With the final short track race until August now in the books, let's review NASCAR's annual spring visit to the three-quarter-mile Richmond oval.
Juan Pablo Montoya
With zero top fives and just two finishes inside the top 10, last season was about as bad as it could be for Juan Pablo Montoya. And before this past weekend, it appeared 2013 was going to be more of the same, as the 2000 winner of the Indy 500 had a best result of 12th and was a dismal 27th in points.
But despite the results showing otherwise, Montoya has been adamant that his team is much improved over where it was a year ago. And for the first time there is tangible proof that he is accurate.
At Richmond, Montoya led 67 laps -- 52 more than he led all of last year -- and were it not for a late caution, would have snapped his 94-race winless streak. While he didn't claim his first NASCAR win on an oval, his fourth marked his best finish in over two years.
Admittedly, Matt Kenseth said he was "distracted" following the news that NASCAR had levied stringent penalties on himself and his team. But just as he said he would, when it came time to get back in the car he regained both his composure and focus.
First, Kenseth went out and won the pole Friday with a new track record. Then, in the race itself, he led 105 of the first 111 laps and all together led a race-high 140 circuits.
Although he was unable to keep up with the changing track conditions, seventh was a fine way to cap a controversial-filled week.
When the final caution waved and the leaders hit pit road, Jeff Burton and crew chief Luke Lambert elected to gamble and stay out with old tires. Considering Burton hadn't won a race in 157 starts, it was a risk worth taking even though he would likely be a sitting duck on the subsequent restart.
Although he didn't win, Burton was able to hang on for fifth. This was his first top five in a non-plate race since November 2011 when he finished fourth at Phoenix.
When Brian Vickers was named as the fill-in for Denny Hamlin, it was an ideal opportunity for him to show what he could do in top-flight equipment.
Thus far, Vickers hasn't taken advantage of the chance he's been given. In three starts in the No. 11 car, his best result is an eighth at Texas, and in the last two weeks he has been involved in three wrecks and has posted finishes of 35th and 31st.
When you're the most successful team in the garage you're judged on a different set of standards. And it would be fair to say that by its own lofty expectations, Hendrick Motorsports was noticeably off at Richmond.
Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne led not a single lap. More telling, for the first time all year, Hendrick failed to have one of its cars place better than sixth.
Short track racing always elicits rage in the garage, but one driver did at Richmond so more than any other. Saturday night Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth all took exception to the hard driving exhibited by Kurt Busch.
In the case of Stewart and Kenseth, they can't complain too loudly with Busch's aggressiveness because it was the final lap and that's to be expected. But the same can't be said of Truex, who has a right to be upset as he was flat-out dumped by Busch as the two battled for the second position with 54 laps to go.