In case you can’t get enough of this topic, Joey Logano came into the Phoenix Raceway media center Friday afternoon for a scheduled session. Naturally, most of the questions were about the fight.
Here are some of the highlights:
— On what he and Busch discussed during their Friday morning meeting with NASCAR: “I told him that we obviously made contact on the back straightaway. I had a not-very-good entry and had to slow down the car a lot to stay on the bottom and tried to make up some of that speed at the bottom of the racetrack and then I got loose. Once you get loose once, then I was on his door. You get loose again and at that point that was it. That is my mistake.
“The fact of the matter is I tried to stay on the bottom, I made a mistake and got up into him. I hate that it happened. I would take it back in a heartbeat. He asked for data when we talked on the phone (during the week) and I was able to bring that with me and present that and try to explain what was going on inside my race car.”
— On whether he got through to Busch: “Time will tell. I guess your actions on the racetrack are what speaks the loudest a lot of times. I believe so. I tried to be as open and honest and be an open book. There are no secrets. Hopefully that helped.”
— On whether it was intentional: “We were racing to the checkered flag and I have no reason to do anything on purpose for fourth place. That makes no sense. We were racing hard for position and the car got loose.”
— On whether he’s OK with Busch not being penalized: “Of course. I don’t see where there should have been a fine for anything. I didn’t see anything wrong.”
— On his insistence he didn’t get punched in the face: “I have ninja moves man! I slipped. … I can say that I didn’t feel anything (if Busch did connect). It sure didn’t hurt.”
As for Busch’s side of all this? Well, so far all we’ve gotten is “Everything is great!”
Kyle Busch and Joey Logano met briefly in the NASCAR hauler prior to practice Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. Each driver emerged separately — followed by NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell.
Here’s one thing we learned from each participant:
Drivers can get physical on pit road, but they’d better not use their cars to settle any beefs.
“We’re very clear that we’re not going to allow a car to be used as a weapon,” O’Donnell said. “We didn’t see that in this case. We looked at this as good, hard racing. That’s when we will react — if there’s an intentional something that happens on the racetrack, we’ll have to react.”
The Team Penske driver brought data from the car with him — something he said Busch asked for — as evidence he didn’t do it on purpose (data could include steering inputs, for example).
“I was able to show him that and it was pretty clear, in my opinion, what happened,” Logano said. ” I hope he was able to see that and know I was sincere about it.
“The only thing I can do at this point was to plead my case and say, ‘Hey, it was an honest mistake, it was hard racing at the end.'”
Logano said it “always helps to talk face-to-face” — something he didn’t do in the past, notably with Matt Kenseth prior to the veteran taking revenge on him at Martinsville.
Everything is great.
“Everything is great,” Busch said. “Everything is great. … Everything is great. … Everything is great.”
I grew up a Jeff Gordon fan, but in 2001, I became a Harvick fan. He is from Bakersfield. He grew up near where I grew up. He went to school with my mom, and I actually know his mom. We talked about his first win at Atlanta the day after it happened.
5. Who is your most disliked driver?
6. Why don’t you like that person?
I have never liked his attitude. I wasn’t entirely fond of the fact that the Chase format allowed someone to miss multiple races and still win the championship.
7. What is your favorite track?
8. What is one thing you would change if you were in charge of NASCAR?
I do not like the final race being “straight up.” I am a fan of the new format because it rewards consistency once again, but being better at Homestead is still what will technically crown the champion.
9. What is one thing you would keep the same if you were in charge of NASCAR?
Race lengths. The endurance required is one thing that makes the races so exciting. If they were much shorter, it would take away from that fact.
10. How often do you yell at the TV during a race?
11. Do you have any advice for other fans?
Find people who love the sport. They may not love it at first, but if you see even an inkling of hope that they may grow to love NASCAR, cultivate that hope! Expose them to NASCAR as much as possible. You know how amazing NASCAR is, so it is just a matter of time before they know that as well.
