Kevin Harvick: Freaky Fast… Again

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comYour 2014 Sprint Cup Series Champion was at his old ways again last week in Las Vegas…..Winning.  Last year’s champion won the race dominated the race in Sin City this past Sunday.  In the past, we have seen a lot of drivers win this race by gambling, either on tires or fuel mileage.  Not this time.

From the get go, Kevin Harvick drove up front and never looked back.  He was pushed early by 6-time Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson, but when Johnson had a problem with a tire, then blew a front right tire that sent him into the wall, Harvick’s biggest competition for the race was out.

It was smooth sailing from there.

Now, with a win under his belt, Harvick is all but assured a spot in this year’s version of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.  He now goes to a track where he has won 6 times……6 of his all time 29 victories have come at this track, Phoenix Raceway.  In fact, Harvick has won his last 3 Phoenix races and 4 of the last 5 at this one mile track.  I believe I wouldn’t bet against him this week, either.

Gordon’s bad luck

In Jeff Gordon’s final season in the Sprint Cup Series, he has been involved in crashes in all 3 of the races this young 2015 season.

He got caught up in a wreck on the last lap at Daytona, another one in Atlanta, and ran into Jeb Burton last week at Vegas, when teammate Jimmie Johnson’s machine got into the wall.  Gordon was behind Johnson and slid into Burton’s car.

His weekend started off a little crazy, though.  Friday, Gordon was the pole winner in the qualifying session.  Then, in practice, he and Danica Patrick traded paint on the track and he had to start the race from the rear of the field, due to going to a backup car, per NASCAR rules.  The best thing he can do at this point is to not get mired in traffic.  Run up front.  The bad things happen in the rear of the field.   Bad things, man……..

Atlanta Race Recap: Here We Go Again

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comIn only the 2nd race of the season, ol’ Jimmie Johnson is already back at his old ways….winning.

Considering the season, the 6 time Sprint Cup Series champion missed the final segment of the 2014 Championship at Homestead and didn’t pick up his first win until he won the Coca Cola 600 in May of last year.

That is scary for the rest of the drivers on the circuit.  Just honestly, the dude is that good.  Expect him to win more, and more, and more, this year.  Now he can just roll the dice and take chances out on the track, since he already has a spot in the Chase for the Championship locked up with the win.

The win was super impressive, considering Johnson had to start at the rear of the pack, due to not being able to qualify, because he couldn’t get through inspection quick enough to turn a qualifying lap.  This same issue plagued many drivers, including Johnson, Matt  Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, and a few others.

All is not good in the Hendrick Motorsports stable, though. Jeff Gordon, in his final year in the Sprint Cup Series, is 2 for 2.  Not 2 wins, not 2 top 10 finishes, but 2 wrecks.  First, on the last lap at Daytona 2 weeks ago, then last week at Atlanta.

Expect him to get it turned around, though.  This won’t last long.  I will say this about last week’s race, though.  It was one of the more entertaining races at Atlanta that I have seen recently.  There was lots of action, interesting restarts, and some twisted metal on the track.

Your top 3 from Atlanta….Johnson, Kevin Harvick (who started dead last), and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Now let’s go roll the dice in Vegas.  This week the drivers will take their left turn talents to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where I fully predict 3 time Vegas champ will hit the jackpot and come away with another.

From Challengers to Contenders

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comWell, Hendrick Motorsports did it again.  Jeff Gordon won for the 5th time in his illustrious career at Dover International Speedway, also known as the Monster Mile.

Gordon led 94 of the 400 laps at the Delaware track this past Sunday.  Kevin Harvick led the most laps of the race, leading 223 of the 400, but had an issue with the front drivers side tire going down, due to a bad valve stem, causing him to finish 13th.  Since his win at Darlington earlier this year, Harvick has led the most laps on 5 different occasions, not winning any of those races.

This was a typical Dover race.  Not many cautions, lots of green flag racing, and many naps being taken by folks at home.  There were 5 caution flags thrown during the race; 3 for debris on the track and 2 for accidents.  Finishing behind Gordon were Brad Keselowski in 2nd, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex, Jr, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, and Kyle Busch rounding out the top 10.

On a side note, Joey Logano has an average finish of 3 in the first 3 races of the Sprint Cup Chase, the Challenger round. Now, on to round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the Contender round.

Of the 16 original drivers in the Chase, 12 are advancing.  Those drivers will all have 3000 points and they are Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, and Kasey Kahne.

