Race Rewind: Looking back at the Food City 500
03/17/2014 7:15 PM
03/17/2014 7:17 PM
Sometimes nothing is best to say• Long after Sunday’s race was over, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, provided a thorough, clear explanation of why caution lights inexplicably came on with two of 500 laps remaining. Unfortunately, Pemberton’s explanation wasn’t the only one offered by NASCAR. Even if the original explanation – a mechanical malfunction – honestly was thought to be the correct one at the time, NASCAR never should issue statements or explanations until it is certain it has the right one. The best of intentions easily can be overshadowed by a mistaken perception of a cover-up, or even worse, incompetence.
• If there is one sport whose fans always should be wary to assume a particular outcome, it’s NASCAR. How many of the sport’s most famous race finishes came about because something unexpected happened on the final lap of a very long race? Dozens. It is silly to suggest “the right driver” won Sunday simply because it was the same driver leading before the caution miscue. We know who won because of a mistaken caution and subsequent downpour. We have no idea who would have won had the race remained under green.
• On the surface, Jimmie Johnson (19th) and Joey Logano (20th) had average finishes. It would have been interesting to see how the outcome might have changed if both had not suffered issues during the race – Johnson with a shredded tire and Logano with broken power steering. Both had very fast cars early in the race.
Stewart sees the front: It has been a tough start to the season for Tony Stewart, and it was a tough start to the weekend, as he required a provisional to make the field and started 37th in the 43-car field.
Stewart ended up fourth, by far his best outing of the season, and he was the only non-Ford driver among the top five.
“Everybody just worked hard all weekend. We had a long way to go from Friday when we weren’t very good, and every day we just got better and better,” he said. “So, I’m really proud of this team.”
Big night for RPM: Richard Petty Motorsports had shown promise during the season’s early going, but it finally got to cash in Sunday night. Aric Almirola finished a career-best thirdand teammate Marcos Ambrose ended up fifth.
“The first few weeks haven’t been great to us, so it was a good way to come back,” Almirola said. “You want to win. I saw it right there at my fingertips on that one restart when I raced side-by-side with Carl, but he had a lot better car than we did.”
Ambrose said Sunday’s race was particularly “aggressive.”
“These cars go a lot faster around this track than the old-style cars and we had to really dig in our feet,” he said. “The groove went to the very fence and we had to really watch ourselves there and keep adjusting the car all night.”
Larson earns first top-10: Kyle Larson finished second in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race and Sunday night earned his first top-10 finish in the Cup series, with his 10th place in Bristol, Tenn.
Although he did not lead, several times he was battling for the top spot.
“It’s crazy to think it’s kind of a disappointing finish for the way we ran for most of the race, but all in all it was a good race,” he said. “It was a lot of fun racing with Austin Dillon there at the end. We must have ran side-by-side or so for the last 20 laps.”
Earnhardt streak ends: Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a chance to join Richard Petty as the only drivers to start a Cup season with four consecutive finishes of second or better.
Earnhardt began the year with finishes of first, second and second but struggled Sunday and finished 24th, four laps down from the leaders.
Auto Club 400
Where: Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, Calif.
When: 3:15 p.m. Sunday
Radio: Motor Racing Network
Last year’s winner: Kyle Busch
5 key moments
1 . The start of Sunday’s race was delayed by almost two hours because of heavy rain. Once it began, Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano appeared to have the fastest cars.
2 . With Matt Kenseth in the lead, rain brought a halt to the race on Lap 119. This time, the delay lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours.
3 . Several drivers who were running up front experienced problems during the middle of the race knocking them out of contention, including Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.
4 . Carl Edwards moved into the lead on Lap 426 when he and three others elected not to pit while the rest of the lead-lap cars did.
5 . With two laps remaining and Edwards in command, many – but not all – of the caution lights came on, for no apparent reason. NASCAR placed the field under caution and shortly thereafter another heavy rain covered the track and NASCAR called the race with Edwards as the winner.
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