It was a nice prelude to the All-Star Race in Charlotte on Saturday. First, we had a down and out established team show some life by taking the front row. The pole went to a former champion just a week after he ran his first race of the season. Then we had the Open, with a pair from the new generation advancing, along with a former Open Wheel racer who has spent much of this NASCAR career just sitting on the periphery of those considered to be the true stars of the sport.
With the Roush-Fenway duo of Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ready to rumble, joined by Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, and A.J. Allmendinger, it was time for the spring classic. Even the fans got to determine the field, with 22-year-old Chase Elliott getting their nod for inclusion.
While the Roush-Fenway lads led at the start, Kevin Harvick did what he has done much of this season thus far. He dominated the opening segment and walked off with it. Did it matter? Not after they had a slow pit stop it did not. That allowed the second best on the season, Kyle Busch, to waltz away with the second segment. Did that matter? Nope, again.
Things got shook up a tad in the third frame. Stenhouse was squeezed down low when he nudged Martin Truex Jr., who clipped Clint Bowyer, who got into Austin Dillon. Behind them, Truex went sideways and hit the trifecta in claiming the Busch boys, with Kyle on the inside, Kurt on the outside, and Brad Keselowski in the middle.
No single car dominated that portion of the event until the end. Kyle Larson and Suarez were battling at the front on the final lap, but Harvick was off on his own road trip on the outside. He coasted by Larson. Ditto when it came to Suarez, to claim the top spot in preparation for the 10 green lap dash for the million in cash.
It was all Harvick, and with two to go, he was gone barring a mishap. The bar came down when Larson squeezed Joey Logano into the fence, while Logano demonstrated a perfect P.I.T. maneuver to send Larson through the grass.
Two laps left. Harvick in front. Not surprising that the boy was still there when they crossed the line. Suarez and Logano were next, but there was only one check for a million smackers handed out, and that made that one driver a truly Happy man. It marked another reason to celebrate to go with the All-Star suds shaker he had back in his Daytona 500 winning season of 2007.
They get to come back next week, same track, different format, on a Sunday, and with points on the line. It is the best race day on the planet that opens with the Grand Prix of Monaco, followed by the Indianapolis 500, before they return to Charlotte and the World 600.
Thank God for the PVR.