I’m not sure how many fans realize that until Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway that these race teams hadn’t raced under that current rules package since Charlotte back in May. I actually thought it was some of the best racing we’ve seen all year at a mile-and-a-half track. These guys were running all over the racetrack which had them two- and three-wide at times almost from the drop of the green flag.
Of course the big topic this week following Sunday’s race is going to be about the restarts. While I’ve heard pretty much every suggestion under the sun of how to fix it, I’ll be honest, I don’t have the answer. I do think NASCAR has to get consistent with its calls. In Major League Baseball, if an umpire is consistent with the area that he calls balls and strikes, teams get comfortable with it.
I just kind of see NASCAR all over the place on how they are making these calls. Again, I don’t know what the answer is. I wasn’t a big fan of the idea of making the restart box area bigger, but the more I watched the replay of those restarts Sunday, maybe that is part of the answer. That restart box in Chicago is only three car lengths long so maybe making that box bigger is the answer. To me though, the bigger issue is NASCAR has to be more consistent with how they are making the call.
One thing that is consistent in our sport is the dominance of Joe Gibbs Racing. Not only did Denny Hamlin win the race, but they had three of their four cars in the top five and all four cars in the top 10. If that wasn’t enough, they are also first through fourth in the Chase points.
They just continue to show they are the group you are going to have to beat to win races, and probably the group you are going to have to beat if you want to win the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. It was pretty miraculous what race winner Denny Hamlin and crew chief Dave Rodgers did this weekend. They actually were horrible on Friday in practice, started 29th in the race, spun out on Lap 2, almost went two laps down before we reached the halfway point and yet ended the day in Victory Lane.
I think that Sunday showed the determination of Denny Hamlin, who raced with a torn ACL, plus the determination of Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole. I think now that we are back to the rules package we started with at the beginning of the season, the cream once again rose to the top.
I know all the talk after the race was the incident with Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick. I went back and watched that replay over and over. It was simply hard racing on a restart. Joey Logano was literally pushing Jimmie Johnson so Jimmie had to do something. Obviously when you are down on the apron and the corner is coming, you have to do something.
The biggest thing I saw there was "all take and no give." It’s easy to sit here and say Jimmie or Kevin should have done this, that or the other thing. Folks, it was a restart and these drivers know that the restarts are where they have to get everything they can. That’s what was going on there in that situation. It clearly showed me we’re in the Chase and its take no prisoner’s time.
If you look at our 16 Chase drivers, five of them made up our top-five finishers, while eight of them were our top-10 finishers. On top of that, 12 Chase drivers finished in the top 15. I don’t suspect we’ll see any surprises this weekend at New Hampshire. There is reason those 16 Chase drivers are vying for the championship and I expect them to be up front again Sunday battling it out.
I think probably the only change from last year is when it comes down to Homestead with four drivers fighting it out in that one race for the championship, I think this year all four drivers will have won a race in 2015.