5 Things we learned In case the four Sprint Cup championships didn't already give it away, Sunday's win at Bristol proves that Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe's team have no equal on track right now.
Going into the weekend, Bristol was just one of six tracks on the schedule where Johnson had never won - in fact, in years past the frustration Team 48 faced at the half-mile track offered hope to rivals. But that's no longer the case as he had a strong car all race en route to his first win at the track and the 50th of his career.
So what's next? While a fifth-straight title isn't a forgone conclusion quite yet, the real competition for J.J. has become the history books.
As Jim Utter from the Charlotte Observer points out, "Only 11 other drivers have won 50 Cup races. Three are NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees, six were Hall of Fame nominees." Will Johnson join that esteemed group? Absolutely. But the question becomes where does he rank amongst them.
Performances like Sunday's will only help raise his ranking - both in the wins column and the esteemed category.
The Professionals - Come on, admit it, you thought that after two weeks of buildup, Brad Keselowski would find a way to pay back Carl Edwards for the crash that saw him get airborne at Atlanta - and that would start a game of bumper cars around Bristol. But guess what? Much to the dismay of all of us, the two drivers realized they have to focus on the job at hand and move on. And though they raced each other a few times on Sunday, they were professionals about it on their way to finishes of sixth (Edwards) and 13th (Keselowski). Barring new developments, that's likely the end of that feud.
NASCAR's message gets across - Joey Logano had every reason to wreck Kevin Harvick Sunday at Bristol. In the Nationwide Series race the day before, Logano was just feet away from a top-five finish when Harvick punted him out of the way. And after suffering early issues that put him out of contention Sunday, the stage was set for Logano to pull a Carl Edwards ... but it didn't happen. Payback is surely coming, but for now, "Boys, have at it," seems to have its limits.
Happy the Intimidator? - Kevin Harvick had quite a busy weekend. Aside from using the chrome horn on Logano Saturday and getting the result he needed to remain the Sprint Cup championship leader Sunday, he found a way to throw a jab at an old nemesis ("fake as hell" Edwards). Think that's all coincidence? Me neither. Seems like Happy is taking lessons from the man he inherited his ride from.
The real deal - So far this season, we've raced at superspeedways, intermediate tracks and short tracks. Aside from road courses, which take up just two dates on the schedule, we've gotten a pretty good view of what everybody is bringing to the table this year. Sure, there are factors to consider like racing luck and the switch from the wing to the spoilers (which won't make that much of a difference - see "1 Last Thing" below), but go ahead and look at the current standings - the cream of the crop is at the top, and it includes Paul Menard. Just something to consider.
4 Things you may have missed
Dale Jr. gets a dose of tough love - Crew chief Lance McGrew was not shy about pushing Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s buttons on Sunday. The results? A few not-safe-for-work exchanges ... and a good result .
The future is here for Penske - Justin Allgaier may not look old enough to have a license, but the 23-year-old had the look of a Sprint Cup driver as he held off many superstars en route to winning Saturday's Nationwide Series race .
Scary wreck mars legends race - An exhibition race featuring retired NASCAR greats is always a fan favorite at Bristol, but this year's event was soured a bit after a frightening crash sent two legends to the hospital .
Logano makes history - Before the feud with Harvick took center stage, Joey Logano etched his name in the record books Friday .
3 On top
Jimmie Johnson - Is there anything he can't do inside a Sprint Cup Series car?
Tony Stewart - Umm ... do you know where he came from? I sure don't. But this is just the result Smoke needs to kick-start his season. Victory Lane isn't far away for his bunch.
Kurt Busch - The result may not be what he wanted but in the big picture view he is starting to look like one of the few drivers who can keep pace with J.J. - just imagine how much better he'll be when he truly connects and trusts his crew chief, Steve Addington.
2 Quotes heard around the garage
"I'd rather lose to any of the 41 cars out there than the No. 48 car. I thought we had them beat. I gave it my heart today, but came up short." - Kurt Busch .
"I went from a two-time Daytona 500 winner to a start-and-park." - Michael Waltrip .
1 Last thing
So much for NASCAR wingin' it.
Sunday's race at Bristol Motor Speedway was the last using the rear wing on the Sprint Cup Series car.
Although there is plenty of rejoicing from inside and outside the garage about the "ugly-looking" parts, not everybody hated the wing era. In 93 races (16 races in 2007, full time in 2008-09 and five this year), a number of drivers were prolific in wingin' their way to Victory Lane (Hey, it's the last time I can use these jokes, bear with me): Carl Edwards (11 wins), Kyle Busch (13), and yes, Jimmie Johnson (22).
But if you think the domination of those stars is going to end just because of the change, you are flying on a wing and a prayer (OK, that was the last one).
"I think when there's situations like this where there's a major rule change, I think with the strength we have got at Hendrick Motorsports, with the people we've got, that we typically adapt quicker than most people, so I'm looking forward to it," Chad Knaus said Sunday at Bristol.
Hate to be a spoil sport, but the best are going to remain the best as we return to the spoiler era in NASCAR.