And do not be discouraged by those who say it is “boring” or they are “just driving in circles.”
12. What else do you want the NASCAR world to know about you?
NASCAR has been my main passion my entire life. I love absolutely everything about it. Even as a young kid, I would spent countless hours on Jayski.com reading articles, trying to understand a new rule or looking at paint schemes.
I love NASCAR. I will never stop watching it. I love watching it, reading about it and talking about it with others.
The third edition of the “Social Spotlight” focuses on the social media usage of Roush Fenway Racing’s Bubba Wallace. We spoke last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
First of all, I have to give you some credit because a few years ago, you told me about this amazing (photo editing app) called Snapseed.
I don’t even use that anymore.
You don’t even use it? What have you moved on to?
They have Lightroom which is a really good photography app you can get on your computer, and is what a lot of professionals use — I think. But they have it for your phone, so I use that now.
Well apparently I have to move onto that. Every time somebody is like, “I really like your Quiet Track picture,” I’m like, “Oh yeah, actually I totally enhanced that using Snapseed,” but I just don’t tell them. Really, I think the trick for photography when you post on social media is you have to make it look nice, but you can’t give it away that it looks too filtered.
Right. Yes. That is true. You’ve got to keep your adjustments and all your secrets kind of in check. First starting out, remember on Instagram you could do all those filters? And then I used three apps and my girlfriend (Amanda) gives me so much crap still — and this was like five years ago — but like the super HDR. It’d be blue sky but I’d turn it black. Oh, it’s bad.
But I’ve come a long way now and cleaned up my pictures. But yeah, I don’t even use Snapseed. There was one called Camera+ and one more that I can’t remember what it was. But good times back in the old app days.
So are you not as into photography these days? I look at your Instagram feed and maybe you don’t have as much time or you’re doing other stuff.
I don’t do it as much and I wish I would. I’m always like, “Ooh, there’s a new camera, let’s go get it.” Which I don’t need a new camera at all. I’ve got really good stuff. But to shoot track photography — which I’d like to start doing again — I need this one lens, but it costs an arm and a leg. So that’s the only bad thing.
I took some stuff of personal vehicles, but nothing like I was doing. I was taking pictures like every day, but I just don’t have time for it now between the race schedule and trying to do stuff at home, being lazy. But yeah, I want to get back into it for sure.
So is Instagram not your favorite platform? What is your favorite social platform to use?
It’s a toss-up between Instagram and Twitter. Instagram, you know, just from the photography side, whether it’s a picture I’ve taken or a picture here at the track that professionals have taken, share it out with the fans. If I post anything with my face in it, my girlfriend will send me a DM or a text of something funny about it — it’s guaranteed. But Twitter, just engaging with the fans or other drivers on there, starting up some funny conversations. Just between those two. There’s not really one that tops it.
Where does Snapchat fit into all that for you?
Snapchat is third to that. Those three are what I use. I get Instagram Stories, so I keep thinking that’s a different app.
When you hear about Millennials, you hear about Snapchat. You go to a concert and you look at people’s phones and it’s all Snapchat. So why do you think for you personally, you’re not 100% Snapchat?
I don’t know. I like Snapchat. The filters on there adds some fun stuff. You look at pictures for 10 seconds or whatever and it goes away. I’ll sometimes scroll through the news part — like the topics or whatever…
The Discover tab.
Discover, yeah. I’ll scroll through those; some things are interesting on there. Some days I’ll be on Snapchat all day, then I’ll go three or four days without doing it. It’s still fun though.
Do you like the Instagram Stories better than Snapchat’s stories?
I’m so used to Snapchat that I keep forgetting about Instagram. And I think I have a lot bigger following on Instagram than Snapchat. But Snapchat is just easy. A little easier to work. You don’t have to swipe over. You just open it up, there’s a selfie of you right there. Snap away. Instagram takes a little bit more work. But I kind of like the drawing stuff on there, the different font types and you can add your location and stuff. It’s pretty cool. I just keep forgetting about it.
