Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fan Insight: Kevin Harvick muscles his way to victory in the Auto Club 400 in California. Where did Newman come from?

(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Welcome readers to another edition of Fan Insight and I come to you with my insight of the Auto Club 400 at the California Speedway from this past weekend. Heading into California, normally I’m really not all that excited about the racing, but for some reason or another, especially after watching last falls 400 mile race, I was more interested this year and 500 is just too long for these races anyway.

But for the Auto Club 400, there was a twist for me as I watched the Cup Series race at my sister’s with my father and brother in-law. Watching Cup Series races with my father and my brother in-law can get to be very interesting at times, but it offers some unique perspective's into what is really going on and what they see. For the Auto Club 400, the race was a decent one to say the least, unless there was a caution flag and another double-file restart. In that case, drivers would go two-three-four wide at times and make the racing very exciting.

But let’s be honest, there is little excitement in watching any given driver lead most of the laps and drive away from the field especially Kyle Busch. But simply put, its not over until the checkered flag waves and we have a winner. And on Sunday, that’s exactly what made the Auto Club 400 an exciting race at the end.

With 10 to go, I really thought that the race after the final restart was all about fifth on back, but leave it to Kyle Busch in over driving his racecar, “5 time” Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick to come out of the middle of nowhere and not only blow by the most talked about driver Kyle Busch in the Cup Series today and settle it among themselves. And they did.

On the white flag lap, Jimmie Johnson lead into turn 1, but by the time they were halfway down the back straightaway, Harvick was up Johnson’s six (back bumper), shoving him along and sending Johnson harder than he wanted to into turn 3. From there, it was all Harvick skating up towards the wall, driving right by Johnson and right into victory lane. Nobody could ay that Harvick didn’t earn that win, that was a great move on Johnson and it got me on the edge of my seat.

Notebook:

1. Dale Jr. continues his comeback: Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues his run of top 15 place finishes since Phoenix with a 12th place finish on Sunday. Dale Jr. did slide a little in the points, but still remains inside the top 12 in points, he’s 12th.

2. Richard Childress Racing leaves their mark in California: All four RCR cars finished inside the top 16. Harvick wins, Bowyer finished 7th, Burton 15th and Menard 16th. Kevin Harvick continues to fight his way back into the top 12 in points and now finds himself 9th in Cup Series points. This win defiantly helped Harvick rebound after a few bad finishes to open the 2011 season. But the top RCR, Paul Menard still finds himself 7th in points.

3. Tony Stewart not having any fun with his finishing results: Despite the fact that Stewart does good in practice, qualifying and during the race, it seems that Smoke just continues to have trouble closing the deal with these races and ended up finishing 13th on Sunday. Right now Smoke is just trying to close the deal. But one thing for everyone to remember including Smoke is that he is a second half driver. Smoke doesn’t normally make noise until Sonoma and Daytona or even Watkins Glen.

4. Ryan Newman makes statement: As I sit here just after today’s race looking at the results and unofficial point standings, I’ve noticed that even though car owner Tony Stewart isn’t happy, his teammate Ryan Newman is happy as he finished 5th on Sunday and now finds himself 2nd in points, only –9 points behind leader Carl Edwards. All I can say is, where did Newman come from. Boy did Newman surprise me.

5. No worries about Jimmie Johnson: For everyone who is wondering about the 5 time Cup Series Champion, Jimmie Johnson, don’t. Johnson is doing exactly what he does, he’s right there making little noise until the chase comes and its his turn to pound on the competition and go after his 6th straight Cup Series Championship. Until then no worries here.

6. California Speedway, several press releases sent out, one Cup Series date per year and yet low attendance again. All I’m going to say is I’m going to address NASCAR attendance later this week on my personal blog BVinsight.com

Well readers, that’s a wrap on the Auto Club 400 and now we set our sights on short track action next weekend at Martinsville.