Throughout 2016 we may have way too many quick thoughts for our post-race posts. So consider our new Takeaways feature to be the home of our random and sometimes intelligent musings. Sometimes the post may have a theme. Sometimes it may just be a mess of unrelated thoughts. Make sure you tweet us your thoughts after the race or email your post-race rants via the link in the signature line below.
• If you were ever one of the people who complained that NASCAR was better 20 and 30 years ago, you have no right to complain about what you saw on Sunday. Only nine cars finished on the lead lap. Drivers wer easily able to complete passes. The first 200+ laps were caution free. It felt like a retro NASCAR race.
And while we tend to pour cold water on all the nostalgia hot takes, Sunday’s race was a fun one.
• If you’re disappointed in what you saw on Sunday, the hype entering the race probably contributes to it. The promotion for the first race with the new low downforce rules was overwhelming. And while we have nothing against the NASCAR-promoted optimism, it also overshadowed the fact that it was the sanctioning body that screwed up the 2015 rules package so badly in the first place.
• With all of the excitement, it wasn’t hard to come into the race expecting 50 lead changes, a bunch of crashes and thrilling racing. While there was only one multi-car incident, there were some lead changes and tire management was back. With softer tires and less downforce, teams were forced to manage their tires through the length of a fuel run. Heck, drivers were pitting before they needed to because the tires were so shot. The multiple strategies throughout the race made for an intriguing and entertaining show even though there were only three cautions counting the one on the final lap.
• While it’s imperative to give Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus credit for short pitting on their final pit stop to get the lead before the green-white-checker finish, it’s aiso necessary to note that Kevin Harvick’s pit stop was more than four seconds slower than Johnson’s final stop. Had Harvick had a total pit time in the neighborhood of Johnson’s, he would have been on the No. 48’s back bumper when the second caution of the race came out. The race could have been a lot different.
• As Knaus made a very good call, the No. 20 team flat out messed up on Sunday. Matt Kenseth was docked a lap during the early part of the race for not obeying a black flag. Why didn’t he obey it? He wasn’t notified of the black flag by his crew and said he couldn’t see his number on the flag that said he was no longer being scored.
His crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, said he was busy arguing the penalty for improper fueling. Kenseth’s fuel man had been penalized for putting a wrench for the back of the car on the decklid while he had the fuel can in the car. Had he done it before he pit the gas can in the car, Kenseth would not have been penalized.
We get why Ratcliff was arguing. But arguing with NASCAR officials is a low-reward proposition. Penalties are hardly ever turned over and Kenseth’s wasn’t.
So as Kenseth finally came to serve his pass-through penalty, he rejoined the race two laps down instead of one lap down. Being two laps down changed the team’s strategy. One lap is possible to get back with strategy and a well-timed caution. Two laps, especially in a race like Sunday’s, is nearly impossible. Kenseth finished 19th. He could have finished in the top 15 if he was one lap down.
• Speaking of top-15 finishes, Aric Almirola ended up 15th despite his car ending the race in flames after he crashed with David Ragan, Ryan Blaney and Landon Cassill.
• Is this going to be a long season for Clint Bowyer? After not having much speed at Daytona, Bowyer was flat bad in his second race for HScott Motorsports. He finished 35th, eight laps down. If the team replicates this performance at Las Vegas and California, watch out. And not in a good way.
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