Losing that hour of sleep this past weekend certainly has thrown many of us for a loop. Many don’t even have their sleep cycle back to normal, and yet still, we got in front of our televisions, turned on the PRN broadcast, and of course bought the tickets to watch the action at ISM Raceway.
But, before we even did that, we discovered that the race before the race was just as exciting.
It’s now extremely clear that on these tracks where the draft and restarts are so critical, qualifying is probably even more critical. We certainly saw that with Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell, but even going back one week ago in Las Vegas, each round of qualifying is seeming to become a game of cat-and-mouse, similar to what was the failed group qualifying at Daytona and Talladega. Drivers were waiting till the last moment, and didn’t want to be first in line since they were the ones creating the wake, and reducing their speed.
That’s mostly what caused the issue between McDowell and Suarez because each were trying for position, and ruined one another’s laps.
Qualifying at these larger tracks, or even some of these intermediate facilities, will become a lot more fun to watch, but a lot more stressful for those teams. When it comes to the short tracks, and road courses, the driver will have a lot more impact on how a qualifying lap goes, because it’s not so much about timing, but control.
Now, that being said, it was clear no matter how the day went for anyone, track position was enormous at different moments.
A few two-tire calls did give a few teams an opportunity to lead, and even a chance to win, but the long-run speed and control ultimately won out in the end.
More specifically, the right team won in the end.
Let’s be honest, sooner than later, Kyle Busch was going to get the job done. Everyone the last few weeks has been on his case for being subdued with his finishes…on the podium. That’s just a guy who flat out knows that each time he climbs into his Toyota, he can win. And when he doesn’t, he feels like he failed. Is he tossing a microphone down, and walking away…no, but you can see he wants to. Yet, something keeps him from doing so.
Maybe he realizes he’s the one that wants to win, but the team is the one assuring him that the big picture is still just as important.
However, knowing that win is in the bank certainly makes things a lot easier to handle knowing the No. 18 will be in the playoffs.
At the same time, this is not like last year when already at this point, one driver had three wins.
So far, four races, four different winners. At the same time, as we head to California next week, it is a chance to see if one of these four drivers that already have a win, can actually now back it up and get a second. We know Rowdy can back it up, as he’s won here before. Even Joey Logano has seen success here, as has Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.
But yet, at a track like California, qualifying may not be as big a priority, but the biggest priority will be positioning. A wide track will mean many passing opportunities, and with limited horsepower, this track now becomes a place that one must run like a Daytona or Talladega.
For now, let’s taste the rainbow just as Busch tasted victory.