[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”243″][/media-credit]Fans were once again treated to another exciting finish as Brad Keselowski broke through to end his 60-race winless streak after conserving just enough fuel to hold off Dale Earnhardt Jr. by just over 2.5 seconds. For some Jr. fans this may appear as just another disappointing finish, but I see most of Jr Nation looking forward after the amazing progress that has been made since 2009 when the struggles began. With his second-place finish today, Jr. is now just 41 points out of first place and is in real contention for a championship run for the first time since 2004. I see Jr. finishing in the Top 5 this year in the championship. I don’t see a championship just yet, but still give major credit to Jr. and Steve Letarte.
The race on the other hand was very exciting in my view. Kurt Busch had the dominant race car as he sat on the pole, but like last week when Jr. looked like he was going to secure the victory, Busch was forced to pit for fuel with a handful of laps to go and wound up in ninth place. Denny Hamlin recovered from last weekend’s sputter to finish in third while Jeff Gordon finished fourth after announcing his ‘Go For Broke’ strategy, but he wound up just a little short. Gordon was my pick to win this weekend based off how he did in practice. Carl Edwards rounded out the Top 5.
Greg Biffle was the biggest surprise of the race. Biffle was my second pick to win this race along with teammate Carl Edwards as my third. Biffle dominated at Kansas last season for his second victory of 2010 and was the fastest during the first session of practice, but just what happened? Biffle finished in tenth, but this is a track where Roush Fenway Racing is usually top dog. Yes, this race did come down to fuel mileage, but Carl Edwards was the only Roush car in the field who actually led a lap and that is a shock for a lot of people, including me.
Fuel mileage races add more excitement to the overall atmosphere of the racing when it comes down to that. I was asked earlier today, “Are there too many fuel mileage races?” Well…you can’t really answer a yes or no to that because you really never know when that is going to happen. I didn’t see the Coca Cola 600 coming down to fuel until the final 30-40 laps and the same with the race today. I love fuel mileage races because the suspense really shakes you and the result makes the feeling even better.
Now, for next week we are at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania for the Pocono 500 and this will be the first race for TNT in 2011 as FOX says goodbye until 2012 and TNT takes over for the summer. Most people in the reporting business I know will pick Denny Hamlin because they just seem to follow what everyone else does, but I’m not going to do that. Hamlin actually didn’t have the best average finish at Pocono last season unlike what most people have heard. Tony Stewart actually did. Hamlin won the June event and Greg Biffle won the August event. Hamlin finished 1st and 5th at Pocono for the season while Stewart finished 3rd and 2nd.
I’m afraid on picking any Joe Gibbs Racing car at the same time because of the engine problems they have been having this season and Stewart and his Stewart-Haas Racing team in general have had their fair share of bad races. However; I’m still going out on a limb and saying Tony Stewart will break through for his first win of 2011. Expect Roush Fenway to be a threat still for the win.
Rest in peace Grandpa.