Monday, April 18, 2011

Fan Insight: What is the best finish so far of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season? California, Martinsville or Talladega…

As the second NASCAR Cup Series off weekend is on the horizon with the Easter break, the NASCAR community is still buzzing about the first 8 races of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season especially the last few races that produced three incredible finishes with late race passes.

So since we have next weekend off and we just had the closest finish of the 2011 season so far at Talladega Superspeedway with Jimmie Johnson winning, I figure it was time to ask a question to my readers, what was the best finish so far of the 2011 NASCAR Spring Cup Series season?

1. Kevin Harvick edging out Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch to win the Auto Club 400 in California

A few weeks ago, NASCAR raced at California Speedway for the first and only time in 2011 in a 400 mile race. I don’t know what it was about changing the race distance from 400 miles to 500 miles, but the races was more entertaining especially for a 2 mile d-shaped oval.

In the closing laps of the race, Kyle Busch was leading, but with 5 laps to go, Busch had a mirror full of second place Jimmie Johnson and seeing a closing Kevin Harvick. Both Johnson and Harvick blow by a slower Kyle Busch and set off to settle this one between them. But on the last lap heading down the back straightaway, Harvick gave Johnson a bump heading into turn 3. Johnson went in, in the middle grove, which left Harvick the high side and with an impressive move around Johnson, Kevin Harvick narrowly beat out Jimmie Johnson at the line to win the race in front of a good sized crowd.

2. Kevin Harvick edging out Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch to win at Martinsville

After a good race at California, NASCAR headed east to one of the oldest racetracks on the NASCAR schedule, Martinsville Speedway and in front of a big crowd (not sellout) and with tires issues, NASCAR fans saw a good entertaining race. This one had everything right down to a violent wreck just about half-way though the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 that involved Martin Truex Jr. having a hung throttle heading the outside wall in turn 3 and taking Kasey Kahne with him.

But at the end of this one, it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. fighting it out for the lead with Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for the win. In the end, it was “the closer”, Kevin Harvick getting passed Dale Jr. to score his second win of 2011. The race showed that fans will once again attend races at Martinsville that short track action is entertaining and Harvick is indeed the closure right now in 2011. What a good race that one was.

3. Jimmie Johnson edging out Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a three-wide finish to win the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega

After a long drawn out race in Texas, NASCAR turned there attention to the second superspeedway race of 2011 and the first of two visits to Talladega Superspeedway. After the Daytona 500 had two-car drafts, as well as a large pack, everyone thought that we would see more of the same at Talladega, but they were wrong. Fans actually saw a long race of two-car drafts all day long with very few cautions that at times was boring to watch. You know the old expression, Talladega racing is 2-3 hours of pack, long drawn out racing, followed by 5 laps of heart pumping racing and that’s exactly what we had.

This race would end being decided in the last few inches as on the last lap coming out of turn 3, Bowyer and Harvick where one pair, Gordon and Martin were another pair, but it was Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. that came out of the middle of nowhere, drove down to the yellow line coming through the tri-oval and in a three-wide finish at the line, Johnson with Dale Jr.’s push edged out Bowyer by a margin of victory of .002 seconds to win Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 race.

Clint Bowyer finished 2nd in his best finish so far of 2011, Jeff Gordon finishing 3rd, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishing 4th and “the closer” Kevin Harvick finishing 5th. What an impressive finish.

So what was the best finish so far in 2011?

Personally, I would have to say that after really thinking about it, it had to be the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega had the best finish with a margin of victory of 0.002 second in a three-wide ending. However for the record, I believe that Martinsville was the better race hands down, it was simply more entertaining, Talladega wasn’t.

(Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)