That’s the same thing for me. I almost get annoyed when I see people posting Instagram Stories because I’m so used to Snapchat.
I’m like, “Oh, great. Now I’ve got to go through these three people’s (stories) of the ones I follow.” Not everybody does it.
No. Like I follow Lewis Hamilton, Ken Block — I don’t follow them on Snapchat, but I imagine they do it on both. But they are heavy on Instagram (Stories).
That’s interesting, because Lewis Hamilton is super heavy on Snap.
Is he? I don’t follow him on there. But man, he has some cool stuff. It makes me wonder like, “How do you get that effect?” I know they go through some editing stuff.
Actually, seeing how it worked yesterday with (YouTube trick-shot star) Brodie Smith, and he recorded it all, but then they were cutting through sections. Like they cut out a lot of stuff. I’m like, “Huh. That’s interesting. I need to figure out how to do that.”
Like right there, on an app?
So he turned his phone on Airplane Mode, so nothing was going to go through. But he was just recording on the camera roll, and then the NASCAR social team would go through and post it for him, and it was all cut up. They didn’t show like the whole walk up to the Stratosphere. They just showed, “We’re at the bottom, now we’re at the top.” But it was all the same clip. I need to figure out how to do that. It was pretty cool.
Let’s talk a little bit about how you deal with fans — or people who aren’t your fans — on social media. If you have haters, what’s your general strategy? Are you a blocker? Do you mute people? Ignore it?
I ignore it. I don’t know if I’ve blocked anybody on Twitter. I’ve blocked a ton of people on Snapchat, because those are annoying. Just snapchat after snapchat of random stuff.
Yeah, because people are snapping to their freaking friends list. They’re not just posting to their story, they’re sending it to all their friends. You’re like, “Dude! Stop.”
Yeah, exactly. I’ve gotten like conversations like, “Hey, why don’t you talk to me anymore?” I don’t even know who the hell they are. And it’s like, “Oh, you can’t snap me back?” It could be some 10-year-old little boy or whatever. Just freaking around on the damn Snapchat and I’m like, “Sorry, no idea who you are.” And then he’s like, “Oh, hey, I’m — “ BLOCK! So I block that stuff.
But I haven’t had anything crazy on Snapchat, Instagram. Twitter, you’ll get those ignorant comments every once in awhile, but it’s just funny to go back and look at ‘em, laugh, and then think about posting something back but knowing you’ll probably get a phone call if you do. So I just kind of hold off.
So it’s one of those things where your instinct is to reply right away and then you’re like, “Eh, not worth it.”
Yes, yes. You’re going to get that phone call (from Roush Fenway Racing): “We’ve seen your post, that reply to that guy. We get where you’re coming from, but hold off.” (It’s like) “Yeah, OK, Mom.” (Laughs)
Speaking of Mom, do your parents ever say anything about your social media stuff? Because mine do.
No. My dad is on Twitter and at 7 a.m. you’ll see, “Darrell Sr. liked your tweet” or retweeted something. Every day. But my mom, we would be on Facebook back in high school and she’d say, “You can’t be saying ‘Hell’ or ‘Shit’ or something on there.” And I’m like, “BLOCK!” I unfriended her. So we aren’t even (Facebook) friends to this day. I don’t even think she gets on there anymore.
Even still? You haven’t re-friended her on Facebook?
No. I don’t even get on Facebook anymore. I have a tab on my (Internet) Explorer and I’ll click on it and (it’s like), “OK, I’m done.” I’m not on there like I am Twitter and Instagram.
So it’s mostly Roush or people monitoring your feed who are like, “Hey, we’re trying to save you from yourself,” but it’s annoying. That kind of thing?
Yeah, the Fun Police. But that’s part of it. You’re athletes and whatever you want to call us — we’re put on a pedestal, and we’ve got to watch what we say. We can keep it borderline and play on the fence sometimes, but don’t want to push the limits too hard.
