Auto Club Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: No. 4 for No. 4, taking blame, 2017 all over again
By Steve Luvender
March 20, 2018
at 11:30 am
It’s the end of 2018’s #NASCARGoesWest stretch of races. Time for drivers and crews to change their clocks back to Eastern Daylight Time. Here’s what earned our thumbs-up and thumbs-down in Southern California at Auto Club Speedway.
Thumbs Up: Seven-Time is Back (kind of)
Jimmie’s back! Well, sort of. In terms of top-10 finishes, 2018 has been Jimmie Johnson’s slowest start to a season ever — but he finally scored his first playoff points and top-10 finish.
Knowing the No. 48 team (and their 83 victories and seven championships), they’ll figure something out and win the remaining 31 races or something ridiculous. Jimmie will find his lucky horseshoe down a couch cushion, or Chad Knaus will realize he’s been reading his notes upside-down — something. Just wait for it.
Thumbs up to the seven-time champ being back … ish.
Thumbs Down: No 4 for No. 4
The story of the week heading into Auto Club Speedway was focused on Kevin Harvick’s quest for four consecutive victories, having won in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
To the surprise of most, Harvick’s Ford ended up in the wall after hard racing with Kyle Larson — on just Lap 38 of 200, during the race’s first stage.
Fascinatingly, Harvick has never scored a last-place finish in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
It was a streak that nearly came to an end Sunday, but the No. 4 crew members continued to work on their damaged car and Harvick finished the race in 35th place, nine laps off the pace. Still no last-place finish after 615 starts, dating back to 2001.
Thumbs down to Harvick’s hot streak coming to an end, though the No. 4 car looked fast in the opening 37 laps.
Thumbs Up: Taking the Blame
While Kevin Harvick’s crash was a contentious topic on social media (who would have guessed?), Harvick set the record straight in his post-race interview: The incident that damaged his Ford while racing hard with Kyle Larson was entirely his own fault.
When it’s easy — and maybe even natural — to place the blame on your situation or a competitor, Harvick managed to accept total fault of his winning-streak-ending crash, even after driving around a battered car for 151 laps.
Thumbs up for taking the blame, Kevin Harvick, even when fans on Twitter were ready to attack on your behalf.
Thumbs Down: Trevor Bayne’s Hard Hit
On Lap 110, Trevor Bayne’s car cut a tire after contact racing Ryan Newman, sending Bayne’s No. 6 Ford hard into the outside wall.
While Bayne drove his car back to pit road and walked away from the crash, he described the contact as the hardest hit he’s had in a race car.
Thumbs down for taking a really heckin’ hard hit. (But thumbs up for SAFER barriers, safe race cars and driver safety.)
Biggest Thumbs Up of the Week: Martin Truex Jr. Speedway
Sunday seemed liked 2017 all over again, in that Martin Truex Jr. put on a dominant performance.
Not only did Truex sweep all three of the race’s stages, but he also did so after winning the pole — the first driver to dominate a race weekend in such a fashion. Three stage wins mean seven playoff points. He’s also the points leader after five races this year.
But when you’ve been racing on the West Coast for the past three weeks, there’s not a whole lot of time to celebrate before heading back to work.
A record-setting thumbs-up for MTJ and the Furniture Row Racing team. It’s just like old times (of, like, four months ago).