Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rating the Ford 400: 4 Stars ****

The 2010 Sprint Cup Series championship came down to the wire Sunday in Homestead. The then-four-time-defending champion stepped into the #48 car in second place in the points standings, but once again jumped out on top. The championship race at Homestead gets a 4 Star Rating.

Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson, the #48 team and the #24 pit crew. This was by far the most challenging championship season for this group. In the past, they had dominated the competition by so much throughout the first nine Chase races that they could come to Homestead and cruise to victory. However, this time they had to go out and take it from the grasp of Denny Hamlin and the #11 team.

This race certainly didn’t go as planned for any of the championship contenders. It did, however, for Carl Edwards. The #99 car took the lead on lap 4 and led 190 total laps to dominate the final race of the season. Martin Truex Jr. had a car that could hang with Edwards, but a cut tire on a restart with 68 laps to go took the #56 car out of contention and ended a mediocre season for that group.

So, qualifying did matter. As Hamlin tried to make his way through the field after starting 37th, he pushed the issue and spun down the backstretch after contact with Greg Biffle on lap 23 that started a tough day for the #11 team. Hamlin admitted before the race he was nervous, and those nerves may have come into play and resulted in the wreck. They say you have to lose one before you can win one, and that was true for Johnson, so maybe this is just part of the learning and maturation process for Hamlin. One thing is for sure, a Joe Gibbs Racing car is going to be in contention for many years to come.

With 81 laps to go, Harvick’s pit crew got him out first and he was set to lead the field to the restart with Johnson eighth and Hamlin ninth, almost the exact scenario needed for Harvick to win the title. Then the crushing blow hit the #29 team square in the face, Harvick had sped down pit road. While it may not have mattered in the end, the penalty destroyed most of Harvick’s chance at the championship, as he had to spend the rest of the race making up ground he lost on the penalty.

Johnson is now a five-time champion, and that is simply amazing. Sure, people like to hate him and the #48 team for being great; that’s fine, at least they care. But, don’t bash NASCAR because Johnson continues to win. If Hamlin or Harvick would’ve won Sunday, those same people would be thrilled and say everything in NASCAR is great. Instead, there will be those who say the racing is not exciting anymore. That is simply untrue.

This season was filled with everything a motorsports fan could want. Nearly every change NASCAR made during the offseason turned out to be a positive this season. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn around and make changes this offseason just for the sake of making changes. There have been plenty of times in the past decade NASCAR has gotten in its own way. Don’t do it again this year. Most of the races were fun to watch, even at some tracks that aren’t known for exciting racing, the leader rarely jumped out to a huge lead right after a restart, there were less debris cautions and the championship came down to a fantastic three-way battle. What’s to change?

Now we’ve come to that time of the year again, where the cars roll back under the cover of a garage for the winter and the NASCAR gear goes back into the closet until those beautiful February days roll around at Daytona. Is it too early to get excited about Speedweeks? Only 89 days until the 500.

Thank you to all the Monday Morning Crew Chief readers this season. It has been a pleasure to discuss my favorite subject each week. Look for the final rating Dec. 7, the Tuesday after the awards ceremony where the season will be rated and have a blessed Thanksgiving.


  1. Another good one jmayer!

    It was certainly exciting, edge of your seat racing...

    Here's looking forward to the 2011 season and reading your excellent take on each week's races!

  2. It was a great season.

    In Johnson's case, you have to loose one, to win five!

    Thanks for the read, and have a great Thanksgiving!

  3. Dwindy1 - That it was. It's been a fun ride. February isn't that far away, right?

    CR_Racing - Good point. Even the years Johnson didn't win, he always had a chance. That group is just amazing. It's going to feel really strange when somebody else wins the championship. Wonder when that will be.

  4. It was a great season, and a great Chase. I don't know why the ratings and attendance can be so down.

    All the changes that NASCAR made led to better racing or were for fan appeal, like losing the spoilers, and going with the Pony cars in NW. They have at least one more change in the works... dropping the front splitter on the Cup cars.

    I enjoy the MMCC every Tuesday... what IS up with that? LOL

  5. 89 days?? I'm looking at the calendar and marking days already. The news of the changes at Hendrick has my blood pumping. Hopefully the 48 won't be the only Hendrick car to win.


  6. good job, jmayer...agree with the rating and Gene's assessment of being a great season and Chase :)

  7. JM, good job this week and all season. I'd have given the race a solid 4 stars. Had Harvick not been given the penalty, HE'D have finished right behind Johnson. And who knows how good his car would have been in clean air? It WAS a season to remember, to be sure.

  8. Gene - Agreed. At least the splitter braces will be gone next year. That's a step in the right direction.

    Why Tuesday? Some things just aren't meant to make sense. lol.

    JD - Yeah, big news out of that camp. Interesting moves to be sure. Thank goodness there are holidays to break up the monotony of these three months.

    tezgm99 - It was exciting for sure. Really glad to see some excitement in the sport again. Also, with the way the RPM cars ran Sunday, next year might work out pretty well for Marcos.

    jon_464 - That speeding penalty was a killer. Nice restraint on Gil Martin's part to only punch the computer screen lol. Harvick would've been in perfect position at that point in the race. Hopefully NASCAR doesn't screw things up in the offseason and change the points system again.

  9. I'll try not to be so late to the final MMCC!

    I have much respect for JJ - to think he has only been in nascar 9 seasons and won 5 of them - that is INSANE! I'd love to know if he can win without Chad though...

    I agree, the racing this season was outstanding from start to finish. Let's hope for the same next year with a different champ!!