Quick Hits on Fontana
The first month of the 2019 NASCAR season went so well, you knew at some point we'd have a race that just wasn't fun to watch. Fontana, uh, I mean "Auto Club" was that race.
It says a lot when the biggest story of the weekend was the mockery 12 teams and drivers made of the final round of qualifying on Friday. Not a single driver posted a speed because they all tried to outthink and outwit everyone else and in the end they all looked foolish.
I'm not sure anyone knew what rules package was being used. Was it the one with 550 HP or 750 HP? Was it the one with or without aero ducts? Fontana was the fifth race of the season, and we'd already seen four different packages used. For the record, this race used the same combination that was in use at Las Vegas; 550 HP with aero ducts.
There was a lot of excitement leading into this race. For a track that had a history of less than stellar racing, recent years had brought us some very competitive events with drivers fighting for the lead in the closing laps. The track also has one of the older surfaces on the circuit. Throw in the new engine and aero rules (I'm tired of using the word "package") and fans had every reason to hope for an exciting afternoon.
It just wasn't meant to be. As we saw so many times last season, the only real excitement came on restarts. Drivers would swap and fight for positions for a few laps before getting strung out. Once Kyle Busch retook the lead from Joey Logano on lap 175, the only question was how big the margin of victory would be. 2.35 seconds is the answer.
What we do know is that Kyle Busch is the man to beat at this point. This was his second win in a row and the third for a Gibbs team this season. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. also put Gibbs Toyota's in the top ten, finishing 7th and 8th respectively. The Penske Fords of Brad Keselowski and Logano finished 2nd and 3rd, with Ryan Blaney scoring a top 5, continuing to show they're going to be factors every week. At this point, they seem to be the best competition for the Gibbs teams. Kevin Harvick was 4th but was never a real factor all day as he never led a single lap.
So now it's on to Martinsville, the first short track of the season and the first race that gets a lot of fans really excited. Rules packages won't be a factor. In case you're wondering though, they'll have 750 HP. This is a race that usually comes down to who wants it more and who will do what it takes to earn it. I can't wait.