So, what did we learn at Phoenix?
Well, we learned that Chad Knaus sucks as a predictor of events. Expect few cautions, he said prior to the race, and within 70 laps more than half the field were dinged. That did not include Joey Logano, who had an engine going south early and blowing up late. A lot of the early victims did manage to return eventually to run laps while down by ten, twenty, or more, but they did come back.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”294″][/media-credit]We also learned that one can come back from a 66 race drought and win again. Jeff Gordon got by Kyle Busch with a slight love tap and hurried along to keep out of range to snap the winless streak. It also brought to an end Busch’s Phoenix streak of winning, after he claimed races Friday and Saturday before having to settle for a lousy runner-up finish on Sunday. As for Gordon, a bit of justice for a little mishap that could have ended his day more than 250 laps earlier.
We learned that one can wiggle and pretty much eliminate Carl Edwards from contention. Shrub sends Edwards to the curb, who in turns ride Jeff Gordon into the fence. Gordon recovered, Edwards did not. Just an accident, just a little loss of control, or something more conspiratorial?
We learned that while Team Hendrick had its problems at Daytona, the boys would finish first, third (Jimmie Johnson), tenth (Dale Earnhardt Jr), and thirteenth (Mark Martin) in Arizona. I’m sure we are all so glad their misfortunes have finally come to an end.
We learned that Trevor Bayne went from last week’s thrill of victory to the weekend’s agony of defeat. Fifty laps in, he tried to duck into a hole that wasn’t quite big enough and thus ended his day. The good news is that he picked up the same amount of points for finishing 40th as he did for winning.
We learned that Daytona and Talladega are not the only tracks that can feature a Big One. Lap 67, and 13 autos got tangled up when Brian Vickers went sideways and those behind shunted like railcars in a freight yard. Burton, Bowyer, Smith, and Reutimann were among those who started looking ahead to Las Vegas.
We learned that we were seeing entries being banged up, on average, one every third lap. If that had continued, we would have been watching a whole lot of nothing by Lap 130.
We learned that Kyle Busch, like it or not, is the Intimidator’s successor. Who else can drive like he figures each race is his to win, and be damned to all who gets in his way? Who else can make you smile when he wins, and maybe smile even bigger when he gets wrecked? He leads nearly half of all the laps run in three races, wins two and finishes second in the other, and makes us believe that it is not out of the ordinary. Next Sunday, he returns to his hometown track.
Sunday, it is the bright lights of Las Vegas that beckon us. It is a track the aforementioned Mr. Busch won at in 2009, a year after the aforementioned Mr. Edwards did the same thing. Of course, it is the same track one certain Mr. Johnson has won four of the past six, including one year ago, for combined winnings of more than $20-million. No doubt, Five Time is one of the few who goes to Vegas and comes away with more than he spent. Enjoy the week.