Did we just leave Pocono or did we just leave Martinsville? It seemed like every driver left the racetrack angry on Sunday afternoon except for race winner Denny Hamlin as many different feuds surfaced and entertaining sound bites were played after 500 miles at Pocono Raceway. Yes, at Pocono. I know. Shocking.
Here are some questions from the race this weekend…
Who won the race again? … Denny Hamlin may have won the race on Sunday but no one really seemed to care. Between Logano/Harvick, Allmendinger/Kahne, and Stewart/everybody else, the race winner was the least of everyone’s concern. Hamlin led more laps than any other driver at this track and had already won three times previous, so it was no shock to see the No. 11 Toyota pull into victory lane. Reporters had already written that headline long before the green flag flew. Short track tempers were flaring at a 2.5-mile oval that isn’t known for its particularly rough and tumble style. However, it was a pleasant surprise to many race fans and very few people were talking about the first 150 laps of total domination by Hamlin and Clint Bowyer. Speaking of which…
Where did Clint Bowyer go? … Bowyer dominated much of the early portion of the race, leading 59 of the 200 laps. However, after a pit stop left him in dirty air and behind the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates of Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, Bowyer slid back further and further until he was out of contention completely. He was never much of a threat again, though he was still able to finish a strong 9th. It was definitely strange, though, to see a car go from so dominant to a non-issue. Still, though, it really shows the comeback Richard Childress Racing has made after last season when their drivers rarely were in contention for victories. For a while, Bowyer seemed like the car to beat.
Since when does Joey Logano have a mean streak? … Let’s be honest. Logano is probably one of the nicest people in the garage area. He can usually be seen with a smile on his face in even the toughest of circumstances and usually has a better attitude than even the most seasoned veterans of the sport. However, drivers have a tendency to push him around because of it. While Logano is an aggressive racer, he’s not a dirty driver and isn’t really known as someone who will intentionally wreck another driver for position. However, on Sunday, something snapped. He had had enough. On the last lap, Kevin Harvick and Logano were racing for the 5th position and things went south in a hurry. Harvick ever so slightly bumped Logano’s left rear quarter panel and sent Logano spinning. He never hit anything and worked his way up through the pack to the 13th position for an impressive comeback. It’s amazing how much faster a driver can go when they’re livid. Post-race Logano parked his car right up against Harvick’s No. 29 car and got out, yelling who knows what to (or at) Harvick. The crews kept the two drivers separated and Logano eventually walked away. That wasn’t the surprising part, though. Everyone expected Logano to snap eventually. It was his post-race comments afterwards that had everyone’s jaws on the floor. He called Harvick “stupid” and said of him: “I guess it’s not his fault. His wife wears the fire suit in the family and she tells him what to do, so it’s probably not his fault.” Wow! That’s definitely not the Joey we all know and love, though he more than likely gained a few fans after changing his style. Is this the “new” Joey Logano?
Why did things completely fall apart pre-race? … We made it through driver introductions. We made it through the invocation. We made it through the national anthem. We even got the engines fired and the cars out on the track. And just as the green flag was about to wave … the skies opened. A monsoonal storm swept through the area leaving a river of sorts in the garage area. It didn’t last very long and the track dried relatively quickly. Maybe too quickly. One of the jet driers was down along the exit to pit road and blew off some seams on the racing surface. A chunk of track flew up exposing a large pothole. Everyone’s mind immediately flew to Daytona earlier this season where fans waited through two very lengthy red flag periods to fix a pothole in turns 1 and 2 during the Great American Race. Apparently the folks in Pocono can patch a hole much quicker than those in Daytona and it was sealed up in about 15 minutes. Cones were sitting around it the entire race, and somehow all managed to stay put. Looking back on it, it was actually quite humorous. At the time, though, fans all over were slapping their foreheads and saying, “Not again!”
How have double-file restarts worked out so far? … Sunday marked the one year anniversary of the implementation of double-file restarts in NASCAR. Last season, many actually felt like the Pocono race was competitive because of the new restarts and was hoping for more of the same on Sunday. Though most of the race itself was dominated by one driver or another, the restarts were phenomenal. At one point, there was a five-wide battle for the lead between Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, and Jimmie Johnson. Though they didn’t play much of a factor in the final restart of the race—Hamlin’s car was too strong—it was still exciting to see some of the daring moves made on the wide racing surface of Pocono Raceway.
Bonus questions: Did anyone tell Tom Logano that Father’s Day wasn’t until June 20th? … What will Hamlin do with that giant razor he was rewarded with after the victory? … Who wears the firesuit in your family?
Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author.