How often are you on Twitter? Do you see all of your replies?
Yeah, after a race, I’ll go all the way back until (I think), “Oh, I’ve seen that tweet before.” I’ll read through, especially after a win, I’ll be scrolling for hours. That was three years ago (since he won), so I haven’t done that win scroll (lately). But even if we have a good race, I’ll go through there and read them. You’ll find that one ignorant comment and keep scrolling. But ask my girlfriend how much I’m on my phone. She hates it. I’ll wake up, grab Twitter — I’m hooked on it.
So the like or the heart on Twitter — do you use it to save something, to show you agree with something or do acknowledge something?
Acknowledge. It’s like, “Eh, I don’t really want to reply, but I liked it.”
“I saw that.”
Yes. (Ryan) Blaney is the king of it. Yesterday we did that thing with Brodie Smith and I’m going to retweet anything Brodie posts out. Ryan’s just like, “Like.” I’m like, “Whatever. I’ll get my name out there more.” (Laughs)
You’re trying to do the whole publicity thing, the other guy is trying to get the mutual publicity and Blaney is like, “Nah, I’ll just like it.”
Yeah, that’s it. (Laughs)
After a race when you’re mad, what’s the biggest challenge you face with handling your own social media?
Really, I hate when people to use their social platforms to vent. I probably have — probably a double standard here — but I can’t remember the last time I have. But people who go on their Facebook and post those long posts. “Oh my God, my day was like this today…” Get out of here with that. I don’t go on there and say, “We ran bad today and it’s kind of horrible and I feel like this.” No.
I’m obviously pissed off, but I’ll put in some good music and then go and find something funny on Twitter to kind of relax the mood. I don’t really have any struggles with social media besides actually really wanting to say what I want to say. I’d like to have an uncensored deal and not get in trouble. That’s the hardest part. But everything else is alright.
Your girlfriend has become a big part of your social media. You’re constantly taking spy shots of her or tricking her or shooting a video when she thinks you’re shooting a picture. How often does she get annoyed with you about that?
She doesn’t get annoyed. She’s a good team player. The only thing is she’s private on Instagram, so you won’t ever see me tag her, just because you get those fan girls out there that will go friend-request her.
She’ll ask me sometimes, “Do you know this person?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve seen them like my post like 20 times.” But I won’t ever tag her. I’ll just say, “This is Amanda.” but then people will get nosy, go through my following (and find her). It’s crazy how they try to get in touch with somebody you tag in a photo.
So what do you think the future is? Everybody thought Twitter might go the way of MySpace eventually, but it seems to be sticking around OK. People say Millennials don’t like it, but at least in NASCAR, it seems to be thriving. Do you feel like that’s going to be something that’s around for years or disappear and make us find something else?
I think it’s going to be around for awhile. Ask Amanda, though: She deleted her Twitter because “It’s a dying social media.” Mine’s still ticking, I’m still getting followers every day. It’s just a fun, quick way to interact with fans and that’s what a a lot of fans are going to. Even the old school fans are starting to get on Twitter and have some fun with it. It’s just fun to keep evolving. Who knows what will be next though on the social world.
What happened: NASCAR’s penalty report from Las Vegas Motor Speedway contained no penalties of any kind for Kyle Busch, Joey Logano or any of their crew members following Sunday’s pit road fight.
What it means: Angry drivers are allowed to punch someone after a race, and NASCAR is going to embrace that emotion. If that seems like a change from recent years, welcome to the Monster Energy Era. Mixing it up on and off the track is exactly what the series sponsor wants, and apparently even fights are fair game. It’s nice to see NASCAR didn’t act in a hypocritical fashion and fine Busch while profiting from the publicity and using it to promote upcoming races.
News value (scale of 1-10): Six. It’s above average news for the reason it might set a new precedent for how NASCAR will react to such altercations.
Questions: How far can a driver go before getting penalized now? If Busch had injured Logano, would the situation be different? Should Busch get a gift card or something for all the attention he got for NASCAR this week?
