The dry heat of Phoenix was the polar opposite of what drivers experienced last weekend at Daytona, proving to everyone that this weekend would be different from the season opener. That it was, as we settled in to watch the Subway Fresh Fit 500. The racing went quickly and . . . Not all that exciting. New NASCAR fans from Monday’s broadcast were expecting explosions and two-hour long red flags. That didn’t happen; we had debris cautions and cut tires instead. Yet, the race was exciting for some, including the winner, the pole sitter, and a driver with a decent season so far:
Denny Hamlin went into 2011 with all eyes on him, pegged to be the man to have a breakout year. When that failed, many wondered what would come from the driver this season. After an off-season move to Arizona and tweets claiming ‘#Redemption2012,’ we were ready to see what Hamlin could deliver, and he certainly did deliver this Sunday. His win proved that his pairing with new crew chief Darian Grubb is a good combination. We know Denny is a talented driver; he won eight times back in 2010 with a torn ACL and contended for a championship. Ironically, he essentially lost the title at Phoenix, so this start to his 2012 Redemption Tour is going well. Congrats to Denny Hamlin, Darian Grubb, and the entire 11 team for winning 50% of the races this season.
When the #55 took the pole for the Cup race, most people were excited, especially Mark Martin himself. It was a good start to his first season with Michael Waltrip Racing, showing everyone that he isn’t ready to slow down. As the race went on, the track got more slick, and Martin fell back. His car came back after a few adjustments, and he racked up and top ten. Seeing Mark doing well makes me optimistic that he has confidence in his cars and his ability. At 53-years-young, he keeps going and going. If you see him in victory lane by the end of this season, don’t be surprised; this new start has given him a whole new outlook.
Some picked Greg Biffle to win Sunday’s race, and I can see why; after a strong third-place run at Daytona, it’s obvious Greg has some power underneath he hood. Many speculated that he touched the brakes on the last lap in the 500. However, on the last lap of this race, there was no second thought if Biffle ran the car to its full potential. Saving fuel was his main focus, which made him fade away from Hamlin and second-place Kevin Harvick as the laps diminished. Suddenly, Harvick’s car slowed from lack of fuel, and crew chief Matt Puccia shouted at his driver to go for it. Unfortunately, The Biff was too far back to pull it off, but he definitely had a car win-worthy. I posted in the off-season about how Greg was between a rock and a hard place, missing The Chase for the first time since 2007 and not racking up the good finishes like he usually does back in 2011. He’s hit the ground running, and it’s making him seem like an early Chase favorite.
We head on to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a one-and-a-half mile, asphalt track with twenty-degree banking. Carl Edwards won last year, his only win all season, and, in 2010, Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag. Both the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series are running, and my pick for both events is Kyle Busch. Busch won this event back in 2009, but he is always a contender. Look for him to sweep both races in Sin City.