Season already marked by tight battles
Historically, Martinsville Speedway hasn’t been a really good track for Roush Fenway Racing. Sunday's race at the track saw the No. 17 team of Matt Kenseth run in the top five for most of the day and when it was over he brought his Ford Fusion home in the fourth spot. Carl Edwards was 11th and our current points leader, Greg Biffle, rounded out the Roush Fenway stable coming home 13th.
A couple years ago, Matt was in a position to win at Martinsville, but got into a late shoving match with Jeff Gordon and a couple others that cost him the win. Matt normally runs well there. Carl and Greg just haven’t been able to get their arms around what it takes to completely handle Martinsville. So I really think it’s more about a couple drivers than a complete company-wide issue at that specific track.
Matt won his second Daytona 500 this year and Greg is on top of the points. Next to Stewart-Haas Racing, I believe Roush Fenway Racing drivers have been the stars of the first six races.
I think we have a really interesting 2012 shaping up with all kinds of organizations that could be the stars of this season. There’s not a Hendrick Motorsports dominance like we had seen for the past few years from Jimmie Johnson.
Obviously Tony Stewart is carrying the momentum from his championship run into this season and has two wins already on the board. Now following Martinsville, his teammate Ryan Newman has notched a victory. That makes three wins in six races so far in 2012 for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Our cars at Michael Waltrip Racing are running well, too. Martin Truex Jr. is sixth in the points and Clint Bowyer is ninth right now. Brian Vickers had a wonderful showing for us in Bristol and will be in more races for us as the year progresses. So we are awfully proud of that and need to build on that momentum.
Things are going well for Penske Racing. I know there were some folks wondering if this was going to be a lame-duck year for them in their Dodges as they switch to Fords in 2013, but that’s simply not the case. Brad Keselowski already won at Bristol and looks like he could win at every race. AJ Allmendinger had a great run at Martinsville and came home in the second spot.
Joe Gibbs Racing is struggling just a bit. Denny Hamlin did win the Phoenix race and Kyle Busch led a ton of laps at Auto Club Speedway. Following Martinsville, Denny held steady at seventh in the points. Joey Logano did the same holding at 13th while Martinsville cost Kyle a couple spots. He now finds himself 16th in the points head into Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.
It’s just crazy how competitive things are and how many different organizations seem to have their arms around the setups this year so far. We have a lot of different teams and drivers stepping up in only six races trying to be the star of the show. I think it’s great.
This weekend off comes at a good time for a lot of folks. It’s a good benchmark of where your program is early on in the 2012 season. We now have a good idea of who the early season players are as well as the ones who now know they have a lot of work to do.
One guy you should keep your eye on is Jeff Gordon in that No. 24 car. He’s been running well but simply hasn’t had the luck or the finishes to show for it. He was in line to possibly win at Martinsville, but his 14th-place finish still moved him four more spots forward in the points. I know 21st in the points after six races is nothing to brag about, but I fully expect him to be in the top 10 before very long.