Auto Club 400: Win, Lose or Draw

Courtesy: Getty Images

Courtesy: Getty Images

So much for March Madness only being on a court.

The Auto Club 400 was a bracket busting event, leaving fans on their feet, teams on their toes and consequences that will last far beyond Sunday’s race. Here’s a breakdown, Bert Convy style.

Win: NASCAR

On a weekend where basketball ruled the roost, NASCAR got everything it wanted.

  • NASCAR sold out a race in California. That’s a huge visual for TV and win for the marketing department.
  • NASCAR got its fifth winner in five races. All five among the biggest names in racing.
  • NASCAR got to see what Kyle Larson can bring to the table, and drivers were impressed with his maturity to boot.
  • NASCAR had awful tires, and people didn’t get overly enraged.

NASCAR hasn’t had this many major wins in years. This is like having a perfect bracket through the Sweet 16.

Lose: Denny Hamlin

This was the race where Hamlin redeems himself, passes Joey Logano and shows everyone life is back to normal. Hamlin missed the race with a sinus infection that impacted his vision. This leads to some important questions.

  • Would Hamlin have raced under the old points system?
  • How many more races might Hamlin miss?
  • What kind of weird voodoo hex did someone place on Hamlin the first place?

Hamlin now has to win a race to make the Chase. That’s a new level of pressure to worry about and 21 chance to make it work.

Draw: Points Racing

Because of tire issues and a new emphasis on winning, it seems like people could care less about finishing in the top five or ten. That created some wild finishes and surreal strategies. Add Hamlin’s absence and the “NASCAR regular season is meaningless talk” rants will soon begin.

But here’s the odd part of this equation. Once the Chase begins, teams get eliminated every three races. Teams have to race for points. It’s like playoff basketball except everyone is driving 180 miles an hour.  How will teams readjust to racing for points, and will fans like the change that ha to come with playoff racing?

It will be a new kind of madness for Sprint Cup fans, one that will have a hard time eclipsing what fans saw Sunday.