Here’s a slo-mo version of the video if you want to break it down frame-by-frame:
Each week, I’ll ask the same 12 questions to a different NASCAR driver. Up next: Dale Earnhardt Jr. of Hendrick Motorsports. (Note: This interview was conducted at Atlanta, so the reference to punching a driver had nothing to do with the Las Vegas fight.)
1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?
For a long time, it was all ability, low effort. Now I think it’s 50-50.
2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have all retired in the last couple years. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?
You know, I’ll be honest with you — I’d probably steer them toward the new guys. I’m on the backside of my deal, so for the health of the sport, I think it’d be awesome if they grabbed onto (Ryan) Blaney or Chase (Elliott) or somebody like that. They’re going to be successful and are going to be around a long time. That would probably be better for everybody.
3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?
The hardest part of my job away from the racetrack is probably appearances that are out of market, which means anything Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Like (before Atlanta), we flew to Florida on Wednesday and then we did an appearance in Texas on Thursday and then we came (to Atlanta). It just eats up an entire day.
The appearances themselves are fun. Just the travel — we had a 100-knot wind going out to Texas. It took us three hours to get there, do the appearance and then come home and it’s 5:30, you know? You leave at 9 in the morning. So the travel, I guess. You kind of would like to be home during the week, but you’ve got to be doing these appearances.
4. A fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?
After I’m done eating. Once they see me put my utensils down, I’m fair game.
So if you have a bite of food in your mouth, maybe hold off?
Yeah, it’s probably going to piss off whoever I’m having dinner with more than me. I don’t like people talking over my food. Like if you’ve got a plate of food in front of you and somebody comes over and talks over your shoulder? I don’t like my dog even being near me when I’m eating, breathing all over my plate. It’s just gross.
They’re raining spittle down on your food.
There is the possibility! In all likelihood, they are.
5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?
Well, I think there needs to be more effort to market Chase, Blaney, Bubba Wallace. They’re doing a great job with Suarez, but they need to really get these guys in front of not only the NASCAR fans, but more mainstream media (like) Rolling Stone.
Blaney did Watch What Happens Live (the Andy Cohen show on Bravo) before I did, which is certainly outside the NASCAR world. Those are great things for those guys, because they’re carrying the torch, man.
And they have the personalities. They’re so funny, you know? And they’re good guys. They’re not brats. They all have great personalities, and if NASCAR is going to return to its peak, that’s where it’s going to come from. Those guys, they’re going to be the ones driving when that happens. (The NASCAR marketers) need to start putting the funding and the marketing behind those guys and get people to know them.
6. Who is the last driver you texted?
Let me see. (Pulls out phone.) Jimmie (Johnson), Kasey (Kahne) and Chase. We’re on a GroupMe (chat on a texting app). We were talking about running a four-mile run tonight.
And you’re thinking of doing that?
Yeah, I ran three at home yesterday. So it shouldn’t be too hard. I don’t run the pace they run though. Jimmie and Chase are in the 8-minute mark but I’m not even close.
So you can do a 5K now?
Yeah. Sure! I could. Yeah, that’d be great. I should try one.
Anyway, that’s the last group. I guess that’s too obvious.
7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?
Yes! Yeah, I think certain guys — Spencer Gallagher… OK, you laugh. I think he’s certainly entertaining when he’s doing his interviews. He’s got a great outlook and approach to racing and is very cavalier about it, but at the same time, he’s competitive.
I talked about Blaney and Chase. Those guys are hopefully going to utilize their personalities to market themselves. There is a point when you’re an entertainer, you know? You get up and do those Q&As, and you’ve got to be funny and witty and interact with the audience. When you’re in the car, I don’t think you’re much of an entertainer. But outside of the car, you are an entertainer many times during the week.
8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?
Well, that’s a good one. If they’re much, much younger than you, you can totally flip them off. If they’re the same age as you or have ran more than four or five seasons, you cannot flip them off.
