Well folks, I finally think the Sprint Cup competitors have figured it out. Kevin Harvick said as much in his post race interview when he talked about how good the #48 car is and where they hide that Golden Horseshoe. So now in addition to beating the #48 car, they now also have to ask themselves what to do about the Golden Horseshoe.
You have to admit that the Lowe's team had a great car Sunday in Fontana. Jimmie Johnson had his hands full with Kevin Harvick though. Those two put on one heck of a show. They passed each other lap after lap. It actually looked like the #29 was the better car most of the day. You especially saw it shine on the longer runs during the race.
When it came time for pit stops and Jimmie was coming down pit road, the caution came out. They were able to get their work done and get out in front of Jeff Burton, who was the leader at the time. So that put him in front of the leaders. Naturally when they came back around, everyone else peeled off to make their pit stops and it handed Jimmie the lead.
Like I said in our NASCAR on FOX telecast, it really was the perfect storm for the #48 bunch. They got him on pit road at the right time, got him serviced and back out at the right time. Sure it could have happened to Kevin or Jeff Burton or any number of guys for that matter. Once again though, that #48 has that Golden Horseshoe and everything just goes their way.
That's the frustrating thing to the competitors. Maybe you had a better car than they did, but they still won the race. Things look to be back to normal after the race in Daytona -- Jimmie hasn't had much success there in the last four year. But the #48 heads to California and picks up where most people say our "regular season" begins. That's because the Daytona and Talladega cars are their own animals due to the restrictor plate engines and other differences. The car Jimmie used to win Sunday is the type of car what will be used in say 90% of the races in the 2010 schedule.
I thought the racing all back through the field was great Sunday. We had good competition all day. A number of cars were competitive. We had a bunch of lead changes among quite a few cars. We had green flag pit stops. The weather stayed away. I mean what else could you ask for?
The other thing I noticed at California is the Richard Childress Racing teams continued their amazing turnaround from last year. If you remember, a year ago this time in California we were asking "what the heck is wrong with those Childress cars?" This year, man what a difference. He had all three cars finishing in the Top 10 and all three cars could have won the race. As a car owner, that's about as good as it gets.
I am really glad to see it happening for Richard. He has poured his whole life and soul into NASCAR. Sure, they don't give you anything in this sport, you have to earn it but it's great to see that company running up front where it belongs. Now he even has Kevin Harvick leading the Sprint Cup points.
For Kevin to win Richard another championship, they will have to figure out how to beat Jimmie and his Golden Horseshoe. Here's an idea. Maybe they can figure out where the #48 got theirs and then get one for themselves.
I say it but will keep saying it. Don't get mad at Jimmie Johnson. Don't get mad at Chad Knaus. Don't get mad at Rick Hendrick. Richard Childress has now shown everyone what the blueprint is. Quit worrying about the other guy and improve your program. Focus on what you can control. Get your program to at least where Hendrick camp is and then you have a legitimate shot at beating them.
I was still disappointed at the Roush-Fenway cars. I still think they are a little bit ahead of where they were last year at this time, so that's good. That bunch has made a bunch of changes. So I think with a little more time, they will be back up in the middle of all the action.
I think we have a pretty good product on the track right now. The Daytona 500 and Sunday's race at California proved that. I think the consistent start times will continue to pay dividends as we get farther along in the season. I think once the word gets out about the racing being better, we will see more folks come to the races and back to the TV sets.
I just think we are on the right track and I like what NASCAR has been doing. They are putting forth a great effort and working really hard to make significant changes that are paying off. It's easy to call them to the carpet when they make a misstep, but we also need to applaud them when they make positive changes.
OH BY THE WAY – I found it interesting that our top two finishers from the Daytona 500, Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn't carry that momentum all the way through the California race.
Jamie got off to a great start by winning the pole, but when the green flag dropped that car was clearly struggling and slipped back into the field. Jamie just had a mediocre day.
Unfortunately Dale Jr. wasn't able to carry over his momentum to California either. I thought after such a strong finish in the Daytona 500 where it was so exciting to see him so competitive again, that maybe had some good luck riding with him again. Unfortunately mechanical problems put an end to that.
Hopefully both can rebound this weekend at Las Vegas and get that positive momentum going again.