5 Questions After ... Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500

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No longer can we say each race this season has featured a different race winner, but we can say that so far the 2011 season has been nothing short of competitive. From rule changes and last lap battles to broken losing streaks and underdog victories, 2011 has had it all. Still, Kevin Harvick has carried over his 2010 success and won his second race in a row last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Surprisingly, five-time and defending champion Jimmie Johnson is still winless.

Here are a few questions on my mind heading into the weekend…

Who will be the next repeat winner in 2011? … Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Trevor Bayne are the other four drivers to have won a race this season, and if I had to choose which of the four I think will win the soonest I’d go with Busch. Busch has been nothing short of dominant this season, having led nearly twice as many laps as any other driver (481) and, other than a blown engine in Las Vegas, hasn’t finished any worse than eighth all season long.

Edwards has a good shot at returning to Victory Lane soon too, with the new FR9 engines doing a world of good for Ford Racing and late season momentum from 2010 carrying over to this season.

Two other drivers to watch as far as wins are concerned are Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. Finishing first and second in points, respectively, at the end of 2010, both drivers have yet to take the checkered flag in any event his season. While Johnson has been in contention for a few victories this season, Hamlin really hasn’t shown the same competitiveness as last season. Sure it’s still early, and it certainly won’t be long before either of these drivers are in Victory Lane again.

How were Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne able to walk away from that crash? … On lap 222, Truex’s throttle hung heading into turn three, causing Truex to speed through the corner and slam into the outside retaining wall. Kahne was an innocent bystander of the incident and also made some hard contact with the wall.

Both drivers were able to walk away from the incident, generating a huge sigh of relief from anyone that witness the accident. Truex summed it up nicely:

“Thanks to NASCAR and everybody that builds the SAFER barriers and these race cars and everything -- they’re unbelievable. 10 years ago I wouldn’t be standing here. Thankful for that and thankful for everybody working on my NAPA Toyota.”

There are a lot of things you can fault NASCAR for, but not their safety innovations. Kahne and Truex had nary a scratch on them, and will be back in the car this weekend in Texas.

Why were there so many lane change penalties on Sunday? … No less than three cars (Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, and Tony Stewart) were penalized for passing on a start or restart during Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500.

On the restarts, and with 11 cautions there were several of them, the bottom lane would usually pull ahead while the top lane would be left behind. This made it crucial for anyone on the top lane to move down as fast as they could, and sometimes prematurely. Since NASCAR implemented double-file restarts back in 2009, the rule was that you could not advance your position prior to the start/finish line. Kenseth, Martin, and Stewart obviously were a little bit overanxious.

Should there be more short track races? … I’m partial to the big, wide racetracks. I love restarts where the cars have enough room to be three- and four-wide heading into the corners and can stay that way all the way down the backstretch. The multi-groove racing is a favorite of mine and, sure, the cars can get strung out. I guess I just have strange taste!

However, short track racing is the heart of the sport and provides some fantastic racing of its own. If you surveyed a group of NASCAR fans, I would guess most (if not all) of them would agree there should be more short track races on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. Martinsville was a very competitive race on Sunday, and the next short track race won’t come until the end of the month when the series heads to Richmond International Raceway on April 30th.

Is Dale Earnhardt Jr. “back”? … Oh come on, you didn’t think I’d go the entire five questions without asking about Dale Jr. did you??

Earnhardt looked well on his way to ending a now 99-race winless streak when he passed Kyle Busch with 20 laps to go. However, Kevin Harvick (I refuse to call him “Mr. Where-Did-He-Come-From”) snuck his way up to Earnhardt’s back bumper and ever so slightly moved him out of the way, similar to how Earnhardt took the lead from Busch.

Earnhardt was disappointed that he lost, but also expressed relief at being competitive again. Earnhardt hesitated to say that he was “back” but based off of his results this season, I’m convinced he’ll be back in Victory Lane again before we know it.

Bonus questions: Is Paul Menard falling back down to earth? … Was Michael McDowell intentionally trying to piss off every other driver? … Did Jimmie Johnson really make a mistake?

5 Questions After ... Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 5 Questions After ... Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 Reviewed by Summer Dreyer on Tuesday, April 05, 2011 Rating: 5