Thoughts, observations and a few questions following the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway:
- It took a dedicated NASCAR fan to stay awake for the rain-shortened penultimate event of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. I feel asleep about 75 laps in. Woke up at lap 122. Long rain delays are miserable if you’re at home — stuck with watching hours of NASCAR talking heads going over the same stories several times. Its far worse if you’re at the track.
- Just to change things up, NBC should have taken their cameras into the media center to hear a different angle on the sport, from those who work in the media trenches — the beat reporters. They have the closest connection to the fans — via social media — not the television network’s talking heads.
- Last week I wrote that the outcome of the race at Phoenix would have little impact on the top four teams in points that will duke it out at Homestead. That’s exactly how things played out. It didn’t take a genius to figure it out.
- Who will win the championship? Any one of the four drivers: Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr would make a great champion to represent the sport. Each one can put two sentences together in a meaningful way, each represents a long-standing and dedicated sponsor and each driver has a special story.
- Gordon is in his final season and his win at Martinsville was like magic. Some fans will always insist that some higher power in Daytona Beach scripts the story for the sport and Gordon winning his fifth title in his final year as a driver is just the kind of storybook ending NASCAR needs at this juncture.
- Harvick has been the driver to beat all season and his is easily the best of the four teams. A repeat win by the Stewart-Haas driver would be beneficial mainly to those who are in the sport. It would serve as another reminder of how hard work, combined with team wide talent and chemistry is what makes champions in auto racing, not big money or a talented driver alone.
- Busch’s season is easily the most remarkable. Sitting out for nearly a dozen races due to injury and then returning to destroy the competition with a mid-summer winning streak is truly a story for the ages. Being a father has changed the younger of the Busch brothers and it’s easy to see that the devastating injuries Kyle suffered at Daytona was a wake up call about racing and the meaning of life.
- Truex Jr.’s team is a lone wolf organization that chose to build its cars a thousand miles away from the competition, making the acquisition of the talent necessary to win all that more difficult. Somehow, team owner Barney Visser has done it. To be honest, moving to Colorado is really a no-brainer. This single-car team is clearly the underdog of the Gang of Four and while winning the title would make a good story, it wouldn’t have the lasting power of a Gordon or Busch win.
- NASCAR championships are not decided by who would make the best story. If that was the case, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have won six titles and not Jimmie Johnson. This year the title will be won by the team that has shown consistency all year long.
- I’m thinking that means it’ll be the 4 car. Unless they screw it up.
- By the way, the race is in Homestead and NOT Miami. I don’t have anything against Miami. I grew up there and graduated high school there. I love Miami. I love the city, the people, the food and the weather. But, the track is in Homestead, just like Auto Club Speedway is in Fontana and NOT Los Angeles.
- I wonder how Ford executives feel about hosting the season finale, known as the Ford Championship Weekend, yet there are no Ford teams in the Gang of Four? They have to feel like the only one at the dance without a date.
- The Air Titans (I love that name) were once more called into action at Phoenix. I would prefer not to see them on the track until sometime next June or July.
- I’ve not written anything about Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the rain-shortened race at Phoenix. It just seems meaningless after a marathon day that disappointed everyone but the winning team and the four going to Homestead for the title.
- I never like to prognosticate, but I do think that if the race continued after a brief rain delay, Joey Logano would be in the Gang of Four.
- See you in south Florida. Let’s get together for a Cuban coffee and a pastelito de guava.