Martinsville, Virginia, was a place where a fan could go and learn a few things. First of all, NASCAR is not for snowflakes. Too many of them, and they have to move the race to Monday, as they did last week. Sunday was a happy time for those who refuse to accept the bounty a loving Mother Earth provides in the form of oil. Monday was happier for the rest of us mortals more than willing to accept her gifts.
Two segments on Monday and 10 drivers who mattered, at least as far as running in the Top Ten was concerned. Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, and Denny Hamlin were hot, with Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer providing their own heat. Others in the conversation for the opening half included Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson…and A.J. Allmendinger. Damned fine for a guy who came into the event sitting 25th in the standings.
The Martinsville pole sitter was, ironically enough, Martin Truex Jr. Last week’s winner in California was still in the mix after 260 laps, but Daytona winner Austin Dillon had a pit penalty after the opening segment and sunk from view. A cut tire and additional trips to the car doctor sent Darrell Wallace Jr. to the bottom of the sea. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had to start in a car in which he had no practice time in. Sadly, he quickly discovered that he needed a lot of it, as Stenhouse was under the waves before others even got wet. All finished outside the Top 30, while only 16 cars were still on the lead lap when they opened the final leg.
Oh, one piece of advice. Do not get your air gun from a toy store. NASCAR now hands out identical pneumatic tools, but so far this season the brand they have adopted has the durability of cheap plastic. One actually had its handle snap off in the hands of a tire changer in the midst of tightening lug nuts. If some mechanic named Bob owned such a thing, Bob would need to do a little drywall work on his garage after using this fine quality product.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Do it enough, and you might not make a misstep in the choreography of a pit stop. Bowyer’s gas man needs to practice a bit more. He backed out too early and waited too long in allowing the tire changer to slip by, and that cost our boy from Kansas a full can of fuel. That was about 12 gallons left behind. Sure, he was leading, but time was ticking before the error would cost him. That is unless Jamie McMurray spins to bring out a caution. After that, you would have to think Bowyer would consider McMurray to be just one hell of a nice fellow. Come to think of it, the replay showed that maybe Dillon deserved some of the credit.
One final pit stop, with both cans of fuel going in, and Bowyer took care of the rest to end his 190-race drought. It was the ninth of his career and his first Ridgeway Martinsville Grandfather Clock. Rowdy Busch remains winless as he collected runner-up points yet again. That gives in three of the past four, with the other being a third-place finish. That is where Blaney wound up, with Truex climbing back up there to be fourth, as Harvick completed the Top Five.
A good 40+ points day for Keselowski and Hamlin, who learned that if you tap-tap-tap on Harvick too many times, he will brake check you. That is not good for the nose of a car. As for Allmendinger, he finished a solid eighth.
Johnson had to settle for 15th, but after a week of rest, they start April in Texas, where he has won seven times before. As for snow, none is expected in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.