Rewinding Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:
The last thing NASCAR needs to do is change the rules on the new race car. Teams don’t have this car figured out nearly as well as they did the old car, which only stands to reason since they ran the old car forever.
But how does it help them if what they’re trying to figure out becomes a moving target if NASCAR starts finagling the rules?
Sunday’s race was awful, there’s no arguing that. But giving the teams more variables to play with on this car isn’t the solution to fix that. Saturday’s race stunk, too, and there weren’t any “cars of tomorrow” in that one.
If you want to know what the real problem is, it’s the same one that’s been there for years. The cars are simply going too danged fast. That hasn’t changed and it doesn’t look like it’s going to anytime soon.
J.J. Yeley hits the wall just past the midway point of the race and the leaders come to pit road. Matt Kenseth’s crew has been peeling off great pit stops all day, helping its driver get to the lead. So Fox splits its screen four ways and shows four stops.
None of them is Kenseth’s. How can that be?
Edwards talked out of engine change
Carl Edwards started on the outside of the front row in Sunday’s Samsung 500, but he very nearly had to go to the rear of the field because he was lobbying his team to change engines before the race.
“The last three engines that we’ve had fail, I felt like they cost us three wins,” Edwards said. “So I’m hypersensitive to anything with the engine.”
Chris Andrews, who shares interim crew chief duties with Robbie Reiser and Bob Osborne continues to serve a six-race suspension, told Edwards Sunday morning that the was a possible issue.
“They’re nice enough to tell me when anything’s going on because I’ve freaked out so much on them,” Edwards said. “They kind of had to talk me off the emotional ledge. We had a meeting and (owner) Jack (Roush) just told me, ‘Hey, you’ve got to trust us.’ That’s what I did, and it worked out.”
Busch says he was hanging on at the end
Kyle Busch said he would have loved to have been able to challenge Carl Edwards for a win Sunday or even to try to take second from Jimmie Johnson on the green-white-checkered restart. But he could do neither.
“There at the end it was just survival,” he said. “It was about holding off those guys behind us. It wasn’t going to be about moving forward because we were so tight.”
Busch held third despite the fact five cars behind him in the lead lap got fresh tires for the final two laps.
“If there was a shot to go for second then we would have taken it,” he said. “We didn’t wreck, so that’s OK. We battled our car all day long and couldn’t ever really get it right.
"Was it fun to drive? No. Was it hard to drive? Yes. Did it survive the day? Yes. So was it a good day? Sure.”
Earnhardt Jr. fades, finishes 12th
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran in the top five for the first half of Sunday’s race, but eventually finished a lap down in 12th.
"We just chased the handling of the car the entire day," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It's frustrating. Just a thousandths of an inch adjustment can mess things up."
Crew chief Tony Eury Jr. agreed that it was a challenging day.
"We were way too loose ... so we did a couple of adjustments to fix that," Eury Jr. said.
"It made things better, but it just kept getting tighter in the center. Then we made a pretty huge adjustment and it kind of backfired on us. ... Right at the very end we did something and it really helped a ton, but it was too late then.
"We can always put that into our files and we know what to do next time."
Hamlin, Bowyer bang fenders at finish
Denny Hamlin stayed out and Clint Bowyer came in for two tires before the final restart. They wound up battling for fourth place on the final lap – but neither driver got that spot.
“Clint just pinched me up there on the final lap,” Hamlin said. “I had to turn left or I would have gone into the wall. There was really no place to go.”
Hamlin got loose and wound up fifth, behind Ryan Newman. Bowyer hit the wall and went all the way back to 10th, the last car on the lead lap.
Kenseth winds up in a tough spot
Matt Kenseth was fifth when the final yellow flag came out to set up a green-white-checkered finish. He wound up staying on the track, but because everybody behind him came in for fresh tires he knew that put him in a bad spot.
“When you’re the first one on old tires and everyone has new tires behind you, they’re going to eat your lunch,” said Kenseth, who wound up ninth.
“It was a 50-50 call and we were right in the middle. We tried it and it didn’t work.”
McDowell’s day a long one
After his headline-grabbing crash her in Friday’s qualifying, Michael McDowell stayed out of trouble Sunday but still finished seven laps down in 33rd place.
“I like those races that are only 150 miles, for sure,” McDowell said.
“I ran 500 laps at Martinsville last week and wasn’t too bad, but starting out the sore ... it didn’t take very long before I felt it.”
McDowell said he needs to be better at running fast laps when he has new tires.
“We’re just in the beginning stages,” he said after his second career Cup start. “I’m going to get better every race we go to. This isn’t a peak for us. We’ve still got a lot of room to go and we’ll keep plugging away.”
Matt Kenseth gives up the lead when he has to lift off the throttle to avoid Juan Pablo Montoya as Montoya’s car gets loose and slides up off the bottom groove on a restart. Kyle Busch leads a group by Kenseth, who never makes it back to the front again.
Carl Edwards picks the right path as he and Kyle Busch race their way through traffic while battling for the lead, allowing Edwards to bring his car into the lead. From that point on, this was Edwards’ race.
Edwards’ team has a little trouble changing tires on what winds up being the final pit stop, but not enough to lose the lead. Had Edwards lost the track position who knows what might have happened the rest of the way.
Edwards gets a solid restart on the green-white-checkered finish, pulling away to cinch the victory. Only a mistake by the driver of the No. 99 Ford could have cost him a victory, and Edwards made no such blunder.
Even though Edwards was too tough to handle up front, the fact that five teams got new tires before a green-white-checkered finish shook things up. Clint Bowyer got into the wall off the last turn and that shook up the finishing order from fourth to 10th.
Where: Phoenix International Raceway (Avondale, Ariz.)
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
TV: Fox Sports.
Radio: Motor Racing Network.
Last year’s winner: Jeff Gordon.