First, I want to say that I hope everyone had a very pleasant and happy Easter. It was a much needed break for everyone. NASCAR certainly got a deserving break after five weeks of intense competition, but the week they go on a break is one that will certainly be remembered, just for reasons a few drivers don’t want.
Let’s look back at the first five races, as it was unique in that each was a different test with the new Generation-6 car, and although in the beginning it was a bit skeptical of how it would run, there’s no doubt about it anymore.
The first two races of the year, Daytona and Phoenix, got teams’ feet wet. The restrictor plate track certainly made it seem more like an old-school race at Daytona because the two-car tandem draft simply can’t work with these cars. The nose and bumper don’t match up, and that means more of following than passing. The next race, on the flat track of Phoenix, was the second test for the car, with different rules but normal results.
I say normal because in all honesty, Phoenix is a tough track to pass on. The track is flat with sweeping corners, of course it will be hard to pass.
But, then NASCAR made the trip to Las Vegas, and things certainly were different. The car handled exactly as it was intended, with many passes on the track, great side-by-side racing, and high speeds. The new car was made exactly to be competitive on these types of tracks seeing as they are the most common on the circuit. If fans were complaining about the car before, they certainly weren’t after a trip to Sin City.
Bristol was, well, Bristol. There was some rubbing fenders, some damaged bodies, and some words afterward. That’s short track racing, not exactly uncommon.
However, nothing could compare to what California brought. It was literally a perfect weekend for NASCAR, giving fans exactly what they expect each week. There was high speeds, intense passing, and it came down to the two drivers that made the most headlines from the week before, and neither was the race winner in that race. It came down to one lap, one corner, and one moment. In that instant, one driver went into the wall, and changed the course of his season.
Meanwhile, the other driver involved got into an argument on pit road with a former champion, and got called out afterward.
Quite frankly, the race at California to this point I can say is an early candidate for best race of the year. If you were to compare this race to the same one the year prior, it’d be like comparing apples to oranges. Sure, same group but completely different. One year ago, the race was simply “make it to halfway, and we beat the rain.” Of the 200 scheduled laps, it only made 120, with the race’s only caution being the one that ended the event. Last year I was in Las Vegas for a Monster Jam event, and the final day there was the day of the race. I seriously nearly fell asleep watching it because of how bored I got.
I probably could have gotten more enjoyment just walking around the casino in the Stratosphere, which was where I stayed, than I did watching that race.
This year, despite being on the computer via Twitter, I was on the edge of the couch just watching each lap with intensity, especially the last one. Sadly, one driver is now on the sidelines because of the vicious impact from hitting the inside wall. As was said in my “Breaking News” piece last week, Denny Hamlin is now on the sidelines as he has a compressed vertebrate, and trying to return next week at Martinsville was way out of the question.
These first five weeks of the season have been great for NASCAR as a whole. The new car has been successful, the drivers have been more intense, and the fans have been extremely proud.
If NASCAR can keep the momentum they have right now up to the Chase and through the title battle, it could truly be one of the best seasons NASCAR has ever had.