So, I've made it through my first weekend at RIR, and it certainly was a wild one. Denny's last lap past of Kyle to take his first charity race win, Jeff Gordon hitting the wall hard and criticizing the track, and, of course, Hamlin almost pulling the trifecta.
It certainly was a weekend at RIR to remember, here are some of my thoughts:
There was some snoozer moments, especially the first half of the Cup race, and the entire Nationwide race. I understand that the sport of NASCAR is predicated upon the fact that sometime a guy will have a dominant car, and if he's a good driver, than you won't have very entertaining race. That's what we saw Friday night. I feel bad for the handful of fans that went in there, because they did not get a great race. While the first half of the Cup race was sort of like that, it wasn't as bad. While there were no wrecks or cautions for a long time, it was interesting to see which cars were better on the long runs (Kasey Kahne for example) but then it was also fun to watch Denny pick off guys one by one until he got to the front. But once Brad Keselowski started getting in trouble, things got really interesting.
I expect the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown has found a new permanent home. Attendance was not nearly what I expected for Thursday night's race. Only about 5,000 people showed up, which is what capacity is at Southside Speedway. But I believe that's due to the rain - I think the Hamlin Foundation people really were treated well at RIR, and now that the track has a full year to prepare for next season, everything will be run a little more organized, and the Foundation has no choice but to keep it at RIR.
Kyle Busch will be the man to unseat Jimmie Johnson. Kyle Busch is unbelievably good. I thought last year would be the season that he takes down the champ, but now, it's clear to me that it will be this season. I don't think anyone can argue that he's the most talented driver out there (Jimmie is still the best), but the man has a thirst to be great at racing, no matter if it's Late Model, or Sprint Cup. Plus, he loves getting booed, and he feasts on the fans loathing of him. I just see him winning it all this year.
A few good drivers had a rough weekend. Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart deserve a lot of credit for racing near the back of the pack, and really not threatening all race long, but somehow figuring out a way to end with a top ten. Also, Jeff Gordon had one of the three best cars, and got caught up in the only big wreck of the night. But some guys really should leave Richmond disappointed. First off, pole-sitter Juan Pablo Montoya did not give up the race lead right away, and it seemed like he had a car that could hang near the front. But after 40 laps, he faded, and got caught up in a ridiculous tete-a-tete with Ryan Newman, and by the time it was all said and done, it was a rough day. Also, Dale Earnhardt Jr. complained about his car all day. Steve Letarte could not get it right, but somehow Junior was able to sniff the top ten towards the end of the race. But he didn't get the fuel window right, had to pit late, and finished 19th. Also potential chasers Paul Menard and Kurt Busch were nowhere close to being competitive.