How the race was won
Story of the race
The track and the hard tires – and the driver reactions to both.
Johnson scoring the Vegas three-peat.
And, to stretch this category a bit, the crazy finish to the Busch race.
Give 'em credit
Johnson and the 48 team. They messed up on pit road when they failed to corral a renegade tire, but the team came back strong. Sure, a caution or two helped, but that run back through the field was impressive.
Gordon, and Chevy in general. One is returning to dominance, and the other is just staying there.
Matt Kenseth. He was nowhere all day and on the verge of going a lap down a couple of times, but Robbie Reiser and Co. – we mean, um, [insert interim crew chief here] and Co. – eventually figured it out and led Kenseth to a top-five finish. Similar story, to a lesser extent, for Tony Stewart.
Mark Martin. Will he content every week he decides to race? Isn't that exactly what we said after Fontana?
Most of the Cup field. After seeing what happened in Saturday's Busch race, the drivers did a solid job of staying out of trouble … for the most part. Not that they enjoyed being on edge for 400 miles, but they made it look relatively easy.
What were they thinking?
It would be easy to rip Speedway Motorsports Inc. for what it did to Las Vegas, or Goodyear for the tire it brought. It's also easy to think that the track will be fine in a couple of years. Regardless of who is to blame for the treacherous racing conditions (probably both SMI and Goodyear), the opportunity for NASCAR to better regulate this process does exist. NASCAR probably doesn't want to meddle in the business of the tracks too much – which is the right approach – but perhaps it will be compelled to in situations like Vegas.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Or Tony Eury Jr. Or the No. 8 team's spotter. Fortunately for them, Junior still managed to finish 11th despite his pit road mistake (which he essentially took the blame for), though it did cost him maybe a half-dozen spots. Normally it wouldn't be a huge deal, but Junior finally was hitting his stride in a big way at Vegas before the premature pit. Still, the more important issue was performance, and the No. 8 was just fine in that respect on Sunday.
Better luck next time
Sterling Marlin. He ran a terrific race before running into trouble late. Still, looks like Bobby Ginn knows what he's doing, huh?
Kasey Kahne. This wreck probably wasn't his fault, though it's hard to say what would have happened had he eased into the corner a little more. Regardless, he deserved a top-10.
Toyota. We were going to put Dave Blaney here, but at least he actually made the race. For Toyota, that's a pretty good day.
By the way …
Kyle Busch: Aggressive or out of control? Probably both, though he's on his way to leaning toward the former and becoming more mature. He did come back nicely from a spin in the Cup race, and he sure made the Busch race finish exciting. But he also seems to get himself into a lot of touchy situations. He's got guts, that's for sure.
The Blue Man Group performed at the track Sunday. A day earlier, they lurked around the media center. I offered them my leftover banana from lunch. They (quietly) refused. I was just wondering whether a potassium deficiency could mess with pigmentation that much. If so, the banana might have helped.
Grading the race
After the low expectations set by Saturday's Busch race, Sunday's show was a blast. And actually, the long green runs that normally can drag on were welcome after Saturday's wreck-fest. Track and tire issues aside, this was a run-of-the-mill 1½-miler. But unlike most races, the final caution did not set up an exciting finish, as Gordon had begun to run down Johnson before that last yellow. Either way, it could have been a lot better – and the drivers' inability to control their cars is a huge demerit here – but it also could have been much worse. Grade: C+
From the source
Jimmie Johnson: "When you have a good car, it makes [coming back] look easy. It's not all that easy, but it worked out."
Jeff Gordon joking about his personal life causing distractions: "Well, I think I would have won the race if I didn't have a baby on the way. I guess that was my distraction out there. I lost my concentration thinking about that baby and what I'm going to name her."
Tony Stewart: "It's frustrating when the race track tries to play God and make the racing better on their own and effectively [makes] it worse."
Magic Johnson on minorities needing to earn top rides in NASCAR: "It's just like the NBA. You want that Caucasian guy to work his way up into the NBA … and earn it."
- Jeff Gordon