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Ryan: Three thoughts on the Bank of America 500

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson


1. After rain pushed Saturday night’s race to Sunday afternoon, a sanguine cloud settled over Charlotte Motor Speedway and drove an optimistic narrative among the chattering classes of social media in the Sprint Cup Series.

“The racing will improve! Because, sunlight!”

The 1.5-mile oval has become perhaps the most maligned in NASCAR for difficulty in passing, and it’s exacerbated by cooler temperatures in evening races that result in a single preferred line. But despite a Sunday in the low 70s, the groove didn’t widen much at CMS over 500 miles, and the refrain from drivers again was that advancing position was too tough for putting on a good show.

Now approaching a decade since the track’s last repave (and with the surface seemingly not degrading quickly enough), it’s distressing how important track position remains at Charlotte, and it’s a situation that somehow needs to be remedied if the track ever hopes to recapture its reputation for memorable moments.

2. A season dotted with struggle and strife continued Sunday for Hendrick Motorsports, whose highest-finishing Chevrolet belonged to Jeff Gordon in eighth. Yet there were signs of hope – Jimmie Johnson led his first laps in three months, and Kasey Kahne flashed speed throughout the weekend – and its mechanical and tire woes might have been manifestations of teams ineligible for the championship and with nothing to lose (Kahne intimated his team was experimenting with a new setup).

While the woes of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (28th) and lack of speed for Gordon diminishes the odds of Hendrick advancing two drivers in the third round, there likely is no sense of panic within the halls of NASCAR’s best team. Much of its focus probably has shifted to 2016.

3. Notice three of the top four finishers at Charlotte – Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin – also are three of the four winners in this year’s playoffs? And also were three of the four championship finalists at Homestead-Miami Speedway last season?

In the second year of the revamped Chase for the Sprint Cup, it’s doesn’t seem as if it’s coincidence that the same drivers who excelled in the inaugural edition again are rising to the top.