Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rating the Samsung Mobile 500: 4 Stars ****

The Sprint Cup Series battened down the hatches for a windy one in Texas on Saturday night where a long winless streak was broken. No, not THE winless streak, but Matt Kenseth visited Victory Lane for the first time in 76 races. The first Texas race gets a 4 Star Rating.

Kenseth simply dominated the night. Many questioned if somebody would find the magic setup after all the practices took place during the daytime, and the #17 team certainly found it. The best car definitely won this race.

Kenseth’s journey to take the checkered flag first wasn’t without drama, however. Fuel strategy almost negated his team’s strong effort as both Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart tried to stretch the fuel mileage but both came up empty, in the literal sense for Stewart, who limped across the line in 12th after running in the top-five on the final lap.

This was a thinking-man’s race, and the one with the most strategy of the season so far, which is good. Strategy creates suspense, and makes every move that much more crucial.

The race, with exception of the debris caution on lap 208 that directly led to the Mark-Martin-Martin Truex Jr. wreck, was pretty clean, overall. And while the field did get spread out in the second half of the race, several drivers were able to stay close to Kenseth and keep him from running away. I don’t think that would’ve been possible in the days of the rear wing. Kenseth wouldn’t have been touched all night.

So now we’ve got three intermediate-track races under our collective belt, and it looks as though everyone but the Fords have some catching up to do. It took a long time for the new Roush-Yates engine to be developed, but it is sure paying off now. Fans of Roush-Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports should be ecstatic after Saturday because every single Ford in both of those camps spent time in the top 10.

Aside from the Roush gang, the folks at Richard Childress Racing also still have their program running close to full speed. Clint Bowyer was about the only other driver to even catch a whiff of Kenseth all night, and once again, Paul Menard came on strong late for yet another top-five finish.

Interestingly, Jimmie Johnson had a rough night. The #48 team missed the setup for the start of the race and never could quite get the car dialed in. No worries, though, Johnson will be right there at the end of the Coca Cola 600 next month in Charlotte, the next night race at a 1.5-mile track.

Now its time to strap in and go on the ride that is racing at Talladega Superspeedway. Doesn’t just thinking about it make your heart beat a little faster?

After the racing we saw at Talladega last year and at the Daytona 500 this year, it would take something really stupid to happen for this not to be an absolutely amazing race. Get fired up, it’s Talladega week!


  1. Yea, my heart is going kaboom, kaboom just wondering if the 17 car can do it again.

  2. It looks like the new Ford engine has finally arrived. It will be okay to see all the Fords (except Carl) contending on the bigger tracks.

  3. olderguy - It's quite possible Kenseth could go back-to-back. That first win often breeds more, as it has recently for Kevin Harvick.

    Gene - Ha, well it's been a while. It's amazing it has taken them so long to get back into contention.

  4. I thought the race was pretty good - I loved those camera shots of the cars coming across the line at near 200 mph. Wow.

    Kurt & Smoke kept the strategy interesting but sure both would have preferred better cars that could have just competed on the level with Kenseth.

    Fords may have it figured out but Penske sure doesnt...

  5. It's entirely possible Kenseth could go back to back, as he often runs well at Talladega, and he's won the Daytona 500 (albeit a rain-shortened race). And with his engineering knowledge, he'll take good care of that motor while getting the most mph out of it that he can. I don't mind that he won--I just didn't want Carl Edwards winning.

  6. BUT--I'm going with Paul Menard to get his first Cup win, with Kevin Harvick pushing him across and denying the Roushkateers of Kenseth and Edwards.

  7. klvalus - Those camera angles are great. I can't imagine what they would look like if races eventually get regularly broadcast in 3D. I think Kenseth's domination may have been because there was no practice at night with similar race conditions.

    jon_464 - Kenseth is strong at the big tracks, but Sunday might be quite the crapshoot. This race could be even more fluid than Daytona. Even though Daytona was repaved, I still think Talladega stresses handling less simply because of the layout of the track. Menard? Now that is a bold prediction.