If Friday’s performances are any indicator, those that doubt the early season successes of drivers like Joey Logano and Paul Menard, have been given something to think about. The second year Cup driver presently leading the charge at Joe Gibbs Racing earned his first career pole in Cup competition. That comes on the heels of topping the speed charts in practice. Now the real test will be to see if he can overcome a history of rough races around the half-miler.
Even if Atlanta’s 35th place run marked the beginning of a return to Earth for the youngster, the confidence needed to make it is evident. You can also see that same confidence in Menard, who qualified 12th. Who’d ever thought Menard would be sitting 9th in points at any point of the season? I’ll admit I wouldn’t. The “third year success” theory was bandied around in the broadcast booth during qualifying. Menard seems to making a good case for it.
Slip Slidin’ Away. They were spinnin’ more hits out there than Kasey Kasem out there in first practice. 2000 champion Bobby Labonte smacked up his ride bad enough to require a back-up and current titlist Jimmie Johnson caught a break by spinning his car out and hitting…nothing. It seems nothing ever goes wrong for this guy.
It will be interesting to see how the track feels by Sunday. Thickening the plot is an increasing chance of rain throughout the day, working its way up from a 30% chance of the liquid sunshine.
Tired of Edwards vs. Keselowski? How about Edwards vs. Harvick? To hear Carl Edwards tell it, the Keselowski feud is one without much in the way of legs to it, something that will blow over as time goes by.
Not so with Harvick. Happy, never one to mince words, and quick with a quote on Twitter, first inserted himself into the post-Atlanta controversy with his remarks about Edwards’ punishment (or lack of) when the probation was announced. Then, Harvick proceeded to say Edwards as a “fake” with his sunny on-camera demeanor during a radio show earlier this week. Cousin Carl retorted bad calling Harvick a “bad person,” demonstrating time has to healed bad feelings generated from the Fall, 2008 Talladega race.
Given the current state of affairs, I’d speculate Edwards and Keselowski are done with their little dust-up. As for Edwards and Harvick? That would be a fight I’d pay to see. Edwards has parlayed his physique into marketing opportunity, while Harvick is an old high school wrestler, complete with a spunky attitude. Safe to say, Carl will be more focused on staying out of the principal’s office for now and trying to turn his moribund fortunes around- not to mention rehabilitate his dinged up image. Harvick is no doubt focused on keeping himself out in front. On the other hand, things could get quite interesting should the “29” and the “99” find themselves charging hard in close proximity. Close proximity is all Bristol is.
Besides Logano, there’s a number of other racers off to good starts that are starting out well at Bristol. AMS winner Kurt Busch is up on the front row outside Logano on a track where he owns five victories. Matt Kenseth is top ten on the starting grid, was second in Friday practice, and throughout the young season has looked a lot like how Tony Stewart did at the outset of 2009. Kenseth hasn’t missed the top ten yet, and was runner-up in Atlanta. Of course, Jimmie Johnson has been solid throughout the day so far. Would you believe Johnson’s never won at Bristol? Believe it, it’s true.
Car “18”, where are you? Speaking of the unbelievable, can you believe what’s up with Kyle Busch? This guy swept Bristol last year, won NASCAR’s first CoT race at Bristol, and darn near won the night race in ‘08. So what’s up with the 38th place practice performances on the speed chart and starting grid? It sure goes to show you how quickly fortunes change for the better or worse.
It’s good to be racin’ again. One can only speculate, ruminate, and bloviate for so long before you just need someone to go out there and be the action, rather than just talking about it.
Let the games begin.