Martinsville is over, and Jimmie Johnson didn’t win.
While NASCAR fans take a moment to embrace something more shocking than Will Gardner’s death, there are several others who ran Martinsville who will be far more impacted by Sunday’s events. Here’s a breakdown, Bert Convy style.
Win: Kurt Busch
Busch won the race; so, I get how this can feel like an easy out. But other than winning the race, Busch’s win yielded two other more important developments.
- Busch now has a clear patch to run the Indianapolis 500. Even if there’s a rain delay and Busch misses the Charlotte race, it doesn’t really matter under the new points system. The experience will yield mainstream media attention, sponsorship opportunities and a surreal experience should Busch actually contend. And yes, I think he could be factor if he qualifies.
- Busch and Brad Keselowski could have fought, especially after Busch dropped a tirade full of words we can’t run. Not only did Busch get away with it, he played the redemption card after the race.
Busch now has a chance to chase and technology to do something. This could get interesting.
Lose: Denny Hamlin
Hamlin guaranteed a win. He finished 19th. This is probably one of Hamlin’s two best tracks. Having a bad day happens. The criticism surrounding the Auto Club eye issues/piece of metal in his eye lingered into this race, and Hamlin wasn’t happy about it.
Regardless of where anyone stands on the issue, NASCAR created a new era where regular season racing isn’t as important. That was going to lead to controversy the first time a driver missed a regular season race. Hamlin was in the wrong place, and his team didn’t have the PR plan in place to deal with a late scratch.
More importantly, for someone who was so close to a Sprint Cup title, Hamlin’s luck has been dreadful for the last three years. Easter break can’t come soon enough.
I am now 328 words into this column and failed to mention anyone who drives a Ford for reasons that don’t involve a fracas. Richard Petty Motorsports had two teams in the top 10, and Joey Logano finished fourth. This might be the 4,256 most talked about issue of the week.
The 2014 Sprint Cup season is almost two months old. There’s not a single dominant driver. There’s not a single dominant team. Jimmie Johnson didn’t even win at Martinsville. Let’s see what happens at Texas on Sunday.