The Final Word – Tradition is fine, but at Sonoma some followed their own course on that road

As we were reminded by Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, tradition contributes a lot to our society. However, sometimes we like to change things up. Sometimes we have to.

Gentlemen, start your engines. That is what was customarily said prior to races, but no longer. You probably thought that was due to a woman being in the field. Nope. There are just not enough gentlemen. Just ask Danica Patrick. She was cruising along in sixth in the opening stage when Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost traction, slid through the hairpin turn at Sonoma, and sat across the track. She collided with him. Of course, it was an accident, but it also was not very gentlemanly.

Later, the boys were crowding into another turn. Junior and Kyle Larson made contact, domino’d into Patrick, who spun. Again, not very gentlemanly. She spun right in front of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. That ended the day for the boyfriend, as Patrick finished 17th in an event that promised to be better.

There are 20 bonus points up for grabs each race, not counting the World 600. Some, like Martin Truex Jr., enjoy collecting those points and the additional playoff markers that winning a stage delivers. Sometimes, that is about the only thing you come away with. Truex won the opening stage but saw his engine expire in the third. He finished last, but he did collect 11 points on the day.

Some want the bonus points, and some could not care less. Everything Kevin Harvick did on the day, especially their pit strategy, was to be there up front in the end. No bonus except what comes with winning. It was Harvick’s first win of the season, the 36th of his career and his first on a road course. The win turned a very likely playoff appearance into almost a sure thing.

Harvick got the win, chalked up 40 points for the race, but others collected more. Denny Hamlin (fourth) managed 46 and Brad Keselowski (third) earned 43 to pad their own collections. Just as 40+ points equates into a good day, below 20 means things could have gone better. We already talked about Truex, but Larson had the pole, finished third in the opening stage, but finished 26th. Same low grades for Erik Jones and Trevor Bayne.

Of note was the runner-up finish of Clint Bowyer. He pops four points ahead of Matt Kenseth in the fight for that final Chase berth, and within seven of Joey Logano. Ten are locked in with wins, leaving six presently open to being determined by points. There are just 10 races to go to see if someone might break some hearts.

Some break hearts, some help break your bank account. If I were a crew chief, I would insist on the crew being part of my family. Kyle Busch, who lost one crew chief due to suspension for no lug nuts, might lose his replacement for missing a pair of them at Sonoma. At least if my sons were my tire changers, I could deduct the fines coming my way from their inheritance. There is an idea for a new family tradition.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. could be a heart breaker next week. He might be just 22nd in points, but a win would certainly shake things up as he wraps up his career. Just as a win at Sonoma did wonders for Tony Stewart in his final season, same goes for Earnhardt. Why would I put forth Junior as a possible winner at Daytona? Tradition, of course.


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 Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


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