A little caution worth the time
Learn something new every day – a “competition caution” is NASCAR’s way of compensating for heavy rain the night before a race. The yellow flag came out on schedule shortly after the 35th lap Sunday, giving teams the option to pit and check how their tires, etc., were holding up after rain washed away some of the rubber that should have been laid down during practice, qualifying and Saturday’s Nationwide race.
When it’s time, it’s time: Pole-winner Brad Keselowski went racing without crew chief Paul Wolfe because Wolfe had more important duty back in North Carolina – the birth of his and wife Aleia’s first child. Caden Paul Wolfe arrived early Sunday, after Wolfe flew home in Keselowski’s jet. Wolfe will be back on Keselowski’s pit box in Las Vegas next weekend.
Shorter voting period: The National Motorsports Press Association shortened the span of time for fans to vote on the annual most popular driver award. What used to be a year-round vote now will be shortened to a May to mid-November process. Fans still will cast their votes at www.mostpopulardriver.com. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won this award the past 11 years.
Freedom flight: Driver Aric Almirola, of Cuban descent, told quite a story about his family’s immigration to the United States. His grandparents gave up all of their significant possessions – house, land, even his grandmother’s wedding ring – to start over. As Almirola summed up, “I get to live the American dream and drive a race car for Richard Petty.”
Observations• The thing about it never raining in Arizona is that when it occasionally does, there’s no plan for the runoff. So it got a little sketchy Saturday when it poured, kind of like snow in Atlanta.
• The weekly prerace drivers meeting with NASCAR used to be more interesting. Now they’re perfunctory to the point of boring. Seems like no one asks questions anymore.
• Truest thing said during Fox’s race broadcast: “Cautions breed cautions.”
Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Last year’s winner: Matt Kenseth
5 key moments
1. Kevin Harvick takes the lead on the 74th lap; it was inevitable. His was by far the fastest car in practice Saturday.
2. At about Lap 171, after a caution for debris, the restart got a bit crazy, with Justin Allgaier’s and Travis Kvapil’s cars taking heavy damage.
3. Danica Patrick goes into the wall on Lap 185, sustaining serious damage to the back of her Chevy.
4. A series of cautions allows race leaders Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano to conserve fuel for about 13 laps late.
5. Harvick executes a series of precise restarts to keep Earnhardt off his back fender for the final 25 or so laps.