Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rating the Bank of America 500: 4 Stars ****

The top three Sprint Cup Series championship contenders dominated Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the driver now fourth in the Chase, Clint Bowyer, outlasted everyone to grab his third win of the season. The final race of the season at Charlotte gets a 4 Star Rating.
Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin were the class of the field all night. Keselowski used pit strategy to move up from his 20th-place starting spot after the third caution in 36 laps. The race went incident free the rest of the way with only a couple of debris cautions for NASCAR to make sure it stayed entertaining.
Keselowski, Johnson and Hamlin combined to lead 228 of the 334 laps, but fueld mileage came into play after the final debris caution on lap 223. Johnson and Hamlin both couldn’t make it to the finish when they pitted with about 55 laps to go. Surprisingly, neither could Keselowski, who usually has good fuel mileage.
Keselowski’s chance at winning the race ended anyway on that next-to-last pit stop because he ran out of gas going down the backstretch and had a 22-second stop once he got there. That put him outside the top 10, and he would never recover, finishing 11th.
Johnson and Hamlin also had to come back to pit road for a splash-and-go stop late in the race, but they managed to finish second and third, respectively.
While all that was going on, Bowyer had enough fuel to make the finish, although not complete a celebration burnout, and give Michael Waltrip Racing its first Chase win. The victory also moved Bowyer up to fourth in the points standings, 28 points out of the lead.
Bowyer is still a bit of a long shot to be a factor by the time the series reaches the final race at Homestead, but he has shown once again that he is on the cusp of being a championship contender.
Bowyer has made noise in just about every Chase in which he’s competed. He finished third in 2007 and fifth in 2008. He also made the Chase in 2010 and won the first race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but his car didn’t pass postrace inspection and NASCAR docked him 150 points. That took him out of the picture, and he finished the season in 10th place.
This year Bowyer could be in a similar position. He still doesn’t have the consistency to match Keselowski, Johnson and Hamlin, but he is the best of the rest.
He is also headed to his hometown track, Kansas Speedway, next week and could have another good finish there, but it would still take a flawless run through the rest of the Chase to have a legitimate shot to win the title.
The track in Kansas now has a brand-new surface and progressive banking in the corners. Does that mean it will be a more exciting race to watch? Probably not. The progressive banking has worked at Homestead but hasn’t made much difference at other tracks once the idea became popular.
In any case, expect the Chase frontrunners to lead the field as they did at Charlotte. It might stink to have the same guys up front each week right now, but their battle to win the championship will be a good one if they can all stay in contention throughout the next month.
Have a great week, everybody.

No comments:

Post a Comment