Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rating the Bank of America 500: 3 Stars ***

The first half of the race was more of the same boring follow-the-leader racing of the first four weeks of the Chase, but then Jimmie Johnson wrecked and guys started to fight for positions. While it still wasn’t a good race, Charlotte does barely jump up to grab a 3 Star Rating.

Without everything that happened at the end of the race, Kyle Busch would have easily put this one to bed. After Greg Biffle had a pit-road miscue to remove him from contention, Busch stomped the field similar to how he won the race in July at Kentucky Speedway.

The first three-quarters of Saturday night’s race was awful. It felt like an extended version of the first three segments of the All-Star race where nobody challenges for a position.

But then the biggest moment of the night happened.

Jimmie Johnson was battling underneath Ryan Newman through turns 1 and 2 when he got loose, tried to save the car and turned up nearly straight into the wall.

The wreck obviously did some major damage to the #48 car and Johnson’s championship run as he is now eighth in the standings and 35 points out of the lead, but it could’ve done some serious damage to Johnson himself.

I think it’s safe to say that anybody who has been a NASCAR fan for at least 10 years held their breath when they saw the #48 car head toward the wall at that angle. On the surface, that wreck looked eerily similar to the one that killed Dale Earnhardt in 2001 at Daytona. The front end of the car caught the apron, pointed the car toward the wall and the driver was along for the ride.

Thankfully, and I know we say this every time there is a hard wreck, both the cars and the walls are incredibly safe.

Just when the quality of racing, or lack of it, starts to gnaw at a race fan’s mind, something like Johnson’s wreck happens and reminds us all that right now the cars have to be built this way. Johnson can now add his list to the half-dozen or so drivers who have had the cars and SAFER barriers save their life, or at least save them from serious injury. But, with Dan Wheldon’s fatal wreck Sunday, the work to improve safety will never end.

Now, the other factor of Johnson’s wreck is that it will take a wild charge from the #48 team to come back and win championship #6. Even with his average runs in the first two races of the Chase, Johnson still was well within striking distance to take the lead. That is now gone. Johnson is going to have to be nearly perfect even to be in the championship conversation come Homestead.

On a lighter note, Matt Kenseth won the race and made a great move to get around Busch after the final restart. He may have won the race by nearly one second, but he had to make the move early in the run or Busch might have been able to hold him off.

Hopefully the finish at Charlotte will spark a wild race at Talladega. The first half of the Chase has been tepid, at best. The rule changes to the cars at Talladega might change the style of racing a bit, but the sport needs a race that has people talking nonstop about the actual race for the following week instead of the championship situation.


  1. I anointed JJ as this year's champ just last week. I wouldn't count him out just yet... but he better win 3 of the next 5 races and finish top-5 in the other 2. lol

  2. Gene - Crazy thing is that could happen, lol. At least it would be exciting if he could come back.

  3. Three stars is about right here jmayer... Thanks for your interesting posts...