Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rating the Shelby American: 2 Stars **

Plenty of energy surrounded the Las Vegas Motor Speedway throughout the weekend and the weather Sunday was perfect. However, the race was a bit of a letdown as Jeff Gordon dominated and should have won the event going away, but instead the default winner rolled into Victory Lane. While there were good parts to the weekend, the race gets a 2 Star Rating.

So much for Jimmie Johnson waiting until the Chase to get things fired up. He is now on pace to win 24 races this season. The COT was supposed to create parity? Wait, a COT with a spoiler was supposed to create parity, or maybe Johnson is just really good. Anyway, Johnson and the #48 team continue to prove it is the Petty, Earnhardt, Gordon, etc. of this generation. As much as everyone hates it, Johnson’s dominance is remarkable. Maybe for once the Chase will actually hurt Johnson because at this rate he could have a hefty points lead come September.

As this is the Monday Morning Crew Chief post of the week, it would be fitting to second guess a decision made Sunday, and this one is pretty obvious. Steve Letarte’s decision to go with two tires on the final pit stop cost Jeff Gordon the win. When both Gordon and Johnson were on the same set of tires, they ran similar lap times and the #48 was doing its best just to keep within striking distance. When Gordon took two tires, the race was over. Gordon probably had the stronger car, and did hold onto the lead for several laps before Johnson could make the pass (during a commercial). It’s hard to find possible reasons for taking only two tires in that situation. Had the #24 gone with four tires, there is a very good chance it would have beat Johnson out of the pits anyway. Looks like Gordon passed on the lucky horseshoe to Johnson around 2002 or so.

However, Gordon’s domination of the event did serve notice that he will once again be in the running for the championship as the season winds down toward Homestead. He hasn’t dominated an event like that since the early part of last decade in a few races at Dover. But, back in those days he finished off the deal and won the race. That is where things have changed.

OK, enough of Hendrick Motorsports talk. There were other things that made this a less-than-stellar event. Friday, the entire TV compound went down so viewers missed the last half of qualifying, one that included Kurt Busch setting a new track record. Then Sunday, the caution lights malfunctioned twice, bringing out two unnecessary cautions. However, I suppose this is better than debris cautions. So far, only one debris caution on the year in the Sprint Cup Series. Thank you NASCAR.

Next week the series comes back to the Southeast to run at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This is always one of the better tracks on the circuit and, with the progress Goodyear has made in the tires, this could be the best spring race at Atlanta since the COT was introduced.

Although Johnson is winning everything right now, Kevin Harvick has been right behind him in the past two races. He could well be a factor again this week as he had a car capable of winning the Labor Day race at Atlanta in 2009. Have a fantastic week everybody.


  1. Agree with your rating this week, JM.

    Gordon defended Letarte after the race. They expected more lead lap cars to take 2 tires and act as a buffer between Jeff and whomever took 4 tires. Then JJ would have to work harder to get through traffic before he got to Jeff. Letarte would have looked like a genius if it worked.

    Seems like it's always the leader who gets screwed on late pit stops. What if Letarte took 4, and EVERY other car on the lead lap took 2. He would have looked like a clueless jackass. To lose like that, after leading so much, would have been worse than the way they did. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

  2. Nice post once again. It was a pretty smart idea of FOX to go to commercial during the exciting portion of the race... lol. Right when two cars were racing side by side for the lead...

    I have a feeling Gordon's pit crew had track position in their heads on that final stop. They were just unlucky because everyone else decided to go with four tires...

  3. JM, good post. Harvick initially was going to go with 2 tires but changed his mind at the last minute and went with 4. That's why he overtook Gordon late in the race. But he was too far back to catch Johnson.

  4. Gene - Gordon should be commended for sticking up for his guy, not every driver does that. However, Johnson had pit stall #40, the fourth stall in, and Gordon had stall #15. Surely Letarte could have looked down, or had a spotter look, and see what other teams were doing at that point and could have changed the call while Gordon came down pit road.
    Also, Johnson always seems to have four tires at the end of races like this and, like Sunday, generally wins.

    Gonger - Right. lol. After missing qualifying they miss the pass for the lead. I think FOX is the best NASCAR network, but this was not a fantastic week for them.

    jon_464 - Harvick did what I think Gordon should have done. Harvick had stall #12 and had a chance to see what other teams were doing before making his stop. He is off to a great start. Best we have seen from him in a long time.

  5. 2 stars at best...Vegas has lots of hype and fun to go there but not really to the race! I fell asleep during the NW race in the stands when I went in 2005 propped up between to big fat guys who fed me popcorn all day! LOL

    Ah those were the days...

    Anyway, the CC's are damned either way it seems and not as easy as you think to check on what other teams have done just 5 seconds before you hit your pit. They dont usually like to change directions once the guys are on the wall or big time mistakes are made.