The Sprint Unlimited - aka the Busch Clash - ran Saturday night and Denny Hamlin made a statement of statements by winning all three segments. Being the first live-fire competition of the season, it offered numerous angles to digest.
A bad day for Chevrolet - Several Hendrick Chevys blew engines during pre-race practice and the bulk of the Chevrolet fleet in the race crashed out. Dale Junior led late but couldn't hang with the Toyotas or the Penske Fords and then wrecked.
NASCAR's new restrictor plate aero package produces good, albeit mixed, results - A slight increase in spoiler size made the draft noticeably more effective and the lead changed sixteen times - a major improvement over 2013's package in this same race. It wasn't as competitive as 2012's thriller, which may be the standard to which such races are compared, and matching that caliber of racing should be NASCAR's goal. Indeed, what was striking about the racing was how inconsistent it was - the lead was a battle, but in lengthy spots the drivers single-filed it. The cars looked noticeably looser and sidedrafting was perhaps the story of the race.
Danica in the eye of the storm - Nowadays in NASCAR it's Danica, always Danica. She teased by running in the top ten in the first segment before gagging back to the back, then she crashed in the Matt Kenseth melee - she charged head-long into the scene, saw a hole, then spun out and got clipped hard by her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse. It was yet another Danica performance that merely reinforced Richard Petty's point about her low relevance to the racing.
SHR didn't acquit itself, either - Tony Stewart made a great charge early on then got wrecked out with Danica and the curiously quiet Kurt Busch. Kevin Harvick finished fifth, this like several others after losing the lead draft. It was an inauspicious start for a team whose internal politics are becoming more of a story amid Gene Haas' moves and statements that seem not to make much sense.
It's obvious who Mister Ford now is - Roger Penske's history is of taking everything from his backer and making sure it's at the expense of others running the same brand, beginning with his McLaren days in road racing and USAC Championship Racing and McLaren's revolutionary M-16 racecar of the 1970s. When he signed with Ford in 1994 it was to be Ford's designated championship team; curiously it didn't work then, though the race last night indicated right now Penske is the top of the Ford totem pole. It was also a good rebound for Brad Keselowski following some comments earlier in the week that were quite muted and gave indication he's been muzzled by NASCAR - a bad sign.
And so it went for the Busch Clash of 2014 as the rest of Speedweeks gets cranked up.