Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rating the Kobalt Tools 400: 3 Stars ***

Sprint Cup Series defending champion Tony Stewart capitalized on several late restarts to seal the deal in Las Vegas and assure everybody he will be a major factor in the championship again this year. Although he had a great battle with Jimmie Johnson at the end, the entire race wasn’t nearly exciting and gets a 3 Star Rating.

With so many quality teams in the sport, it is relatively rare to see two of the all-time greats get the chance to compete head-to-head on the track the way Stewart and Johnson did Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With eight championships between them, the winner was going to know he beat the best competition on the track.

Other drivers tried to keep up throughout the race, but Stewart was solid as a rock and steadily moved to the front, while Johnson made his way to the front after starting 40th.

Johnson was actually involved in the two best battles on the track all day. He and Matt Kenseth had a terrific run in the first half of the race that usually isn’t seen at mile-and-a-half tracks until late in the race. Both battles were reminiscent of the Stewart and Carl Edwards battles at the end of last season.

For Stewart, Sunday’s win proves that he has certainly carried the momentum from winning the 2011 championship into 2012. With Steve Addington on top of the pit box this #14 team could have quite a run throughout the entire season, not just in the Chase.

The bulk of the race played out pretty much as expected. The big guns stayed at the front of the field throughout the day. However, most of the race was cleaner than expected. Minus two debris cautions and the two BK Racing engines overcooking their burgers, the Busch brothers had the only true incidents on the day. Kyle spun off of Turn 4 and Kurt wrecked coming out of Turn 2.

Other than the craziness at Daytona, the races at Phoenix and Las Vegas have been noticeably calmer than normal. Both races had large, multicar incidents last year as it seemed like drivers got acclimated to racing again for the new season. This year drivers have raced hard, but they’ve kept it clean. Nobody has even attempted a verbal throwdown in a post-race interview.

As far as the points standings are concerned, Greg Biffle took over the lead from Denny Hamlin, who had an awful day and finished 20th. This is the point in the season where the standings start to shake out and morph into how they will look for the majority of the season. Except for Mark Martin in 10th and Paul Menard in 11th, the Chase would be considered fairly normal with everybody who would receive a Chase berth.

Both Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano may be somewhat of a surprise sitting eighth and ninth, respectively, but these are two drivers who have run with a fully sponsored team in a large organization for several years now, and it is about time for them to consistently run near the front or go find another ride.

In any case, next week is Bristol and that is sure to stir everything up. Nothing cures a quiet start the season like a trip to Thunder Valley where a clean car at the end of the day probably means you didn’t drive it hard enough.

Have a great week, everybody.


  1. Just call me The Cooler. I claim full responsibility for Hamlin's return to earth... I finally started him in my fantasy league this week.

  2. Gene - Haha! Well you certainly did a good job with that this week. Hamlin was nowhere to be found for much of the race. I had Kahne and Kenseth and was staring down a great week that quickly turned into a less-than-average day. Good thing it's early in the season.

  3. Mind blowing. Today, NASCAR race cars have very little in common with street cars. Almost every detail of a NASCAR car is handmade. Its really cool to watch a tough competition and have my favorite to grab the trophy.

  4. I'm sorry but I just can't buy the term "all time great" when refering to Jimmie Johnson. Being good the last 10 races of the season, does not make you an all-time great.

  5. I'm pretty sure not all of Jimmie Johnson's 55 career wins (second active driver), were in the last 10 races.