The crapshoot known as Daytona is over. And though some of the guys who were there at the end of the race are familiar faces on the plate tracks (Jamie McMurray, Dale Jr.), there were also a few pre-race favorites that fell back and disappeared by the time the checkers waved. Jeff Gordon wrecked on the final restart. Jimmie Johnson had tire problems that led to rear axle problems. Tony Stewart who raced so strong leading up to the Daytona 500 had nothing at the end and finished in the 20s.
Bring on the normalcy. The tracks of California and Michigan which are similarly sized and configured have been dominated by Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing. Expect to see the names Gordon, Johnson, Edwards, and Kenseth race well and, barring an accident or penalty, finish near the top this week in Fontana, CA.
1. Jimmie Johnson - Trouble at Daytona could be easily fixed with a strong run at California. Watch for the #48 to bounce back from the 35th place finish he brougt home last week.
2. Mark Martin - Never dominant last week, but he did manage to cross the line in 12th...not a bad start for his Championship run.
3. Tony Stewart - Moments of greatness leading up to the 500 could only muster a 22nd finish position.
4. Juan Pablo Montoya - Another solid effort from the Columbian finishing 10th. He starts California from 2nd position, and a strong run would certainly earn him some much needed respect.
5. Kurt Busch - Ran strong almost the entire race last week, only to fade to 23rd at the end.
6. Carl Edwards - The man who always seems to get wrecked or cause the "Big One" on the plate tracks ran clean and came home 9th, the 3rd Roush driver to finish in the top 10.
7. Jeff Gordon - Looked good in the middle of the race, but never got his groove back after the long delay for track repairs. Wrecked at the end, but he's still a threat to win races all year.
8. Jamie McMurray - Ran in the top 10 all race. Took the lead and held off one of the best active restrictor-plate drivers (Dale Jr.) to win his biggest race ever. Oh yeah, he's on the pole for California too.
9. Kevin Harvick - Another guy who raced strong the entire 500, but couldn't close it out in the end. He was in 1st on one of the final restarts, but his car had lost it's edge and he crossed in 7th.
10. Clint Bowyer - Bowyer had the chance to win the 500 but changed lanes to run with his teammate Harvick on the final restart. It might have cost him the race, but it gave him tons of respect. He starts 3rd this week and could be a dark horse for the Championship.