Chase field: Set. Points: Reset. Bonus points: Distributed accordingly. The Chase field has been set, with Richmond being one final race for teams to get those oh-so-important bonus points and for bubble drivers to lock up their Chase berths. Richmond was tamer than most expected, but there were still several drivers in contention for the win and some good racing throughout.
Here are some questions on my mind following the race…
Why was the race so tame? … I felt like the racing was good but there wasn’t near as much drama and fender bending as many expected. So many drivers had nothing to lose and everything to gain by going for the victory on Saturday night, and several drivers did make a run at the win. However, the race was only slowed by three caution flags, including a lengthy yellow for rain, and no one really left the racetrack angry with each other. Denny Hamlin won, the Chase field was set, and everyone smiled, took their pictures, and went home. Definitely not what most were expecting. Speaking of Hamlin…
Are the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Jimmie Johnson’s biggest threat for the championship? … I know one race won’t determine what happens in the Chase, but JGR drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have been strong through the whole season and have recently picked up the pace. With the exception of one or two others, I can’t think of anyone more prepared to make a run at the title than the JGR duo.
What did we learn about Kyle Busch on Saturday night? … Nothing we didn’t already know, but Busch coming on the scanner with a few laps remaining saying he used up his tires made me think. While it’s not unusual for a driver going for the win at the end of the race to use up his stuff, I’ve always wondered if that was Busch’s biggest problem. I remember Hamlin said after a win earlier this season that sometime last year he “learned how to win.” Basically, he learned how to race at what point in the race, how aggressive to be and when, and how to pace himself. Busch wants to lead every lap of every race. While I would love to say we need more drivers like that, that’s not always the best way to win the race or a championship. I personally love that about Busch, but I feel like he could have won that race on Saturday night had he done it right. I’m not a driver and I won’t pretend to be, but I’ve heard several drivers say the same thing. I just wonder if there’s some way for there to be a happy medium. While on the subject of JGR…
What did Saturday night mean for Joey Logano? … There’s no denying the 20-year-old phenom has talent, experiencing instant success in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. However, I’d recently developed some second thoughts on how successful he’d ever be in Cup, expecting him to have performed much better than he has at this time in the season. Then, on Saturday night in the final stretch of the race Logano was running times similar to and sometimes faster than the leaders. He ended up finishing fourth, putting all three JGR cars in the top five. So, is Logano for real or not?
Is Jimmie Johnson really in a slump? … Johnson finished third at Richmond, and that means what? It means nothing. He’s Jimmie Johnson, four time and defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Of course he finished third. He finished third the week before at Atlanta. He probably would have finished in the top three at Bristol had Juan Pablo Montoya not gotten a little overzealous. Yes, he certainly did go through a slump a few weeks prior but there are plenty of drivers who would love to have a Jimmie Johnson slump. But that slump is now clearly over.
Bonus questions: Who cut Jimmie Johnson’s “cape”? … Is Marcos Ambrose kicking himself after that slip-up on Saturday night? … Who all is in favor of having Busch wear the “kittens, bunnies, and little baby seals” firesuit every single weekend?
Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author.