With new paint schemes under the lights, as well as pink for breast cancer awareness abounding, here is what was surprising and not surprising from the 55th annual Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Surprising: In spite of the championship not even being close to secured for 2014, there was a surprising amount of discussion about champions after the checkered flag flew at Charlotte.
Past champs Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski had quite the confrontation in the pits after the race, as well as exchanging some beating and banging on the track during the race and at the end of it.
“The race had ended, and he’s running into cars on the cool-down lap,” Kenseth said of Keselowski. “I mean, the race is over, and he comes down pit road and drives into the side of me. That’s inexcusable. He’s a champion, and he’s supposed to know better.”
Denny Hamlin was also a participant in the melee on and off the track with Keselowski, calling the driver of the powder blue deuce “out of control.”
“He’s desperate, obviously, and it’s either four or five of us are wrong or he’s wrong because he’s pissed off everyone,” Hamlin said. “That was unfortunate. Matt (Kenseth) was nearly out of his car, and he just plowed into Matt and then ran into Tony and then went in through the garage and cleared out transmissions and did burnouts in the garage.”
“Just acting like a dumbass instead of a champion.”
Not Surprising: Although he won his 26th race, tying Hall of Famer inductee Fred Lorenzen for 25th on the all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win list, as well as securing his spot in the Eliminator round of the Chase, Kevin Harvick seemed more than willing to turn over the wheel of his No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet to another driver for next weekend’s race at Talladega.
“I’d park it because it’ll be one hell of a race to watch,” Harvick said simply when asked about the potential mayhem at ‘Dega. “That’s what I’d do.”
“I’m parking it and watching it. It’s going to be fun to watch. It’s going to be crazy, offensive racing.”
“You want to drive, DeLana?”
Surprising: It was a surprisingly good night in Charlotte for the Ganassi Racing team, with Jamie McMurray finishing third and the rim-riding rookie Kyle Larson finishing sixth.
“Yeah, it was a really good night for our whole group,” McMurray said. “When I got to second place at one point I looked at my mirror and Kyle was catching me. We certainly went through a couple of really tough years as our group at Chip Ganassi Racing, and it’s so great right now to have both cars run that well every single week at a lot of different type racetracks.”
“I was not only thrilled for our group but also for the 42 car and just everybody. This is a big weekend for all the race teams. There’s a lot of crew guys that get to bring their kids here to watch their dads or their moms work that sit in the stands, so that’s pretty special I think for Kyle and I to have a good showing.”
“Top groove got going, and I was able to run up there and get to the front and lead for a little bit and the yellow came out and we lost some spots on pit road,” Larson said. “I was able to get back to second and then got into the wall in 3 and 4 chasing down the 11, and messed up the aerodynamics and was really tight after that and just kind of held on and I was lucky with that green-white-checkered, we came down and took four, restarted on the outside and was able to follow the 22 up around the top to get to sixth.”
Not Surprising: Although he finished second in his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, restarts continue to be the Achilles heel for Jeff Gordon.
“I didn’t want to see another restart, because every time we start on the inside, we seem to lose positions; there at the end, and the whole race,” Gordon said. “We were just trying to tune to make it better.”
“I’m really proud of that finish and really proud of that effort.” Gordon continued. “It looked like we were going to be second. We got off a little bit and lost some track position. I had some terrible restarts. Kevin was tough. I knew when he got out in front it was going to be hard to beat him.”
“I’m really happy about this second (place finish). It doesn’t make us, by any means, comfortable going into next week, but a lot better than it could be.”
Surprising: With all the post-race drama, one of the most dramatic turn of events at the race start was lost in the shuffle. Matt Kenseth was penalized at the start of the race for an unapproved adjustment on pit road, which was reportedly a bumper decal.
After his crew chief vociferously argued the call, Kenseth was forced to start the race at the rear of the field, which perhaps led to his anger and frustration that spilled over at race end.
Not Surprising: While there was much drama for the Chase competitors, there were many non-Chasers that were having quite their own little races as well.
Both Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger were satisfied with their finishes at Charlotte, taking the checkered flag in eleventh and twelfth places respectively.
“I would call it a really good effort,” Kurt Busch, the driver of the No. 41 State Water Heaters Chevrolet, said. “The lap times were there. We were running second at half-way and ended up finishing 11th. But all-in-all, it was nice to run up front with the guys, and to show a turn in the right direction from where we had been running.”
“We started off a little bit off,” AJ Allmendinger, the driver of the No. 47 Scott Products Chevrolet, said. “There were a couple of runs that I thought we were really good. I’m happy with it and stayed on the lead-lap all day.”
“We have to keep working. I think there are little, small things that we are missing instead of big things. Getting better.”
Surprising: After Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne was the only Hendrick driver to finish top-ten, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. having shifter problems and Jimmie Johnson testily telling crew chief Chad Knaus that he was going to crash every lap.
“It was better than we ran most of the night,” Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Pepsi Chevrolet, said. “The only way I could get it to turn in the center was to be so loose. Then it would still get tight after 15 laps so we would go slower at that point. So we just tried a lot of things.”
Johnson soldiered on to finish 17th and Junior ended the race in the 20th spot.
Not Surprising: While Joey Logano did not even have to finish the race given his race win at Kansas last weekend, he was still very pleased with maintaining his points lead position. In fact, he remarked prior to the race that he was thrilled to see his hauler and car in the garage area at the front of the pack.
“Obviously, this doesn’t do a whole bunch for us because we’re in the next round,” Logano said after his fourth place finish. “But we still need to keep that momentum like we have been. It was definitely a hard-fought day for this whole Pennzoil team and they did a good job.”
Logano leads the point standings by six points over competitor Kyle Busch.
Surprising: With the focus more on tire concerns, the real issue of the race was the incredible number of blown engines. In fact, there were five engine expirations, including Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Josh Wise, Michael Annett, and Brian Vickers.
“I had a really good car,” Paul Menard, driver of the No. 27 Schrock/Menards Chevrolet, said. “It’s too bad, awesome car, we had a pit stop problem and went to the back, but drove our way back up into the top 15 or so. We definitely had a top five car, just unfortunate. Something let go in the motor.”
Not Surprising: Next week’s race is the infamous crap shoot of Talladega and not surprisingly, the drivers have different opinions on just how that race will play out.
“It wasn’t a win – which is what we really want – but it’s another solid finish for us,” Kyle Busch said after his fifth place run at Charlotte. “We just need to go to Talladega next week and try to avoid the ‘big one.’ ”
“We had a good finish for our Fastenal Ford,” Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford, said after finishing eighth. “It’s fun racing here at Charlotte and now we get to go to Talladega and have a little fun. We’ve got 20 points on ninth-place so it went pretty well for us.”
“We’ll go on to Talladega, but I’m just glad we got out of here clean,” Edwards continued. “I don’t think we made any enemies, so we’ll go have some fun at Talladega and hopefully make the next round.”