Barely one week ago at Daytona, Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) placed three cars in the top 10, led by AJ Allmendinger (above), who finished a career-best third. Like clockwork in the days that followed, racing fans were presented with a variety of warm and fuzzy stories, each of which revolved around a central theme: namely, isn't it nice to see the Petty name restored to the forefront of NASCAR?
Yeah, well, about that -- RPM's glass slipper shattered Sunday in California. Of its four entries, only Kasey Kahne (who finished a disappointing 29th at Daytona) had so much as a decent day, finishing 12th. Allmendinger finished 29th; Elliott Sadler, who led 24 laps and finished fifth at Daytona, was 25th; and Reed Sorenson (ninth) finished 21st.
And really, it's a pity, and not just for reporters desperate to be spoon-fed the next good story. Sunday's desultory performance was damaging to RPM as well, given that reports indicate the struggling team was entertaining a number of potential sponsors at the track. Bummer.
It's unlikely we'll now be subjected to a cavalcade of stories centered on the theme that the earth is once again rotating around the sun because RPM has returned to its customary perch among the perennially mediocre, but there's something to be gleaned from this little set piece and it is this: One freaking race in a 36-race season doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot, so maybe let's not get all hot and bothered with the they're baaaaack stories. Or even with the they're on their way baaaaack stories.
For that matter, two races in a 36-race season don't really mean all that much. Call me crazy, but I'm just not yet convinced that Michael Waltrip (currently seventh), or David Ragan (eighth), or Juan Pablo Montoya (10th) are legitimate threats to make the Chase.