started 43rd. In a backup car they raced their way to the front. It wasn’t pretty they spun out in the pits, got trapped in the pits and nearly spun out multiple times but when it counted they were there at the end.
It didn’t look good early on for this team but were talking about Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, if you are surprised they finished second then you must be new to the sport.
Jeff Gordon looked good early, but a loose wheel force them to battle back from a lap down. When they got the lucky dog this team quickly moved forward. They battled back for a fifth place finish and built on their point lead.
This team is doing something that last year they struggled with battling back when bad luck bites and working traffic.
A great sign for this team bad sign for the competition.
Brad Keselowski was the buzz this week with Martin announcement; if Keselowski was looking to make a statement he did just that. Driving a smart race at a tough track with the best in the world.Came home with a great finish Saturday in seventh.
If people questioned whether or not Keselowski could be a contender on oval, then he has answered that so far.
Attention Mr. Hendrick sign this kid quick before he goes elsewhere he’s your “Joey Logano.”
Stewart Haas Racing
I am not surprised to see one of these drivers in the top 12 but the other one has come on quick and both are putting Stewart Haas Racing on the map.
Tony Stewart we expected to run well, we expected him to run near the front but he is off to one of his best starts in his career and is quickly quieting the critics.
Stewart ran a solid race, Martin and Johnson pitted Stewart would be in victory lane. It’s only a matter of time before they win now. He finished a strong third.
Smoke has calmed down somewhat this season, but I am wondering when we will see the old smoke?
Ryan Newman is also quieting the critics and has rebounded quite nicely fro a rough start. He has put up back to back to back top five finishes.
He ran well within the top 10 all day long and was able to hold off Gordon late to finish fourth. Newman has moved well within the top 12 and he too should be collecting some wins.
Rocket man continues his climb up the standings.
Joey Logano looked the best he has looked all year. He gave great feedback to his crew, and he led some laps at one of the toughest tracks on the circuit. That alone is impressive.
Rookies don’t tend to run very well here but he proved that wrong tonight. Logano ended up ninth.
Logano needs to continue to do what he has been doing log laps and learn these tracks. So many tracks we end up running twice, that he should start contending more often.
As a rookie he has been impressive this year, we know it‘s tough to run with experience and win races but he is steadily improving and that’s a great sign.
Logano came so close to pulling off an upset of his own on Saturday, who knows he might be the next first time winner.
Regan Smith has finished every race he has competed in short sprint cup career all 47 of them. He only competes part time, and possibly has a full time ride next year.
Saturday he ran a solid race, while many of the more seasoned drivers struggled, Smith raced the race track.
Smith takes care of his car each week and he may not be sitting in top 35 but when they do race they are able to finish races.
Who knows as a part time ride they might be able to work themselves into the top 35.
He finished 21st.
For a couple weeks I have been trying to find a bright spot for this team. They could have won Texas and Talladega but late race pit issues, and the much talked about accident; this team has yet to win. This years championship favorites are in somewhat of a slump.
They ran well within the top 20 all day but on lap 283 contact with his teammate Greg Bifle sent him to the garage and out of contention. He finished the race in 32nd.
I am not sure if they are trying to pull a Jimmie Johnson and struggle early on in the season and come on strong at the end but they have to make the chase first.
Kyle Busch was never happy with this car and he never made it to the front. They struggled all night with the handling and finally smacked the wall on lap 273 ending his bid to win two in row.
Busch for the second night in a row suffered a cut tire that ended his chance at a win. He ended up finishing 34th.
Busch has not been as dominate in the cup race as he has been in the other two series this year. The good thing is they weren’t alone in their struggles but they still seem to be missing something that they had last year.
Busch probably glad to be leaving the lady in black she was awfully cruel to “Rowdy” this weekend.
Michael Waltrip Racing
This team struggled early and often. During practice they weren’t very good and that translated into qualifying which showed up during the race.
Michael Waltrip and company completely missed the setup they were never able to get a handle on this car and it culminated with his car exploding and fire lighting up the track. Thankfully he walked away unharmed but his machine destroyed.
He went on to finish 40th.
Waltrip has been a ham when it comes to cameras but his shoes taped with “I love u mom” was a nice touch.
David Ruetimann was solidly in the top 12, until the last couple weeks. He ran in the top 15 for most of the day but on lap 257 he hit the wall and that alone ended his night. For the rest of the night he rode around, but finished the race in 29th.
Falling out of the top 12, he needs to rebound if he wants to get back in it. He is still the best car at MWR and that says a lot.
A few weeks back he was one of the hottest drivers now he is wondering where that fire went. (see Waltrip)
Greg Bifle for the second year in a row this team had the car to beat and didn’t end up in victory lane. On lap 295 he spun out trying to get back to the lead. They battled back for an eighth place finish. Points: Ninth
Kevin Harvick needed a good run tonight. After consecutive weeks of poor finishes both that were not of his fault, he needed to finish the race; in one piece. He ran well withing the top 20 all day and finished 11th. It might be to late but he needs more finishes like this if he wants back into the the top 12. Points: 21st.
The lady in black was out and was taking no prisoners with a record 17 cautions. There was some talk of the tire issues early this weekend but from what we saw the tire wear was not extreme. The speeds continued to increase as the night wore on which was expected.
Darlington is a tough track to run and if you survive this race and either keep your position in the standings or increase you have had a good night.
HMS, SHR and Penske Racing are clearly the organizations to beat this year.
If organizations like Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing and even Joe Gibbs Racing want to be a factor they are going to need to get to work and figure out a way to beat HMS and SHR and Penske Racing.
Fox coverage was pretty good this week and the stands were pretty filled although I doubt it was a sellout, but still even with tough economic times the tracks continue to sell tickets.
Race Grade: A
I am being generous because the racing was pretty good and races that come down to fuel and tire strategy always cause intrigue.
On to the All-Star race in Charlotte, I will still do a race recap even though its a non-points paying event.