They will race the next 3 weeks to see which 8 will advance to the next round.  This should be some fun racing to watch with the Kansas race kicking things off this weekend, then in 2 more weeks, we have Talladega.  The great equalizer.  What a way to finish up a segment of the chase with a 43 car pack running at speeds of close to 200 miles per hour!

Since my predictions of winners this year has been so bad, I think I will just keep my thoughts to myself this week, to save myself the embarrassment.

Another Third-time Winner

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comWell folks, we have another third time winner the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Joey Logano joined the ranks of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Brad Keselowski, and Jimmie Johnson as the sport’s only 3 time winners this season. I recalled after the race, Logano was pretty darn good at Bristol earlier this year, until he lost his power steering. After a rain soaked early Friday night and early Saturday morning, the weather for the Irwin Tools night race could not have been any more perfect.

Well, let me take that back.  If it were about 10-15 degrees cooler, it would have been perfect.  We were able to see at least one temper flare on the track, when Denny Hamlin was taken out by Kevin Harvick.  By the way, Dale Jr., was taken out in the same wreck on lap 130.  Hamlin, following NASCAR’s newly implemented rule about not getting out of the car on the track, waited for Harvick to make his way around the track to voice his displeasure as he stood on the track apron.  Hamlin threw his HANS device at Harvick’s car, and I’m pretty sure he was yelling some choice words to the driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet.

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Hamlin would wind up finishing 40th, 340 laps down, and Junior would finish 39th, 324 laps down.  Harvick’s car looked really good early in the race, but didn’t look as good after this wreck. Kevin would finish 11th out of 43 drivers. Here are your top 10 finishers at Bristol: Logano, followed by Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson (who unbelievably overcame 2 pit road speeding penalties), Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, and Greg Biffle rounding out the 10.

So, Wonder Boy (Gordon) holds a 27 point lead over Dale Earnhardt, Jr., going into the Labor Day weekend race in Atlanta. Remember, there are only 2 more races before the Chase starts — this week in Atlanta and next week in Richmond. I’m thinking the tow trucks will be busy in Richmond, with a lot of drivers vying to get that elusive victory this 2014 season.

Anyhow, congrats to Joey Logano on his 3rd win this season.

Hope It’s not a snoozer

Cookie cutter tracks are what they are known as.

The 1.5 mile tracks on the circuit. Atlanta is one of them. There could be a lot of green flag racing going on this Sunday night, with cautions only coming out from mysterious debris on the track. Not a whole lot to talk about for this race, since there are numerous other tracks built out of the same mold on the circuit. I hope my predictions for a winner are better this week.  I may be starting to lose some credibility. Look for the #24 of Jeff Gordon to get back to victory lane this week at a track where he runs very well.

It’s No. 24, Again

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comJeff Gordon captured his 3rd victory of the 2014 NASCAR season this past week in Brooklyn, Michigan.

It wasn’t even really close.  Gordon dominated the 400 mile event pretty much from start to finish.  His weekend at the Michigan track started out great.  He blistered the qualifying track record on Friday, then turned around Sunday and posted his first victory at this particular track in 13 years.

Coincidentally, the last 2 times Gordon has won the Sprint Cup Championship, he has won here and at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  He has pulled off those 2 victories this year, as well.

The biggest fireworks of the day happened toward the end of the race, when Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson, who were racing hard for position, had some not so kind words with each other in the pits.  Typical stuff when you are racing with Newman, according to Johnson.

Johnson, who had to get innovative, drove his car, with a pair of vise grips as the gear shifter, to a 9th place finish and Newman finished just outside the top 10 in 11th.

The rest of the top 10 were Kevin Harvick in 2nd, followed by Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Johnson, and Greg Biffle.

With only 3 weeks left until the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, the next 3 races should be very interesting.  With short tracks at Bristol and Richmond coming up, with Atlanta in the middle, there should be plenty of beating and banging going on.  Drivers are now in desperation mode to get that elusive victory.  You need to watch — tempers should flare at Bristol and Richmond.

It’s Bristol, Baby

Marketed as the World’s Fastest Half Mile, Bristol Motor Speedway is a treat to all NASCAR fans.  With the high banking and cramped pits/infield area, this track is the home to the best (in my opinion) racing on the circuit.

This track is not for the weary, though.  It takes a seasoned driver to maneuver his or her way around this track to come away with a victory.  Once again, I’m going with Team Hendrick this week.  The Hendrick drivers are great at this track, and I don’t see that changing.  It looks like it is going to be a hot one up on the Virginia/Tennessee border this weekend, so pay close attention to drivers getting ticked off.

It will definitely be a treat to see.  I’ll be in the pits this weekend, so I’ll have plenty to report next week.

