After seeing Tony Stewart’s disgust at not winning the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, I had to wonder if this was the same two-time champion that has 426 starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Surely he knows that the fastest car doesn’t always win. I can give him four arguments for this in the year 2011.
[media-credit id=41 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]The fastest car in the 2011 Daytona 500 was probably not Trevor Bayne. Daytona is such an aberration of a race that anyone could win, but judging by time trials, you could argue that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or even Jeff Gordon had the fastest cars. They didn’t win. Trevor Bayne did.
The fastest car at Phoenix last week was probably Carl Edwards. Edwards had problems early. Edwards didn’t win. Jeff Gordon won. He wasn’t the fastest car. And let us not forget the Nationwide Series race at LVMS on Saturday. Mark Martin was not the fastest car, but he won and even said it didn’t make any difference anyway. He had the trophy.
I appreciate Tony’s will to win, and I can almost understand when, in post-race comments, he said second place “sucked”. That’s a trait of winners. I remember one old racer telling anyone who would listen to him that second place was just the first loser. That may be true, but it sure beats where one of the fastest cars in the field, the No. 16 of Greg Biffle finished. Some days the fastest don’t win.
I also heard Tony say he gave the race away. Hardly. Pit strategy has always been a part of our sport. It was simply a case of Bob Osborne making a better move than Darian Grubb. It happens. the fastest car doesn’t always win. And who could tell who the fastest car was anyway? ONce a car got into clean air, it took off, so let’s just say the fastest car did win. At the time.
Maybe it’s this new point system that has given these drivers the push to win at any cost. Maybe it’s the fragile business environment that teams face these days. Keeping a sponsor is paramount now. Whatever it is, I do hope it continues. I want to see a win as the ultimate thing to do on Sprint Cup race day. No more riding around for points. For too long, we’ve forgotten that fans come out to the track to see who wins, not how many points they accumulated on that day. Let’s continue that trend.
There is no doubt that Carl Edwards in on a roll these days. He’s won three of the last five Sprint Cup races (going back to the last two races of 2010), finished second at Daytona, and has run up front in all his Nationwide Series races. Now, he heads to Bristol Motor Speedway in two weeks, a track where he has been known to run very well. In fact, all the Fords are running up front (when they don’t break or have a problem), so the competition for the championship this year should be more lively. As it stands now, five-time champ Jimmie Johnson is12th, 26 points behind, Jeff Gordon is 19th, 39 points down, and Kevin Harvick is 20th, 42 points down. Before you talk about how close that is, remember the point deficit is the number of positions on the track the driver has to make up in a given race to tie the points leader. Or you might just multiply the deficit by 4 or 5 points to give you a better idea compared to the former point system. Of course, it’s too early to start counting points, but through three races, it does seem that a change in who is going to lead the points in the regular season is here. We’ll see.
KUDOS TO MARCOS AMBROSE AND JUNIOR
With all the troubles a lot of top drivers had this weekend, kudos must go out to Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Ambrose was fast all weekend and Earnhardt came in slow and was very quick at the end of the race. Ambrose finished fourth and Earnhardt eighth. It proves that Richard Petty Motorsports is on its way to being really competitive again with Ambrose at the controls, but it also shows that Earnhardt is making progress toward turning around a career. I congratulate both and hope it continues.