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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Great Restarts, For Vegas And Biffle

The 2012 Kobalt Tools 400 in Las Vegas this weekend had some great racing.  Although there was not as much side by side racing in Vegas as there may have been in the past, the competitive restarts were enough to make up for it.  Seeing the Sprint Cup drivers slinging it three wide at the start finish line and having cars rubbing bumpers and fenders is the best way to see drivers easing into their 2012 season.

No, there were no jet driers exploding in flames, and the only fuel mileage issue was when Brad Keselowski had fuel pump issues after stretching his fuel.  I, for one, am glad not to see jet driers.  Although as a firefighter I did enjoy watching the flames at Daytona, whilst screaming "Put foam on it!!" while the fire crew extinguished the flames slowly, I think we have all seen enough rain delayed races to hold us until at least Darlington.  They did move it back to Labor Day weekend right??  No?  Well they should!!

This weekends race saw two drivers coming back from a rough 2012 start.  Tony Stewart, the winner of this weeks race, had a horrible week last week with a engineering issue relegating him to a 22nd place finish at Phoenix, and started the season with two finishes outside the top 15.  Although many people felt Stewart would cool off a bit, at least in the near term, with a crew chief change (he replaced Darian Grubb with Steve Addington in the offseason), two bad finishes to start the season after winning 3 of the final 4 races of 2011 would have been though a stretch.  Stewart dominated the end of Sunday's race at Las Vegas, however, so he and Addington may be warming up quicker than most thought.

Jimmie Johnson, after wrecking on the second lap of the Daytona 500 and finishing 42nd, found out a week later that he would probably be without his crew chief, Chad Knaus, for 6 races and down 25 more points to the field of Sprint Cup teams vying for this years Chase.  He did, however, get a great 4th place finish at Phoenix, but during final practice at Las Vegas, Johnson hit the wall and began warming up his backup car to start at the rear on Sunday.  Before half way through the 400 mile race, the 48 had made its way to the front and at the end of the race was just shy of Stewarts pace to the finish line. 

Probably the best restart going on in NASCAR at the moment is the restart occurring in the #16 garage.  Although Biffle is always a possible front runner on any given weekend, his end to the 2011 season was weak to say the least.  His 2011 season in general was out of character for the Vancouver, WA driver, as he posted only 3 top 5 finishes for the year and no wins.  During the offseason, no team has turned around as well as the RFR #16 bunch.  Although they have not posted a win in the first three races, they have already tied their top 5 mark from 2012 with 3, scoring a 3rd place finish in each race.  Biffle has also not started outside the top 10, which is great for a driver who is known for driving harder when he can see the leader.

Whatever the 3M RFR team is doing, it is working!
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