A champion was crowned Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway … the same one that was crowned last year, the year before, and the year before that. Different story, same ending. It’s kind of like the difference between movie re-makes: The ending is usually the same, but the journey is different. That’s why everyone keeps tuning in each time the story is re-written. Here are some questions after Homestead:
Were they cheering for Jimmie Johnson? … It was a bit surprising to hear as many cheers as there were when Jimmie Johnson climbed out of his car for the fourth consecutive year. With all of the fans who seemed very unhappy about once again seeing the same champion, I expected boos. At the very least, I expected maybe some quiet cheers. On the contrary, there was much applause and shouts of praise from the grandstands as Jimmie gave his interview over the PA. Though the argument could be made that many of Jimmie’s “haters” left the race as soon as he was named champion, and that would be why there were no boos, the stands were still packed! It looked like almost no one had left. Jimmie may not have won many fans over this season, but has he finally gained their respect?
Where was some of this racing all year? … Though we’ve had some very competitive and exciting races this season, most of them haven’t been memorable at the mile-and-a-half racetracks. They were often more exciting at short tracks, road courses, and superspeedways. The other races were competitive, but drawn out. Clean air proved to be the winner at each race, as the lead car would pull out to a demanding lead and the rest of the field would race single-file. Though clean air was still somewhat important on Sunday night, the racing was fantastic! Many times, ESPN captured racecars going two-, three-, and sometimes even four-wide through the corners. There were several exciting races for the lead, and many storylines surfaced during the race. Why weren’t they racing like this all year? What changed? Most likely, it was because no points were on the line. Few teams really had anything to lose. It kind of reminded me of the All-Star race. Yes? No?
Is Denny Hamlin cocky or confident? … After the race, in victory lane Denny made a promise: “We will win a championship in the next couple of years.” Wow! That’s quite a statement! And, yet, it’s possible. The #11 team was very strong all year and probably should have won more than four races. They’ve run with the 48 throughout most of the year, and finished higher several times. Will Denny Hamlin be the one to bring Johnson’s reign to an end?
What do Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Greg Biffle have in common? … All six of these drivers won at least won one race in 2008 and went winless in 2009. Probably the biggest surprise out of this group is Carl Edwards. Edwards won a season high nine races in 2008, the most of anybody. Roush Fenway Racing as a whole has struggled this year (as Rebecca wrote about in a previous column). Biffle and Edwards both combined to win 11 races last year. Neither won any this year. One has to wonder if they’ll pick it up again next season.
Why all the rivalries? … And why now? At the close of this season, we saw a couple of rivalries flare up … and then quietly fade away into the NASCAR offseason. Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin carried on a feud that had been mounting for months, and Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart had a run-in at Homestead on Sunday night. Montoya and Stewart both declined for comment after their incident (Stewart cut down Montoya’s right front sending him to the garage, and Montoya later retaliated on-track). No doubt, though, if we had a race this coming weekend both would end up in the media center and have things to say. Now, what could have turned into a rivalry now fades off into the winter cold. As for Keselowski vs. Hamlin: To be continued.
Honorable mentions: How many days now until the Daytona 500? … Is Jeremy Mayfield’s just a bit too coincidental? … Did we finally make it through a race weekend without rain?