I flipped off Shawna Robinson once in practice, and she wrecked me in the race. She never said she meant it on purpose, but she was very upset with me in practice.
You hear about Rusty Wallace and all those other guys — you get flipped off, especially by someone younger than you? You just go on attack mode. You lose your mind. So it’s a very seldom-used expression on the track and there’s some etiquette there on when to use it and when not to use it.
9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?
You certainly do remember the guys that tend to race you not as hard. I think you race people how they race you. Other than that, you don’t really keep a mental note of it. There’s guys that are really, really hard to pass — (Ryan) Newman’s probably at the top of that list; if you asked everybody who is hardest to pass, they’re going to say Newman. But he’s a great guy. We’re pretty decent friends, to be honest with you.
But then there’s guys like Mark Martin that never raced anybody hard — at least in the first half of the race. A lot of give and take there. And when he’d come up on you, you’d kind of return the favor.
10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?
Jay-Z and Beyonce. When he invited us to Monaco to be in their video with Danica way back, about freakin’ 10 years ago, we had dinner with them. Lot of fun. Had some beers and goofed up and joked around quite a bit. They’re very down to earth.
Did they seem like normal people?
They were incredibly normal. Beyonce said I reminded her of her uncle with my honesty. I guess I’m super honest. Amazing compliment.
11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?
My disposition. Be a happier person more consistently. Not get bummed out or frustrated or aggravated so easily.
I don’t know. You say that, but lately…
I’m hanging onto it. Yeah. See, I got this being out of the car. I sort of worked on myself a little bit, so I’m trying to hang onto it. But this racing can piss you off, so I don’t know how long it’s going to last.
12. The last interview was with Garrett Smithley. He wanted to know what advice you’d give to yourself as a rookie driver that you would do differently now.
There’s a lot of things I didn’t know or didn’t do well. I would have spent more time in the hauler working on the car with Tony (Eury) Sr. and Tony (Eury) Jr. They weren’t the chattiest guys, but I certainly would have been much, much more involved in what went on between practice and qualifying, and what went on between qualifying and Saturday practice and all that.
I would walk up to the car just as they were firing the motors. Nowadays, I feel bad if I’m not here 30 minutes early, talking to Greg (Ives) and seeing what the plan is. And then when we get done running, I hang around until Greg seems to be bored with me.
When I was racing as a rookie, I’d get out of the car, say five words to Tony Jr. and run into the bus and play video games the rest of the day until it was time to go get in the car for qualifying (with) like 10 cars to go. I didn’t have my head on straight. Everything had been handed to me in a sense to where I didn’t appreciate how much I needed to be working for this — and how much that would have made a difference. I didn’t think it would or even know it would. I certainly have learned a lot.
Do you have a question for the next driver?
If you could punch any driver in the face, who would it be? Has anyone ever asked that question?
No, but I kind of want to use it on the 12 Questions permanently next year.
(Laughs) Well, if it gets a really good answer, maybe you move it. Kind of like the specials at dinner, if it’s really good, they put it on the menu.
Yeah. The middle finger question came from Landon Cassill.
There you go!
And (the face punch) doesn’t have to be because they made you mad on the track. Just maybe you don’t like ‘em.
They could just have a punchable face.
A punchable face, yeah. Who’s got a punchable face? There you go. Ask it that way. And you might actually get an honest answer. Who has the most punchable face? (Laughs)
Each week, I’ll give some race analysis through a post called the Top Five — notable storylines from the just-completed event. Typically, this will be posted as soon as possible after the race — but my site has been crashing for the past couple days, so I was unable to post anything new! My apologies for the delay.
Get ready for the mixed messages
It will be fascinating to see how NASCAR reacts to the Kyle Busch/Joey Logano incident.
In one respect, NASCAR probably has to give Busch a slap on the wrist (probation or small fine) to say, “Hey dude, you can’t go up to someone and just punch them.”
