At the Track

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 8, 2006

Drivers turn heat up in Las Vegas

By Jeff Findley

NASCAR Columnist

The annual average rainfall in Fontana, Calif., is 14.77 inches.

Mother Nature can take a few months off because it seems that half of the yearly quota was met last weekend while NASCAR was trying to race.

In what has to be one of more bizarre weekends in recent memory, the rain and the poor track conditions wreaked havoc on both the Sprint Cup race and the Nationwide Series race. The race was on, it was off, it was on, it was red-flagged for seepage (if there is a word that conjures up more unpleasant thoughts than seepage, I don’t know what it is), it was on, and then it was off again.

Like a lot of suckers, I kept checking back on FOX to see if the race would resume late Sunday night. Finally, when the last update was at 1 a.m., I decided to call it a night and check the results the next morning.

Well, the race was postponed until Monday, and I caught bits and pieces of it in my office. A seemingly unbeatable duo of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson on Sunday led to a really unbeatable Carl Edwards on Monday.

Edwards was the class of the field on Monday and won going away. After the first two races, Chevrolet and Toyota are still waiting on a visit to Victory Lane.

I guess it shows how even the new Car of Today really is. Only the setup and motors can be different, and parity seems to be the result. Not that leveling the playing field is bad – the COT has produced some very exciting racing.

It is way too early to start looking at the points standings, but Kyle Busch is atop both the Cup and the Truck standings and sits in second in the Nationwide standings, behind teammate Tony Stewart.

Busch seems to be driving with a chip on his shoulder and, I must admit, it is very entertaining to watch.

From the debacle of California, the teams must make the cross-country trip again to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

If you remember this race last season, Tony Stewart had some pretty rough comments about the condition of the track after undergoing a multi-million facelift the year before. This appears to be a kinder and gentler Stewart this season, so we’ll see how he acts this weekend.

Jimmie Johnson had no problems with the track last season, winning his third race in a row at Las Vegas.

In fact, the race has produced streaky winners. Before Johnson, Matt Kenseth had won the previous two races. So, we have had only two different winners in the last five races.

My pick to win this weekend and earn Toyota’s first points Cup race is Kyle Busch.

Jeff Findley is publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Roanoke, N.C.