With everyone’s weekend of gambling now pretty much complete, all chips cashed in and all the hotels seeing a rush of check outs come early morning, the NASCAR weekend in Las Vegas has come to an end. At least until the playoffs arrive later this season.
So it’s time to park it and analyze what we experienced on Sunday, and in all honesty, it was exactly what is expected in a 1.5-mile race, but with a few new observations.
Automatically what caught my eye is that the competitive edge that Toyota and Ford had a year ago over Chevrolet has become a much more even playing field. Outside of the plate tracks a year ago, Chevrolet struggled on the non-superspeedway tracks, specifically those intermediate tracks 1-2 miles in length. They could not push when needed, due to fear of calamity. It all came to a point where things needed changed, simply because the Chevrolet camp came to a true point…on the body.
It baffled me a year ago with the different bodies that were being run how Chevrolet had that arrowhead nose, and I always thought with the Camaro ZL1 that may be an advantage since it put a direct punch in the air. Turns out that punch didn’t do much when the car in front needed a push on a restart.
One false move and that nose suddenly became the fulcrum point like on a see-saw. Too far left, car is loose and spinning out. Too far right, turning into the wall.
This new body for the ZL1 has been praised long before the season began, and in a sense has the same look as we have seen in the NextGen car that has been tested already. As to whether that is ironic, to be determined.
I like how this new body has equalized the competition, bringing the Chevrolets much closer to their opposition after being beaten hard a season ago.
The other two stories of the weekend were both on the track, and in our spirits. It is still amazing how that a week ago we had our collective hearts sinking like anchors at a destroyed No. 6 Ford at the end of the season’s biggest race. And yet days later, it’s driver was walking out of the hospital as if he was walking to a fishing hole, difference being he probably would have shoes on if he was heading fishing. However, in all our minds, we had an inkling that Ryan Newman, as tough as he is, is also human. No true physical injuries like a broken leg, rib fractures, or contusions. But, the reality is, he got his bell rung big time on that impact, and Newman saying in a statement that he had a head injury certainly was expected.
However, the biggest call actually goes to Roush-Fenway because they likely know a lot more than what Newman does. Yet, instead of them making statements, Newman is the one who will talk about his injuries when he returns.
That is truly the best thing because there’s no middleman, like a car owner or agent, speaking on his behalf. It’s Newman, speaking about what he went through, first-hand, and he wants to be the one to say where he’s going from here. “Rocketman” currently is delayed for launch, but rest assured, when he returns, it will be one moment he may never forget, and will soak in like sunshine.
In the end, it was a misheard pit call that ultimately won.
When Penske did all the swaps of crews and crew chiefs of their teams, it certainly meant a lot of adjustments. Last year, Paul Wolfe made the calls for Brad Keselowski, but now adds another deuce to his uniform as the man on the box for Joey Logano. That final caution, he wanted his driver to come in, waiting to see how many do, but Logano didn’t understand the call.
“If a lot come in, stay out. If a few pit, come in.” Ended up that it was the middle of the road, and Logano missed the cut, and he was left with what he had.
He didn’t know that the mistaken call would ultimately be his saving grace. By having those six other cars stay out, it gave him enough of a gap for just a pair of laps to lock in his second-consecutive win in his sponsor’s title race, and once more is locked in for the playoffs early in the season.
The west coast action continues on Sunday. Onto California, in the shadow of Los Angeles, and not far from the “House that Kobe built.”