Each week, I’ll provide some quick analysis through a post called the Top Five — five notable storylines from the just-completed race. Today: Fontana.
Larson no loser
Holy crap, how impressive is Kyle Larson lately?
Sunday really felt like the first of many wins for Larson this season. He’s already the breakout driver of 2017, with finishes of second, second, second and first in the four non-plate races.
You can credit faster cars at Chip Ganassi Racing — and of course, that’s a major part of it — but Larson also isn’t making the type of mistakes that took him out of races earlier in his career. Remember when it seemed like he’d hit the wall at some point every time he had a good car?
He also seems more willing to try different lines instead of being so committed to the running the wall. Larson made some awesome moves by hooking the bottom of the track during Sunday’s race, and that paid off in a big way at times.
So, about that new package…
I’m officially concerned about the effectiveness of the low-low downforce package.
NASCAR got lucky with late drama at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix that covered up ho-hum races. But Fontana — which got a 90% approval rating in the “Was it a good race?” Twitter poll last year — had expectations to break that trend and provide a great show from start to finish.
Unfortunately, much of the race was rather tame again until Gray Gaulding crashed with 20 laps to go. Then, much like the other non-plate races, a chaotic finish erased all thoughts of the earlier lack of action.
But that trend can’t continue all season. NASCAR wants the action to be compelling throughout the day, lest races turn into the NBA cliche, where only the last five minutes matters.
The new aero package test isn’t passing the eye test as far as compelling races. Why? I don’t know the answer, but I’d like to hear some theories.
Clint Bowyer’s extra effort
In a Saturday roundtable interview with reporters, Bowyer said he had a long phone call with crew chief Mike Bugarewicz on Friday night — something he didn’t typically do in the past.
Then, after finishing third on Sunday, Bowyer revealed he drove to Bugarewicz’s hotel room on Saturday night to pore over data and try to find ideas to fix the car, which didn’t look great in practice.
“I’ve never went to a crew chief’s hotel room,” Bowyer said. “Never done that before.”
It’s clear this opportunity really matters to Bowyer — as it should. At 37, this might be his last, best chance to resurrect his career and get back to the championship-contending driver he’s capable of being.
He’s on the right path. Sunday was his best finish at an intermediate track since July 2013 in Kentucky. Bowyer now can head to Martinsville — one of his favorite venues — with confidence and momentum.
Weird stats after five races
Two Chevrolet drivers have won races this season — and neither are from Hendrick Motorsports.
The one Toyota winner so far isn’t from Joe Gibbs Racing. And the winner from Stewart-Haas Racing isn’t Kevin Harvick.
So yeah, if you thought Richard Childress Racing would have more wins than Hendrick and Gibbs combined after five races? Well, you’re just lying.
It’s been an odd start to the year. There have been five different winners, but six of the eight active multi-race winners from last season have yet to reach victory lane. That’s a big zero for Jimmie Johnson, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth.
Yes, it’s still early, but the regular season is also roughly one-fifth complete. So how much longer is this going to last?
I was proud of myself for not getting too aggravated with the commercials during Sunday’s race — the first I’d watched from home this season.
They didn’t seem to be as bad as usual. But naturally, I couldn’t make it the whole time without getting irritated.
It remains absolutely maddening to see tweets about a great battle for the lead while we at home are staring at a commercial listing the side effects for a drug named Symbicort.
By the way, some of those side effects include headaches, changes in your voice, mood changes and shaking — which coincidentally also describe the effects on me when there are too many commercials during green-flag racing.
Honestly, NOTHING about the current state of NASCAR makes me angrier or more frustrated than the commercials. It’s no wonder TV ratings are in the toilet.
No other major sport disrespects its fans like this. Even soccer figures out a way to show games — including World Cup games! — without commercial interruption (except for halftime). Most sports fans wouldn’t tolerate a broadcaster cutting away from live game action, but for some reason, NASCAR fans are just expected to shut up and deal with it.
If the TV networks need money that badly, give us a pay-per-view option with an ad-free broadcast. Would you pay $10 for a race with no ads? Personally, I would.