Thursday, April 28, 2011

First part of 2011 season has been as good as any

All of a sudden it seems like years ago Jimmie Johnson beat Clint Bowyer to the finish line by .002 seconds at Talladega as the Easter break allowed everyone to take a deep breath before they get after it again Saturday night in Richmond.

Having the holiday fall between the Talladega and Richmond races isn’t all bad. It gave everybody a chance to thoroughly dissect the style of racing at Talladega and bring up all of the issues about restrictor-plate racing anybody could ever want to talk about.

Overall, the finish at Talladega continued what has been a pretty good first quarter of the season. If people had been told there would be seven different winners in the first eight races, they would have said this is going to be the best season in a very long time. It’s pretty difficult to have any wider variety of winners, from rookie Trevor Bayne to five-time champion Johnson.

While nobody has stepped forward and really dominated any part of the season thus far, I think that still may happen as the weather warms up. The current configuration of the car seems to make it difficult to stay up front consistently, which leads to a lot of lead changes and many different winners. The first eight races this season have averaged the most lead changes at the quarter point of the season with 38.5, the most ever. Also, this is the most different winners the series has seen to this point in the season since 2003.

Another positive so far this year is the lack of delays because of weather. Yes, there were major storms that rolled through Talladega two weeks ago and they canceled the ARCA race and shortened Cup practice, but neither a Sprint Cup qualifying session or race has been affected by rain.

To get through Speedweeks at Daytona and races at places such as Bristol, Martinsville and Fontana without rain canceling any part of the weekend activities is rather amazing. After what seems like years and years of rain following NASCAR wherever it went, the jet dryers have finally gotten a break. This streak of good weather, and good fortune, actually extends back 18 races to when qualifying was rained out at Daytona in July.

If NASCAR can continue to dodge the raindrops this weekend at Richmond, we should be in for another great show. Everybody had a week off and the teams will have their best short-track equipment ready for this one. This season has been relatively quiet in the “have at it” department, but it only takes one driver to get under another’s skin to start a whole chain of interesting events at a track the size of Richmond.


  1. Nice recap of the season so far, JM. Are the green flag lead changes skewed by the 'wave-by', two-car, 'passes' at the plate tracks? If we throw those two out, what would be the average?

  2. Gene - Of the eight races, four have either tied or surpassed the record for lead changes, including Phoenix and Martinsville. So while that number would be down to 24.3, that is still a remarkable number for the type of tracks during that stretch.