5 Questions After ... Samsung Mobile 500

The crowd at Saturday night's Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas
Motor Speedway. Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Texas’s first Saturday night race wasn’t exactly spell-binding due largely in part to the spanking Roush Fenway Racing driver Matt Kenseth delivered to the field. However, Kenseth fans had no complaints after their driver broke a 76-race winless streak to take the checkered flag at a track that seems to be specifically built so that RFR can dominate.

Here are some questions on my mind following the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:

How good was Texas Motor Speedway’s first night race? … While this isn’t the first time Texas Motor Speedway has finished a race under the lights, this was the track’s first Saturday night race. As mentioned above, it was less than competitive since Kenseth had a tight grasp on the field for much of the evening.

Still, the race wasn’t a complete disaster. Clint Bowyer had what he accurately described as a second-place car and may have mounted more of a challenge for the victory if contact with the lapped car of Brian Vickers had not caused some damage, which ultimately ruined the rest of his night.

Overall, though, I thought Saturday night’s race was alright. I don’t fault Kenseth and his race team for doing their job nor do I fault NASCAR (or the Chase, or the COT, etc.) for allowing it to happen. It’s their job to be the dominant force to be reckoned with and kudos to them for pulling it off in such a dynamic fashion. Clearly Ford Racing is here to play.

My only suggestion would be to shorten the race to 400 miles. It worked for Fontana and it would work at Texas. I’ve stated time and again that I feel that 500 miles should only be for the big races (Daytona 500, Coke 600, etc.) and every other race should be 300-400 miles. That way, the endurance factor still exists without the race seemingly dragging on while one driver dominates. Compromise, folks!

Who will be the next driver to break a losing streak? … Earlier this year, Jeff Gordon broke a 66-race winless streak to win at Phoenix International Raceway and last Saturday Matt Kenseth followed that up to break his own winless streak of 76 races.

A few notable drivers looking to break into Victory Lane after long winless droughts are Mark Martin (52), Kasey Kahne (54) and Jeff Burton (84). While there are definitely points to be made for why those drivers (and a few others) might soon return to their winning ways, one driver stands out to me: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt just seems to have it this year. Oh sure, we were saying that last year since Earnhardt was still sitting 10th in points, but this year just feels … different. Don’t ask me! Ask Earnhardt’s loyal legion of fans that feel the same way.

Over the off-season, Earnhardt (and two of his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates) was paired with a different crew chief - one of the biggest reasons listed as to why the son of legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. has failed to live up to expectations as of late. Steve Letarte - who worked with Earnhardt’s teammate Jeff Gordon from 2005 until last season - has been sitting on the No. 88 pit box so far this season and the team now seems to have something it lacked for so long: communication.

So feel free to chime in with your opinions - Earnhardt will be back in Victory Lane soon.

Is David Ragan feeling the pressure? … Following Trevor Bayne’s historic Daytona 500 victory earlier this season, many of us looked toward the Roush Fenway Racing camp at Ragan and shook our heads in dismay. “Won’t be long now!” we all mumbled, tweeting safely behind our keyboards with the best of intentions (where is my sarcasm symbol?!).

Bayne, a developmental driver for RFR in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, was expected by so many to possibly replace Ragan in the No. 6 seat. After all, Bayne is obviously the next big thing in NASCAR and Ragan has failed to impress in five full seasons with one of the best teams in the sport. Not to mention RFR’s other developmental driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been making a substantial amount of noise. He is currently leading the points standings and week in/week out racing up front with the big guns. Surely Ragan is on his way out, right?

But wait! Ragan may have indeed found his mojo. After an eighth place run at Martinsville, a track not well liked by those in the Roush camp, Ragan followed up the top-10 run with a pole position at Texas. He would lead the first 10 laps and hang around in the top-10 for a majority of the race. He finished seventh.

While Ragan’s contract goes all the way through 2014, his UPS sponsorship is up at the end of this season and the lack of results from the No. 6 didn’t seem to give them any reason to re-sign. However, Ragan might be feeling the heat a little bit and these top-10 runs are either the first in a long line of consistent runs for the Georgia native or a trend that will fade just as fast as the Texas sunset.

Why can’t we see pit road speeds? … I know this was covered in depth last week, but I found it increasingly annoying that FOX could point a camera at a computer screen with the speeds on it and broadcast over live television but NASCAR still sees no need to make the statistics available in timing and scoring.

For instance, Jamie McMurray got busted for speeding on pit road on Lap 215 of the race. Once FOX found out, they pulled up a laptop with NASCAR’s pit road scoring segments and showed that McMurray was in the “red zone” (over the 5 mph speeding tolerance). It was an interesting tidbit of information in which we could see exactly what segment McMurray was speeding and that it was a computer-generated system rather than subjective.

I’m not saying that information needs to be streamed over the broadcasts every single time any team makes a pitstop but it should be available to the NASCAR media to present to the fans, if necessary. This way the commentators know as soon as NASCAR does that a driver was speeding; it should be allowed to teams so they know not only where they made their mistakes but also what their competitors were doing right or wrong.

It shouldn’t be such a secretive selection of statistics (say that five times fast!) if it’s such an objectively calculated measurement. Not only that, but it’s just interesting to see how exactly NASCAR makes their rulings. What gives?!

What the heck was Carl Edwards’s mom cooking?! … Edwards was fighting stomach issues during Saturday night’s race and even asked for some Tums during a stop. Once the race was completed, Edwards blamed the ailment on some sort of meal his mom cooked up for him following his race win in the Nationwide Series on Friday night.

I’m not really sure what it was but remind me not to ever join the Edwards clan for dinner, if I’m ever invited!

Bonus questions: What was up with Edwards calling Kansans quitters in the post-race press conference (Fun fact: I’m a Kansas native myself. … Fun fact 2: NOT a quitter!) … Was there any time during the race where Kurt Busch wasn’t angry? … Where did Kevin Harvick disappear to after winning the last two races?
5 Questions After ... Samsung Mobile 500 5 Questions After ... Samsung Mobile 500 Reviewed by Summer Dreyer on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 Rating: 5