By Jared Turner
- This Might Be The Rainiest Season Ever
How shocking was it that rain played such a factor in Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, a desert track located in one of the driest areas of the country? It seems that no matter where the Sprint Cup Series has gone this year, wet weather has inevitably followed. Sunday’s situation might have been the most frustrating to date, however, as initial forecasts for dry weather proved erroneous when rain pushed back the start of the race by more than six hours. Then, the rain ultimately returned and forced NASCAR to call the race almost 100 laps prior to its scheduled conclusion.
- Wins Don’t Mean Everything
They say that winning is more important than ever in NASCAR’s top series. Indeed, it can be. But sometimes consistency is still king. Such was the case for everyone except Jeff Gordon in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. While Gordon punched his ticket to the Championship Round with a win at Martinsville Speedway in the first race of the Eliminator Round, the other three drivers who advanced to the winner-take-all title race did so on the merits of consistent finishes – not a trip to Victory Lane. Winning isn’t the only formula for advancing in the Chase, even if NASCAR would like to convince us otherwise.
- NASCAR Isn’t Kidding About Restarts
In the drivers meeting prior to Sunday’s race at Phoenix, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series managing director Richard Buck warned that any driver who jumped the race’s initial start or any subsequent restart would be penalized. Buck and NASCAR made good on their word. Chase driver Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet inched just ahead of Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy coming to the green flag to start the race. Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion, subsequently was issued a pass-through penalty by NASCAR for being just a little too quick on the gas. The penalty effectively ruined Busch’s chances to get a win.
- Hendrick Can Suddenly Do No Wrong
Remember not all that long ago when much of the buzz in the NASCAR world was about Hendrick Motorsports’ uncharacteristic mediocrity? Indeed, the organization with the most wins and championships in the history of NASCAR’s top series was shut out of Victory Lane for all of June, July, August, September and October. But with Jeff Gordon’s Championship 4-clinching win at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson’s come-from-behind victory at Texas and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s soaking-wet triumph on Sunday at Phoenix, it’s safe to say the Hendrick boys have officially returned to their front-running ways.
- Future Looks Promising For Dale Jr.
Since falling out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in controversial fashion at Talladega Superspeedway when he finished second to Joey Logano following a lengthy NASCAR review of the final finishing order, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished fourth, sixth and first. Had the sport’s most popular driver made it to the Eliminator 8, those numbers would have been plenty enough to send him to the Championship 4 for Sunday’s winner-take-all season finale. Although he can now only wonder what might have been, the good news is that Earnhardt is finishing the season on a strong note.