Early in every missed the Chase for one of only two times season, it’s easy to in his career. This time the second race was at get carried away. The Phoenix International Raceway, and Kenseth season has 34 more finished 13 th .
races. Even Jimmie Denny Hamlin took the Sprint Cup point lead Johnson, who left by winning Phoenix’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 a the Daytona 500 week after he finished fourth in the Daytona 500.
(pending appeal of Even though it’s early yet, Hamlin was NASCAR penalties) ecstatic about his early momentum, especially with minus 23 points, since he is coming off a bit of a down year.
has 24 races to make “Huge momentum,” Hamlin said. “We’ve the Chase. never been in this position this early in the As if to prove the lunacy of drawing early season. We’ve always struggled. We’ve always conclusions, Johnson came back to finish second taken our time — five or six races in — before in the season’s second race. He had crashed after we hit our stride.
one lap at Daytona. “He [crew chief Darian Grubb] made me a Matt Kenseth, of course, won the 500 for the winner today.”
second time. Ah, Darian Grubb. He was Tony Stewart’s In 2009, Kenseth won the 500 and followed crew chief last year. In fact, Grubb was fired by it up a week later with a victory in Fontana, the reigning champion. He moved to Joe Gibbs Calif. He failed to win again that season and Racing, Toyota and Hamlin. As a result, dating
back to the 2011 Chase, the winning crew chief in six of the last 12 races is... Grubb.
Not that the drivers, Stewart and Hamlin, didn’t have a lot to do with it, mind you.
Stewart is off to a slow start. Remember, though, that he barely made the Chase last year, and his performances didn’t take off until the Chase, when Stewart won half the 10 championship-deciding races.
In short, it’s way too soon to start drawing conclusions.
Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (nascar.rbma.com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_thisweek@yahoo. com. © 2012 King Features Syndicate