Until then, keep ‘em clean.

Well, Kiss My Bricks (For the Fifth Time)

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comWell, we now have a 5-time winner of The Brickyard 400, run annually at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Jeff Gordon, has won 5 of the 20 races at the famed Indiana track.  That means, Gordon has a better shot of winning a race there than Dan Uggla had getting a simple hit as an Atlanta Brave.

So, every time Gordon runs a race at this track, there is a 25 percent chance he will win.  Great job this past Sunday for Gordon, who absolutely had the best car and benefited from a late caution while Kasey Kahne had the lead.

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It was unfortunate for Kahne, who was looking to earn his first victory of the year and secure a spot in the Chase.  Kahne led a race high 70 laps. If it weren’t for the late caution and an absolutely great restart by Gordon, it looked as if Hendrick Motorsports would have all 4 cars in the Chase.  It seems to be Kahne’s luck this year that the caution flag waved and he subsequently finished 6th.  Following Gordon in place of finish was Kyle Busch in 2nd, then Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, then Austin Dillon, rounding out the top 10.

Overall, to the average fan watching the race at home, it was pretty much a snoozer.  No big wrecks, not many cautions.  Gordon has proven to everyone this year, that his career is not over just yet.

Back to Long Pond

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will attempt to defend his earlier Pocono win this weekend, as the boys (and girl) will once again, be racing in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.  Look for Brad Keselowski to attempt to redeem himself, as he got debris stuck on the grill of his car in the last race, causing some overheating issues.  This allowed Dale, Jr., to pass him with a couple of laps remaining at the 2.5 mile track and cruise to victory.  With that being said, I’m taking Keselowski in the #2 this Sunday.


No Right Turns This Week

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comMost all of the Sprint Cup drivers are happy that they are returning to a 1.5 mile oval this week. However, they are going to Kentucky Speedway. This is a rough track that drivers either love or hate.

This past Sunday was snooze, excitement, drift in and out of sleep. No cautions through the first 31 laps, then lots of wrecks/incidents (most just some of those ol’ racin’ deals), and none during the last 16 laps. Ol’ cousin Carl Edwards came away the winner, making him the 10th different winner in the last 10 races at Sonoma.

It didn’t come without a late race run by none other than the #24 of Jeff Gordon. I’m going out on a limb and saying that if there was one lap left, ol’ Carl wouldn’t have been the one in Victory lane, it would have been Gordon. Gordon’s teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr, scored his best finish ever at Sonoma, finishing third. This was a much-needed shot in the arm for Roush-Fenway  Racing. So far this 2014, only Cousin Carl has a victory, 2 in fact, assuring him a spot in the Chase. Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr have not sniffed Victory Lane this year. Good job by Edwards, who had previously not won on a road course.

Bumpin’ and Grindin’

During a road course race, there is a lot more action on the track that goes unnoticed. It’s tough to pass and drivers get very frustrated out there. Is the reason they get frustrated the right turns or the passing? Who knows? You can be at the wrong place at the wrong time anywhere during the road course races, and we will have another one coming up soon at Watkins Glen, NY. That should be interesting seeing all the bumping that happened out in Cali.

Bluegrass, here we come

As stated earlier, most drivers (those other than Marcos Ambrose) are ready to get back to the traditional left turn type of racin’. Kentucky is a rough track that will test drivers and beat their cars up. My money tells me (for entertainment purposes only) that Jimmie Johnson is the man to beat this week. Once again, though, don’t bet against any of the other Hendrick cars, including Dale Jr, Gordon, or Kasey Kahne.

Team Hendrick: Head and Shoulders Above

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comFor the fifth consecutive points race, Rick Hendrick had one of his cars go to victory lane. This time, it was the 6-time Sprint Cup Series Champion, Jimmie Johnson.

Whoever wrote this guy off earlier this year, well, that crow tastes pretty good, I bet. When summer heats up, so does JJ. I wrote a few weeks ago that all the other drivers had to be sweating it after the #48 picked up his first victory of the season at Charlotte, then the next week at Dover.

Fans of drivers other than Jimmie Johnson, it could be another long year. He has won three of the last four races and has even more tracks that he runs well at coming up soon. Let’s just face it folks, the guy is a pretty remarkable driver. At least the best of this era.

As far as the past five weeks go, Jeff Gordon won at Kansas, Johnson at Charlotte, Dover,  and Michigan (which is a track where he had never won), and Dale Jr at Pocono. That is a powerful statement by the Hendrick garage. Currently, there is absolutely no debate on who is the strongest team in the Sprint Cup Series. If you do try to debate it, you are being foolish.

