Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rating the Food City 500: 4 Stars ****

After the first off-week of the season, the big boys got back in the saddle again at NASCAR’s coliseum: Bristol Motor Speedway. While the stands were not jam-packed for the first time in 55 races, there was still some pretty good racing on the track itself. The first short track event of the season gets a 4 Star Rating.

Once again, Jimmie Johnson and the #48 team brought home the trophy Sunday afternoon. That lucky horseshoe helped out again as Johnson was able to move past the cars in front of him on the final restart with 10 laps to go. It always seems like the #48 has four tires at the end of the race when many other teams only take two, and Sunday was no exception. Had the final caution not come out, Kurt Busch would likely have been standing in Victory Lane throwing groceries.

Right now every team that challenges the #48 team comes up short. Johnson has already has the best car on the track the majority of the time, and then always has the correct strategy at the end. Rarely does the #48 fall victim to somebody else having a better strategy at the end of the race, as they did when Johnson came up short on fuel at Michigan a year ago.

What’s scary is Johnson and Chad Knaus just seem to keep getting better and better as they go along. With Johnson’s win at Bristol, there are very few, if any, tracks where Johnson is not one of the favorites coming into a race. It is going to take one heck of an effort for a different team to when the championship this season.

People may not like it, but we are watching possibly the greatest run of success any team in the history of NASCAR has had, with the exception of Richard Petty and his 10 race win streak in 1967. If Johnson continues to add to his early season success this season, he will add that dominant year to his resume that Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon have. If Johnson is going to win like this, it would be cool to see him make a run at Gordon and Petty’s modern era record of 13 wins in one season.

Other positives from Bristol include it being the last race of the wing. There was only one champion in the wing era: Jimmie Johnson. Glad that’s over. Also, for once the leader of the race didn’t jump out to a huge lead after each restart. Yes it’s a small track at Bristol, but the second-place car was able to hang with the leader side-by-side on several restarts. In the past few races at Bristol, the leader would jump out to a big lead and the field would have to wait until he caught lapped traffic before reeling him back in. That was not the case so much Sunday, The leader only jumped out to a sizeable lead a few times, with most of those being Kurt Busch as, like Gordon at Las Vegas, he had the dominant car throughout the day, only to be nipped by Johnson at the end. If the spoiler fixes that issue, look out folks. This is going to be a fun ride.

Next week the series moves to the grand old track in Martinsville, Va. This track had some of the best racing of the season last year, and with plenty of drivers upset at this point in the season, this race could be a lot of fun. However, don’t bet against Johnson and the #48 team again this week. If he won at Bristol, one of his worst tracks, just think what he will do at Martinsville, one of his best tracks. In any case, it will be great to see the rear spoiler back on the car. Hopefully each team is able to pick up where they have left off and one team doesn’t figure it out long before everyone else, because that would almost certainly be the #48.


  1. Nice post. I really don't want to have to watch Jimmie win 13+ races this season. Just curious, what made this a four star race instead of a five star one???

  2. It would have been 5 stars if Kurt had won Gonger! LOL

    I have to agree with you Mayer - What 48 team is doing is impressive and although I would prefer some other teams catch up and learn how to beat them, I have to admire them all for what they have and are accomplishing. Truly impressive.

    If Kurt's pit crew hadnt been so stellar, beating the 48 crew out of the pits every single time - then Kurt would have been in the outside line and in VL too...

  3. Gonger - At this rate he'll have that many wins by Daytona in July lol. Four stars this week instead of five because, for me at least, this one didn't leave me standing in on my feet as they crossed the finish line, and then realizing I haven't taken a breath in the last ten laps. The racing was good throughout, but the final restart reminded me a lot of the last one at Atlanta two weeks ago.

    klvalus - Although it is unimaginable now, there will be a time when we look up and think "Man, hasn't it been a while since Jimmie Johnson has won?" I don't think anyone could have imagined a day when that would be said of Jeff Gordon, but here we are.

    Busch's line was impressive all day. Any car that can make the bottom work is really set up well in my opinion. But, he had to work awful hard to make passes down there during the race. I think he would have dominated had it still been the old configuration.

  4. Maybe JJ is trying to dominate all year, instead of just the last 10 races, to finally prove to everyone that he is one of the great ones.

  5. Gene - We have seen other drivers come out and make a statement on the track when criticized on one aspect of their style (Kenseth in 2004) but they haven't been able to sustain it. Will be interesting to see if Jimmie can.