Three Races In, Some Things are Fuzzy, but Some Things Are Clear

Watching yesterday’s Kobalt 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it appeared from the beginning that this was a race that was supposed to be won by Hendrick Motorsports. The lineup of Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is formidable. What more could you ask? It’s a power team if there was one, and yet, it all fell apart all because of other teams that have learned to be as tough as they are. It happened last year and it seems to be happening again.

Consider the case of Kasey Kahne or maybe even Jimmie Johnson. They dominated the event. In former years, it would have been over from the beginning, but a little bit of Joe Gibbs Racing and even Penske Racing played their cards right and the Gibbs bunch pulled off the win. It didn’t hurt that Matt Kenseth is the most underrated driver of this decade. Who can wheel a car better than Kenseth? While at Roush Fenway, he won a championship that someone in the sanctioning body thought was tainted and the horrible Chase was created, and yet he continued to be a steady winner. Two Daytona 500 wins and a championship has never given Kenseth any respect. It boggles my mind that a man who has done so much is ignored by everyone in this sport. Yes, talk about Junior or Tony or Jimmie or even Harvick ( not to mention Danica), but what about Kenseth?

You can also ask the question about our reigning champion, Brad Keselowski. While changing manufacturers, from Dodge to Ford, he has maintained a sterling fourth, fourth, and third place in finishes, second only to Johnson, but still only the only driver with three top five finishes in three races. Truth is, if you don’t drive for Hendrick Motorsports , you have to be overlooked. That organization is just too big and powerful, plus they have the power drivers – Johnson, Gordon, Earnhardt, and Kahne. They run up front and have the history behind them, but a lot of good things are happening elsewhere. Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and even controversial Denny Hamlin are a formidable team at Gibbs. No one can doubt that Edwards, Biffle, and even Stenhouse , a ten race winner, a guy who can wheel a car, and a two time champion are not junk. The reigning champ and the young prodigy at Penske (Keselowski and Logano) are not junk. Not to mention that Richard Childress Racing has the power to move its three drivers into the spotlight. And yet popularity seems to be the reason. Everyone loves a winner.

All of that said, we’ve seen three different races. The restrictor plate race that Johnson won—a crapshoot, the Phoenix race that Edwards won, and Las Vegas and the Kenseth race. Three races and three manufacturers have won. It sounds like parity to me, and yet all the talk is about four drivers who haven’t done much with one exception. It’s the way it goes.

We head to Bristol this weekend, if it doesn’t rain ( the forecast is iffy), and we’ll see what the en 6 car does there. One thing is clear. It appears that things are pretty much equal. Just

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Fleshman
Ron Fleshman
Ron Fleshman has followed NASCAR racing since attending his first race at Martinsville Speedway in 1964. He joined the Motor Sports Forum on the CompuServe network in the 1980s and became a reporter for Racing Information Systems in 1994. In 2002, he was named NASCAR Editor for RIS when it appeared on the World Wide Web as He can now be found at Ron is a member of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. You can find Ron following and reporting on the top three NASCAR divisions each week. As a lifer in his support of racing, he attends and reports on nearly 30 events a year and as a member of the motor sports media, his passion has been racing for 47 years. He lives with his family in rural West Virginia and works in the insurance industry when not on the road to another track.


  1. You almost hit the nail on the head. Every race is a crap shoot. The only race is in the pits. And it is not fast stops, it is getting screwed in the pits by mistakes and traffic, and (it almost never works) not changing tires with 40 plus laps to go. The aerodynamics on the cars are all screwed up, the lead car has a tremendous advantage, Kahne should have blown right by Kenseth (even Kenseth admitted it on the radio), time and time again the faster car doesn’t win and viewers are deprived of seeing any “race” on the track, just a high speed parade. PS good work dissing the Hendrick team.


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