A fast car and a golden horseshoe

BY Darrell Waltrip • February 23, 2010

Well folks, I finally think the Sprint Cup competitors have figured it out.

Kevin Harvick said as much in his postrace interview when he talked about how good the No. 48 car is and where they hide that golden horseshoe. So now in addition to beating the No. 48 team, they also have to ask themselves what to do about the golden horseshoe.

You have to admit that the Lowe’s team had a great car Sunday in Fontana. Jimmie Johnson had his hands full with Kevin Harvick, though. Those two put on one heck of a show. They passed each other lap after lap. It actually looked like the No. 29 was the better car most of the day. You especially saw it shine on the longer runs during the race.

When it came time for pit stops and Jimmie was coming down pit road, well the caution came out. The Hendrick crew was able to get its work done and get out in front of Jeff Burton, who was the leader at the time. So that put him in front of the leaders. Naturally when they came back around, everyone else peeled off to make their pit stops and it handed Jimmie the lead.

Like I said in our NASCAR on FOX telecast, it really was the perfect storm for the No. 48 bunch. They got him on pit road at the right time, got him serviced and back out at the right time. Sure it could have happened to Kevin, or Jeff Burton or any number of guys for that matter. Once again, though, that No. 48 has that Golden Horseshoe and everything just goes their way.

That’s the frustrating thing to the competitors. Maybe you had a better car than they did, but they still won the race. Things look to be back to normal after Daytona. Jimmie hasn’t had much success there in the last four years. The No. 48 heads to California and picks up where most people say our “regular season” begins. That’s because the Daytona and Talladega cars are their own animals because of the restrictor-plate engines and other differences. The car Jimmie used to win Sunday is the type of car that will be used in 90 percent of the races on the 2010 schedule.

I thought the racing all back through the field was great Sunday. We had good competition all day. A number of cars were competitive. We had a bunch of lead changes among quite a few drivers. We had green-flag pit stops. The weather stayed away. I mean what else could you ask for?

The other thing I noticed in California is the Richard Childress Racing teams continued their amazing turnaround from last year. If you remember, a year ago this time in California we were asking what was wrong with those Childress cars? This year, man what a difference. Team owner Richard Childress had all three cars finishing in the top 10 and all three cars could have won the race. As a car owner, that’s about as good as it gets.

I am really glad to see it happening for Richard. He has poured his whole life and soul into NASCAR. Sure, they don’t give you anything in this sport, you have to earn it. But it’s great to see that company running up front where it belongs. Now he even has Kevin Harvick leading the Sprint Cup points.

For Kevin to win Richard another championship, they will have to figure out how to beat Jimmie and his golden horseshoe. Here’s an idea: Maybe they can figure out where the No. 48 got theirs and then get one for themselves.

I say it but will keep saying it. Don’t get mad at Jimmie Johnson. Don’t get mad at crew chief Chad Knaus. Don’t get mad at team owner Rick Hendrick. Richard Childress has now shown everyone what the blueprint is. Quit worrying about the other guy and improve your program. Focus on what you can control. Get your program to at least where the Hendrick camp is and then you have a legitimate shot at beating them.

I was still disappointed with the Roush Fenway cars. I think they are a little bit ahead of where they were last year at this time, so that’s good. They've made a bunch of changes. So I think with a little more time they will be back up in the middle of all the action.

I think we have a pretty good product on the track right now. The Daytona 500 and Sunday’s race in California proved that. I think the consistent start times will continue to pay dividends as we get farther along in the season. I think once the word gets out about the racing being better, we will see more folks come to the races and back to the TV sets.

I just think we are on the right track and I like what NASCAR has been doing. They are putting forth a great effort and working really hard to make significant changes that are paying off. It’s easy to call them onto the carpet when they make a misstep, but we also need to applaud them when they make positive changes.

Oh by the way

I found it interesting that our top two finishers from the Daytona 500, Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr., couldn’t carry that momentum all the way through the California race.

Jamie got off to a great start by winning the pole, but when the green flag dropped that car was clearly struggling and slipped back into the field. Jamie just had a mediocre day.

Dale Jr. wasn’t able to carry over his momentum to California either. I thought after such a strong finish in the Daytona 500, where it was so exciting to see him so competitive again, that maybe he had some good luck riding with him again. Unfortunately, mechanical problems put an end to that.

Hopefully both can rebound this weekend at Las Vegas and get that positive momentum going again.

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