Welcome to the 2018 season and welcome back to our post-race takeaways column. Per usual, we’ll have some random thoughts to espouse after Cup Series races and this column will be the landing spot for them. Can you believe the season has already started?!
• OK, so Kevin Harvick is really good this year.
And not only did he win these last two races, he dominated.
Harvick has led 395 laps so far in 2018. He’s completed 697 laps. If you want some perspective on that number, he’s led fewer than 395 laps in 10 Cup Series seasons. Entire seasons.
Yes. Entire Seasons. Thirty-six-race seasons. He’s led more laps in three races than he has in 10 different 36-race seasons.
Success in the Cup Series is typically fleeting. Tips and tricks that teams figure out typically get understood and mimicked by other teams in short order. Dominance is hard to carry over, especially for an entire season. Harvick isn’t going to win 24 races this year. This we know for sure.
But with Phoenix coming up — he’s won five of the last nine races and hasn’t finished lower than sixth in that span — Harvick’s domination may continue for a little longer.
• Hey, Jimmie Johnson is back.
OK, sort of. After disastrous outings at Atlanta and Daytona, Johnson spent much of Sunday’s race at Las Vegas a lap down. His day got off to a bad start after failing inspection three times. That meant he had to start at the back of the field.
Alas, he ended up finishing 12th.
“But, today I was in a lot of different aero situations that at first, I was flinching in and then I grew very comfortable with and kept charging and driving through,” Johnson said. “I think the body is definitely helping the car, we’ve just got some other stuff to sort out to go along with it and kind of find the sweet spot for the car too.”
The body Johnson references is the new Chevrolet Camaro car body. After using the Chevrolet SS body for the past five years, Chevrolet went to the Camaro in 2018. There’s a bit of a learning curve involved.
Johnson was the owner of Phoenix until Harvick took it away after the repave. We’ll see what he has for Harvick and the rest of the field next week.
• Speaking of Johnson, there was an awkward moment during Sunday’s race when Fox showed Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus with what looked to be a man wearing a Confederate flag t-shirt in the background.
Fox stayed on the shot of Knaus with the flag shirt in the background for more than a few seconds. And then returned to the shot.
Why is this awkward? Well, NASCAR asked any and all fans to refrain from displaying the Confederate Flag at races in 2015. It was a request that was impossible to enforce, but also understandable in its nature. The Confederate flag is a symbol of hate to many people.
With that request in mind, Fox should have had the awareness to cut from the shot with the flag in the background as soon as possible. And definitely not return to it. With the number of Confederate flags in the infield at NASCAR races, it’s impossible to not get a glimpse of one while watching a race. But it’s also possible to avoid shots that keep the Confederate flag in the frame for more than a brief second.
NASCAR is a sport desperately trying to be as inclusive and multicultural as possible. The Confederate flag incites old stereotypes. While it may be impossible to shed those old stereotypes, effort should always be made to avoid them.
• When Jamie McMurray hit the wall because of a blown right-front tire, it was the first time a caution had been thrown for a car hitting the wall since the Daytona 500.
• Not long after McMurray hit the wall, Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch’s races ended. Busch got loose under Elliott and then the two smashed into the wall off turn 4.
“Yeah, he just said ‘sorry’ and that he got loose on the bottom and kind of swapped ends,” Elliott said. “I just happened to be on his outside. It happens and it’s unfortunate. I hate to tear up another racecar. We are two for three on wrecking, so we will try to not wreck next week.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.