It was a busy week for the three national NASCAR touring series.
All three series were racing on the same weekend for the first time since the Texas/Rockingham weekend in the middle of April. The trucks and cup series returned to Charlotte, where most of the race teams are based from, for the annual Truck Series race and Sprint Cup All-Star race.
While the other series were home in Charlotte, the Nationwide Series ventured out on their own and held a show at Iowa Speedway.
The weekend produced three different winners, all drivers that are racing for points in that series that they won in, and the Camping World Truck series produced another first time winner in Justin Lofton.
Jimmie Johnson won the All-Star event, the first win for Johnson at Charlotte since 2009, a track that Johnson used to dominate at, with strategy and a very fast Chevrolet.
In Iowa, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. showed everyone that his two wins last year weren’t a fluke. Stenhouse dominated the race leading all but 41 of the 250 laps.
After this weekend there are three things that can be learned as the NASCAR season continues on.
- Jimmie Johnson has found his stride that he had during his championship run
Name a Sprint Cup Series race that Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won in the last week.
That is a a very tough thing to do because, well, Johnson pretty much won everything in the Sprint Cup series in the past week except for the pole for the All-Star race.
One thing was clear on Saturday night, and that was Jimmie Johnson had a very fast car. In the first 20 lap segment, after Johnson passed Ryan Newman to take the race lead, Johnson pulled away from the field for an easy win.
His strategy changed for the rest of the three 20 lap segments, but Johnson was waiting for the final 10-lap shootout. Once that came, Johnson’s crew got him out first, because of their first segment win, and when the green flag flew for the final 10 lap segment, Johnson checked out on the field and claimed a fairly easy All-Star win.
It’s still early in the season for Johnson and his No. 48 team, but the team has been strong since Darlington. With each win and top-5 the team will continue to build confidence and if anything, his championship run of 2006-2010 shows that when Johnson and company have confidence they are dangerous.
Confidence is what Johnson seems to have found since winning Rick Hendricks’ 200th last Saturday.
- Stenhouse is in a class all by himself at Iowa Speedway
When Ricky Stenhouse Jr. swept the season races at Iowa a year ago, it seemed part skill and part luck. If Stenhouse’s engine would have let go one lap sooner in the August Nationwide Series race, then he wouldn’t have won, but as luck would have it, it blew at just the right time to allow Stenhouse to win.
No luck was needed on Sunday. Stenhouse straight up dominated the competition at Iowa and it seemed that the only thing that could stop Stenhouse from getting the win would be a heavy dose of misfortune. The misfortune stayed away and Stenhouse proved that when it comes to Iowa Speedway the Roush-Fenway Fords are superior.
In addition to Stenhouse sweeping the races at Iowa in 2011, Carl Edwards also had a clean sweep of second place in both races.
After Sunday’s win Stenhouse left the competition with a realization that if they want to catch Stenhouse then they have dial in on the winning car set-up, which is something that Stenhouse and crew have already found.
Austin Dillon, who finished fourth on Sunday, said after the race that his team and the rest of the teams have to catch up to Stenhouse if they want a chance to unseat the current king of Iowa in the Nationwide series.
- One bad race can take a driver out of the points talk
It may seem silly to talk about points when the Cup series raced at a non-points paying event, but the two other series proved that one mistake at a race from now on can really hurt a drivers’ chance at a championship.
Johnny Sauter is a perfect example. Sure, Sauter has had more than one bad race, but after he was forced to go behind the wall for a fuel cable failure this week, Ray Dunlap of Speed pointed out that this race basically killed his championshp chances for 2012.
The reason that Dunlap went to explain why Sauter’s chances at a Truck Championship are dashed were because, unlike the Sprint Cup series and Nationwide Series, there are very few chances left for Sauter to be able to dig himself out the hole he finds himself in currently.
Even in the other two series where there are more races left in the season, a driver who is struggling right now, will have a long road a head if they want to be competitive for the championship.
Especially in the Sprint Cup Series.
There are only 15 races left until the chase begins and unless a driver goes on a Brad Keselowski-type streak over the next couple of weeks their chances at making the chase are starting to look dim.
Of course there is the possibility of a wild card berth, but with the way Johnson and the rest of the top-10 in points are running, those wins may come few and far between.