But on the other hand, this is exactly what NASCAR wants! You know NASCAR is going to use it in all sorts of promotional aspects heading into Phoenix and beyond, so it’s hypocritical to penalize Busch while also profiting from it.
That’s been how NASCAR has operated for years, of course, dating back to the 1979 Daytona 500 (the drivers were fined for that famous fight, even though it put NASCAR on the map).
With the addition of Monster Energy, though — which has openly advocated for drivers to mix it up — can NASCAR really fine Busch with a straight face?
If so, he shouldn’t pay it.
Finish saves a ho-hum race
The sun was pouring into the press box during the first stage, and — combined with a food coma from lunch and the expiration of my morning coffee buzz — I almost started to nod off.
You can yell at FOX all you want (There’s great racing through the field, they’re just not showing it!), but the truth is the entire field was running single file for a long stretch in both of the early stages.
At one point, a reporter (who shall remain nameless) shouted, “Whoa!” We scanned the track for trouble, didn’t see anything, then turned to the reporter with puzzled expressions.
“A pass in the top 12!” he said.
Though the crazy finish with Brad Keselowski’s problems and the post-race fight salvaged the day, there are now legitimate concerns about the racing following the first two 1.5-mile tracks of the season. Both Atlanta and Vegas weren’t as exciting as their 2016 editions — especially Atlanta — and it makes you wonder what’s up with the much-anticipated lower downforce package.
Phoenix probably isn’t going to be an amazing race — it’s just not the most action-packed track after restarts — but Fontana should be, since it’s become one of the best circuits. If not, there will be much head-scratching going on within the industry.
Martin Truex Jr. closes it out
Every time I thought about the new points system heading into the season, I thought of Martin Truex Jr. He was so dominant at times last year, and then he got into the Chase and — well, you know what happened. But if he had the playoff points under the current system, he might have made it to Homestead.
So with that in mind, it was interesting to see Truex get the maximum seven playoff points (which, remember, are bonus points that carry over all the way through Phoenix). Prior to this system, a win was only worth three bonus points — and those could only be used in the first round.
“That really would have helped us last year,” Truex said. “We ran so good and led so many races, and always didn’t get the finish we probably deserved or thought we should have gotten, and so it’s cool to get rewarded for running good and pushing hard and being up at the front of the pack more consistently than other guys.”
With one great race, Truex now has more bonus/playoff points than he’d have for two wins last year. That’s really going to add up for some of the top drivers, and it’s going to make the chances of some fluke elimination in the early rounds much less likely.
Kyle Larson is having a fantastic start
Don’t sleep on Larson this year — and I’m not just talking wins, but the championship.
Dating back to the Phoenix race last fall, Larson has finished third, second at Homestead, 12th at Daytona, second at Atlanta and now second at Las Vegas.
“Super happy with how our season has gotten started,” he said. “Way better than where I’ve ever started a season.”
It seems like things are really clicking for Larson, who isn’t taking himself out of races with some of the mistakes he made in the first couple seasons.
When you combine Larson’s results with consecutive top-10s for Jamie McMurray, there’s a lot to like about Chip Ganassi Racing right now. Both cars appear to have the speed to be contenders in many weeks this season.
Keselowski the early title favorite
I just said not to sleep on Larson (see above) for the championship, but the favorite at the moment has to be Keselowski.
He won Atlanta despite having to make an untimely pit stop with a loose wheel, then won the pole for Las Vegas and was certainly either the best car (he was about to win, after all) or the second-best all day.
Keselowski said he didn’t know what happened to his car in the last couple laps, when he suddenly lost power (and if he did know, he was keeping it close to the vest). But either way, the overall speed is there and Team Penske seems to be extremely strong (Keselowski’s teammate Logano is the only driver with top-10 finishes in all three races).
It’s still very early, of course, and many things can and will change in the coming weeks. But if you’re looking for the NASCAR equivalent of a 25-day weather forecast, it’s looking bright for Keselowski.