The shortest race of the year 2 hours and 39 minutes was perhaps the longest for fans viewing on TV. California showed once again why it has been reduced to only one race.
The weekend at California was marred by rain, weepers and long drawn out green flag runs. Though many at the track said the racing was better than normal and excellent in most cases, the TV audience saw little of it. Between long commercial breaks that missed cautions and on track action, along with very poor camera work the day proved to be a dull grey day until the last 10 laps of the race.
The final stop and the end of the race was as good as it gets. Kyle Busch took the green flag with 9 laps to go on old tires with Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart following close behind. Johnson took the lead on lap 198 with a low side pass on the Interstate Batteries Camry. The racing between them allowed Harvick to catch the pair and overtake Busch whose Camry had developed a progressively tight condition.
Kevin Harvick flexed his muscle and let the 5 time series champion know he was there and he would not go quietly. Harvick who ran up to the back bumper of the 48 Lowes Chevrolet on the back stretch managed to loosen the champ up just enough to make his pass on the high side coming out of 4 and then out ran the 5 time champ back to the checkers.
The champion showed his composure and showed his class with gracious congratulations to the winner and acknowledged that Harvick was undoubtedly the class of the field on the final run. Harvick when told they lead one lap stated, “Yeah but it was the one that counted.”
The class of the field for most of the race was Kyle Busch. Busch lead for 151 laps and finished third. But Kyle’s weekend did not start out typical for Kyle Busch. He wrecked his primary car on his first lap on the track when he hit a wet spot coming out of turn 4. Relegated to a back up he and his team fought to regain their momentum in a [media-credit name=”Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR” align=”alignright” width=”272″][/media-credit]shortened practice session leading up to qualifying. Busch pulled off an 8th place qualifying run and never looked back.
He dominated the race until the last restart when Jimmie Johnson would take the lead on the low side coming out of 3. Busch would say later that the car just continued to tighten up on the exit of the corner and at the end he had used up everything he had.
Joe Gibbs Racing experienced another weekend of engine failures with Joey Logano losing one after happy hour and Denny Hamlin losing one during the race. When Coach Gibbs was asked if the recent fire and explosion at their engine shop was playing a role in the failures he stated that it was not and they simply needed to work on their durability.
Another standout this week was Brian Vickers. In his first strong performance after his health issues forced him to vacate his seat last year, Vickers pulled off a strong top ten finish with 8th.
Tony Stewart had a strong run until the last restart of the race when he faded to 13th. Smoke was obviously upset and declined comment following the race. Smoke showed dominance and skills that are found in few driver seats in the series however. When informed the change he wanted was maxed out he said simply, I will figure it out from here. And he did with smooth skill and confidence. The late race fade was certainly not indicative of his performance.
Dale Earnhardt Jr, showed a consistency that we have never seen from him throughout his career with a 12th place finish. Earnhardt credited his crew and his equipment with the success and stated that if he had qualified better he would have had a better finish. “If we just qualify better, we’ll be all right,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “It’s not allowed us to show as good as we really are. … We’re a top-10 team. We’re doing pretty good.” He stated that he had a top 5 car for about 60 percent of the race. Even with the strong finish, Earnhardt dropped to 12th in the points going into Martinsville.
TV broadcasters raved about the finish of this race. The finish was incredible. It was exciting. It was action filled and it took place in 10 laps. The first 390 were not exciting. The last 10 laps don’t make a good race. The race was boring. Whether it’s the track or whether it’s the new car on the track, doesn’t change it. The people in California deserve their date but something has to be done to improve the competition on the track. Shortening the race by 100 laps didn’t improve the competition only the length of the boredom.
Thoughts and best wishes go to Joe Slingerland, the rear tire changer for the Hendrick Motorsports Amp Energy Chevrolet, who was injured on the first pit stop of the day. The tire changer apparently suffered a hamstring injury during the first pit stop and was taken to the infield care center by stretcher. Steve Letarte reported on Sirus Radio that he would be checked out by an orthopedic specialist on Monday in Charlotte.
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Congratulations to Kevin Harvick and his Richard Childress team on their exciting victory in Sunday’s race. Also congratulations to Kyle Busch on his Saturday victory in the Nationwide series race.
That said, to all the competitors in all the series thanks for giving us everything you have to give, you are our heroes. Most importantly, thanks to all the families who shared their loved ones with us so we could cheer our favorite driver and favorite teams. You are the true heroes of the sport and we are forever in your debt.