Johnson Celebrates With a Party at the Poconos

6/9/2013

By: Billy Tewes

The Party at the Pocono’s will continue in victory lane for Jimmie Johnson dominated another race this year. This time, Johnson was able to avoid any restart penalties as he completely covered the field this afternoon to win the Party At the Poconos 400. Johnson led all but 32 of the 160 laps as he took home his 63rd career victory and third at Pocono.

The pole for the tricky triangle was awarded to Jimmie Johnson due to qualifying being rained out and Johnson would prove that the pole award was the only thing handed to him. The first lap of the race saw Kasey Kahne fall way off the pace and this was due to a drivetrain issue. Kahne would eventually make his way back to the track but would finish 36th and 19 laps down.

The first set of laps would see Johnson’s only hiccup of the day as Carl Edwards would take the lead from second. However, it would not take Johnson long to regain the lead and run away from the field.

Throughout the race and especially early on, drivers complained of extremely loose race cars. Drivers such as Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle slightly fell back because of extremely loose race cars. The first few sets of pit stops would come under green until debris brought out the first caution. For majority of the second half of the race, the 39 car of Ryan Newman was off pit cycle from the leaders. At first this appeared to be a bad deal for Newman as most of the leaders had to make only one final pitstop and Newman had to make two. But a series of late cautions aided Newman’s fuel mileage gamble and he would end up finishing 5th, his second top five of the year.

The first accident of the day came when Matt Kenseth began to slide back. In the tunnel turn (turn 2), Juan Pablo Montoya tried to take advantage of the slower Kenseth, but got loose and washed up into Kenseth, taking out both. Kenseth would never be the same and went on to finish 25th, Montoya would finish a respectable 14th. A similar situation happened with Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart. On a restart, in the exact same tunnel turn, Keselowski slid up into Tony Stewart but both drivers had awesome saves. Tony Stewart would race on to finish in the top 5 whereas Keselowski slid back to finish 16th.

Johnson’s domination overshadows great runs by Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr and as I mentioned earlier, the fuel strategy run by Ryan Newman. These drivers had a shot at challenging Johnson for the lead on restarts, but that was about the only time they could come close to the back bumper of Johnson’s car.

Race fans its the time of the year for Nascar to head to Brooklyn, Michigan, the site of the 2 mile oval and first stop at the Michigan International Speedway. Another track that cracks the 200 MPH mark and one that always turns out classic finishes. The first Michigan race of 2002 was one of my favorite races as Dale Jarrett nearly passed the field in trying to chase Matt Kenseth down for the win. Kenseth would hold off Dale Jarrett but it was really amazing to see what fresh tires can do. My pick for the Quicken Loans 400 is going to be Jimmie Johnson. He is going to win back to back races and show the Hendrick Motorsports has a firm grip on producing great cars with this new gen six package.

Michigan International Speedway. Beautiful, but an absolute pain to get out of after the race!

Martinsville Domination Jimmie Johnson Style

4/7/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Martinsville might have to be renamed “Jimmie Johnsonville” after Jimmie Johnson took home the Grandfather clock at this afternoon’s STP Gas Booster 500.  The mayhem at Martinsville was contained due in part to a dominating performance Johnson. Johnson led 347 of the 500 laps en route to his second win of the year and his 8th career win at Martinsville.

Johnson dominated this weekend from start to finish. Johnson took the pole position in qualifying Friday afternoon with a speed of 98.4 which was good enough for a brand new track record. Very few drivers were able to challenge Johnson and it seemed as if his car was on a rail all day long.

Early on, it seemed as if the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were going to be the dominating drivers. But after lap 363, Jimmie Johnson would prove to be too much to handle. Johnson and his #48 Lowes team were no lower than fourth position the entire 500 laps of the race. This comes as no surprise as I noted in my last blog, the Hendrick cars have always been extremely good at Martinsville.

Martinsville is generally a one lane race track. It is nearly impossible for drivers to pass and that caused trouble, especially when it came to flat tires. Drivers tried desperately to get to the bottom lane on restarts as well as when trying to pass another driver. In some instances, the cars would collide and one drivers’ fender would dig into the tire of the driver next to them. Drivers had to bump each other out of the way for position and that caused for a lot of beat up cars and dented hoods. This race was old school Martinsville at its finest!

