Joey Logano starts up front again, but can he get a win?
Today, however, the car setups are different and racing is the name of the game, not qualifying. Some of the other drivers who were near the top of the speed charts in practices are also up near the front, including Denny Hamlin, who will roll off 5th. The rest of the top ten on the grid looks like this:
4. Kyle Busch (remember Kurt isn't in this race)
7. Regan Smith
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It isn't quite the starting lineup we are used to see, but nonetheless it is good to see some of the not-so-prominent drivers getting good starting positions. Paul Menard is showing he is a good race car driver this year, now that he has some quality equipment under him. He currently sits 15th in points but that is better than his teammate, Jeff Burton, who is in 18th. Interestingly enough, Regan Smith is in 25th in points, while Mark Martin is in 24th. Mark has only run 10 races to the rest of the pack's 13. Makes a person wonder where he would be were he running the full schedule.
As mentioned above, Kurt Busch is fulfilling his suspension and won't be in the 51 car for Phoenix Racing this weekend. Instead, David Reutimann will step out of the 10 car for this weekend, and into the 51 car. James Finch is a very well respected member of the NASCAR community. When Tommy Baldwin saw he was in a bit of bind, he talked to Reutimann and a deal was struck. Dave Blaney will jump into the 10 car, with Tony Raines taking over driving duties in Blaney's 36 car. It might be a little confusing, but the important thing is, all the cars are in the race. Reutimann will start 25th.
And I just have to ask, what the hell is it with these drivers and beards lately?? At the beginning of the season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sporting a rather bushy red beard. Recently, Jimmie Johnson has let his facial hair grow, while Dale Jr shaved his off. Now Kevin Harvick has joined the fray. I'm definitely not a fan of the bushy beard. Each to his own I guess, but that's my feeling on the subject. I just have to wonder who will be next?
As far as winning the race goes, this could be the day Joey Logano shows that he belongs in this series and not the Nationwide Series. He ran strong here last year, but lost out to Denny Hamlin, who said he is back to square one on the track. I tend to believe it won't take long for both of them to get out front and show the rest of the guys their rear bumpers. It could be a two car race today. However, I am a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, and if Jr. can get his car working well for him at the END of the race, not just the beginning, I really think he could be a factor. I had also thought Matt Kenseth was going to be strong, given his performance in practices, but they may have lost something when he qualified. Matt is too strong a contender not to be a factor in the end, however, so look for him to be up front as well.
Then, of course, there is Jimmie Johnson. Love him or hate him, ol' five time seems to be showing some strength again. Whether he and Knaus can pull off another win remains to be seen, but if he does, the rest of the crowd could be really unhappy.
The races are now on TNT, definitely not my favorite of the broadcasters, but at least we have racing on TV. Unfortunately, I'm at the golf course, with no TV, so will be relying on Twitter, this thread and Live Leaderboard for my updates. Enjoy the race!