The Final Word – After the opening segment, the storyline at California needed a re-write

Storylines. We all need them. I mean, other than those rare moments when what is happening is so riveting on its own, we need them to keep engaged. Let’s face it, California was not going to be one of those tracks. Over a year ago, some folks were cheering for history, hoping for the first woman president. Instead, they got the oldest man ever elected, and some have been melting down ever since. When your storyline goes down the crapper, we often get upset and choose our own narrative over the facts. It happens.

I did not realize I wanted Kevin Harvick’s storyline to include winning four straight races. Then, Kyle Larson took Harvick out, and I wanted to turn the damn tube off. Now, if I were using 2018 journalistic standards, I would say that Larson colluded with Vladimir Putin and punched the third-place Harvick into the wall to tear his car apart. Nice story. A very satisfying narrative to support my initial view. However, that would also be total bovine excrement.

The reality appears to be that Larson took air off of Harvick’s spoiler, causing Harvick to come down to rattle Larson’s cage. On contact, Happy became anything but when his auto rebounded to make heavy contact with the fence. He went down a couple of laps, and we could put that storyline to bed. Maybe not the Happy ending (pun intended) some wanted, but no point having a hissy fit over it. We have enough of that as it is.

We had another storyline coming in. We had entries that took part in qualifying, but we had 13 that did not. Nine of them flunked inspection twice and backlogged the process to deny four others their own second attempt. The rules call for the delinquents to start at the back of the pack, but with fresher tires than those who had to start on used rubber after qualifying, that did not seem fair. So, everybody started on fresh tires. In future, they may could go to the Xfinity series model, where those who fail to hit the track for qualifying have to hit pit road after the opening lap to serve a penalty. Not a great storyline yet, but more chapters are to come.

The storyline then shifted focus to the boy who ruled the opening two segments. Last season, Martin Truex Jr. won a ton of segments to pad his points en route to his championship. He had none heading to California, but he started from the pole, and then went on to sweep the bonus points. Would this be another race where one driver dominated, or might Kyle Busch, or Brad Keselowski, or Joey Logano, or a handful of others in the picture actually get to sign their name at the bottom of the canvas at day’s end?

Busch II thought he might have the car to beat. So, Truex beat him. Full points to the defending champion after taking the pole and everything else that mattered at Fontana. It marked the 16th win of his Cup career and launched him pretty much into a Chase place.

It was a day when the rich got richer, as all but two of the Top Ten in the standings finished there on Sunday, with Harvick one exception and Clint Bowyer, in 11th, the other. Good days for seventh place finisher Erik Jones, while Jimmie Johnson finally snuck in there at ninth. That should set him up nicely for next weekend, where the storyline should feature the seven-time champ. Martinsville is a place he has raced to the checkered flag nine times. One win and no one will even remember those opening races of the season.

By the way, Busch did not finish second on Sunday. That was Larson. Larson? Somebody better call Robert Mueller. I wonder what Larson’s tax return looked like in 1995? Sure, he might have only been three at the time, but I am sure Bob won’t let no stone go unturned to get to the bottom of this.


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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