Last week I mentioned that Dale Earnhardt Jr might win his first race of the year. Unfortunately for him, he would end up finishing 24th, worst of all the Hendrick cars. Johnson, Gordon and Kahne would finish first, third and fourth respectively. I also mentioned in last week’s blog that there had been five different winners this year. My thunder was completely ruined this week as Dale Earnhardt Jr did not win and Johnson became the first multi race winner.

I want to talk about one really cool thing that came out of Martinsville that I’ve never seen before. With 15 laps to go, Kurt Busch broke a brake line. The combination of the brake fluid spraying on the hot engine caused a huge engine fire. This video shows the accident and also shows that Kurt Busch reaches into his dash and pushes a button that triggers a fire extinguisher that is inside the engine compartment. This is a really neat feature that was designed with the generation six car that really shows how safety minded the engineers were when they built this car.

With Martinsville in the books, Nascar moves out West to the Texas Motor Speedway where high speeds will be the storyline. Texas Motor Speedway is a mile and a half track with high banked turns that allow drivers to hit over 200 MPH. Will Jimmie Johnson carry the momentum of winning this week into back to back victories? That is quite possible; however my pick for next week is going to be Matt Kenseth. Kenseth is coming off a disappointing finish at Martinsville after leading nearly 80 laps. Kenseth has won twice at Texas and he has truly found his way with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. He has already won at Las Vegas, a similar track and has won Texas twice in his career.

Matt Kenseth’s last victory at Texas in 2011.

Early Season Reflection; Update on Hamlin’s Condition

By: Billy Tewes

Happy Easter to all and welcome to my premature reflection of the 2013 Sprint Cup Season. What can we say that hasn’t already been said by the great competition on the track? Aside from Daytona, nearly every race has had a memorable finish and some sort of strategy employed to determine the victor. So with that being said, here are the three things that have been a pleasant surprise for me.

1. Generation six car

Nascar redesigned the car template for the 2013 season. Overall, I would give this car an A grade. The drivers love it and know that it is a few tweaks away from being competitive on all of the tracks. The look of the car is so much more visually appealing than that of the Car of Tomorrow. The car of tomorrow was Nascar’s attempt at making a safer car. The car was extremely safe, but it also came at the cost of an ugly boxy looking car. The 2013 generation six car looks closer to the street cars that manufacturers sell to us consumers and I think that is an important part of Motorsports. Nascar wants to build a big connection with their fans and what better way than to make them feel like they can drive the same cars that their favorite drivers race.

2. Five Different Winners

When I heard about a new stock car style with the generation six car, I kind of assumed that some teams would have greater competitive advantages than others. But so far, it seems like all three manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota) are on a level playing field. There have been five different drivers who have won in five races. Chevrolet has won two, Toyota has won two and Ford has won one. Matt Kenseth almost broke that trend at Bristol but was wrecked out by Jeff Gordon’s flat tire. I think this is a great indication for the generation six car and who knows, maybe we’ll go up to ten races with ten different winners!

3. Strategy

Strategy has always been an important aspect of Nascar. Teams are not familiar with the brand new generation six car when it comes to older tires and different adjustments. I am very surprised to see teams who are racing for wins take risks such as not taking tires or only take two tires to get in the top spot. I think with the generation six car, we are seeing how valuable clean air is. Clean air is when the first place driver has no cars in front of them and have a clean air flow and generally have a better advantage speed wise. Its just shocking to see drivers like Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano on older tires actually being as fast or faster than the drivers who have four fresh tires. It is a true testament to how good this generation six car is and that we can expect some great racing to come!

With all that being said, we are on to Martinsville, the paper clip in Virginia! Much like Bristol, this track is known for short tempers. The track is the shortest distance wise on the cup schedule at .526 miles. The flatness of the track, combined with the fact that generally the only way to pass someone is to bump them out of the way is the reason this place is so chaotic.

Denny Hamlin has won three of the last seven Martinsville races but will sidelined for the next five races due to a compression fracture in his back. With that being said I think Dale Earnhardt Jr could get his first win of the season at Martinsville. The point leader nearly won this race last year but Kevin Harvick passed him late to win. The Hendrick cars are always competitive at Martinsville so it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the four (Earnhardt Jr, Gordon, Johnson, Kahne) could take home the trophy. Until next time, adios and God speed Nascar fans!