Current standings have Gordon first, Johnson second, and Dale Jr third. Like I said, you can’t argue with the results. If the Sprint Cup Chase started today, Johnson would be seeded #1 (due to his 3 wins), Dale Jr would be seeded #2 (2 wins), Joey Logano #3 (2 wins), Kevin Harvick #4 (2 wins), and Jeff Gordon #5 (1 win).

Right turns, anyone?

Here comes the first of two road courses on the schedule this Sunday in Sonoma, California. As NASCAR fans, you either hate road courses, or love them.

I love them. I think that it is a great break from the monotony of drivers going around the world to the left every weekend. I also get to see a driver on the course that had one of the greatest post-race interviews ever. If you ever get the chance, watch Boris Said’s interview from after the 2011 Watkins Glen race. It was an instant classic. Said, who is not a Sprint Cup regular, with his 80’s porn hair, called Greg Biffle a “chump” and said if someone would give him Biffle’s address, he would give him what he deserved, “a butt whoopin’”. Classic NASCAR stuff.

This happened after the cars were beatin’ and bangin’ in good old fashioned road course style. If you want a laugh, check it out. I look for the Hendrick win streak to stop at 5 this week. I’m going to go out on a limb and take the driver from Tasmania. Marcos Ambrose has the highest driver rating at Sonoma, and is an excellent road course driver. However, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon could threaten for the win.

Richmond International, Repeat Winner and a Right Hook

skid marks, jason hildebrand, beaverdamusa.comWhat a race last week! Richmond turned in one of the most interesting races we have seen in a while. First, there were tires being used and abused all over the place, with NASCAR allowing more flexibility to the race teams to adjust the camber. You ask what camber is….Well, straight from NASCAR .com. “Camber is, simply put, the vertical tilt of a wheel. If it’s bowed out, it’s positive camber, and if it’s bowed in, it’s negative camber. Zero or neutral camber is when the wheel is straight up and down.”  The more camber you have, the better grip you have. This has allowed teams to be more aggressive in their car setups. Since there has been a significance on winning this season to get into the Chase, teams have been more aggressive and overly aggressive, at times. With this being said, we have seen many instances with tires dating back to the Auto Club 400, and now this past week at Richmond. There were multiple cars that had tire issues, including 6-time and defending Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson. This just hasn’t been Jimmie’s year. Wait a second…… As bad sometimes as Jimmie has been, he is still in the top 10 in the Sprint Cup standings. He still needs to get that win, and the pressure is getting heavier, week by week.

Who would have thought that the second 2-time winner of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season would have been Joey Logano. Logano in his #22 Ford was absolutely great on short runs last week at Richmond. The Rick Hendrick cars of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., were great on long runs, but when you get late cautions, the cars that are good for short runs prevail. The yellow #22 ran down cars in front of him and took the checkered flag on the .75 mile track in Richmond, Virginia, like a seasoned veteran. He was cool, kept his composure, and even burned the tires off in his post victory burn out. Congratulations, Joey.

After the race, there were shenanigans. Over guess what? Drivers racing for 18th place. Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears got into a little fisticuffs in the pit area after the race was complete. Mears was fined $15,000 and probation until May 28, and Ambrose, who connected on a right haymaker, was fined $25,000 and probation until May 28, as well. So, that one punch that Ambrose laid cost him $10,000. I thought the fight was good for the sport. NASCAR thought it was detrimental to the sport. I obviously disagree.

Alabama, here we come. My first experience at Talladega was one I will never forget. Mainly, because of one unknown guy, Alabama’s finest. This one dude, was wearing cutoff blue jeans. Way up to where you could see his white pockets hanging out of the bottom of his shorts. No shirt. Boots. If this weren’t bad enough, the guy had a prosthetic leg… with Dale Earnhardt bumper stickers all over it. All I have to say is, “C’mon Man.”  Anyhow, I am looking forward to frolicking with Alabama’s finest again this week. Watch for one of the usual suspects to win this race: Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, or Jeff Gordon. Sleeper picks to win this race are David Ragan (last year’s Talladega spring race winner), Ryan Newman, or Paul Menard.

Skid Mark of The Week goes to Brad Keselowski. How can you blame a guy (Matt Kenseth), who is leading the race, for bumping you and trying to protect his lead? Quit whining Brad. You got bumped, and I am sure you would have tried to protect the lead, if you would have had it. Finest Craft Beers from America’s Best Micro Breweries- 728x90 banner