Monday, October 16, 2006

Friday The Thirteenth Weekend Jinx

Last week, we saw something very sad at the end of the race at Talladega. Either Junior or Jimmie Johnson was about to win the race when an over-eager Brian Vickers took them both out. I felt sad for Earnhardt, and for Vickers, whose first Cup victory was tainted by his bad move. Sad for Earnhardt, Jr, because, though he is not my favorite driver, he is among my top five favorites, and I was really pulling for him to win that race. In fact, I didn't think I could be any sadder for any driver who had a chance to win and got caught up in somebody else's deal.
Then, with around 80 laps to go in the Bank of America 500 at Lowe's, Saturday night, another one of "my guys." JJ Yeley, made a sudden move toward pit road and inadvertently collected Mark Martin. Now that is really sad. Mark Martin's favorite track is Lowe's, and he really looked as if he could win. It wasn't totally Yeley's fault--he did signal his intentions--but it was a night race, and Martin obviously couldn't see the signal. Yeley had already made his commitment toward pit lane when the unfortunate Martin tried to pass him on the bottom, resulting in a bad accident.
It doesn't seem that Yeley can finish a race without getting in a wreck with somebody else. It isn't always his fault--as often as not, he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. I like JJ. He is really a nice guy, and people who know him are very impressed by his spirit. But I may be the first to predict that he will be driving full time in the Busch series next year, and be sharing the #18 Cup ride next year with the Cuban Missile, Aric Almerida. This is just a rumor, and you heard it first here.
I was already sad before that happened. As it has been this entire season, many drivers began the race as if the first lap was the last lap, and another one of "my guys," Denny Hamlin checked up coming out of turn four of the first lap, to avoid an accident, and got rear ended by an apparently inattentive Mike Bliss. Luckily for Hamlin, though, the #11 team was able to get the car back onto the track, sixty-eight laps later, and he finished in 28th, sixty-nine laps down, but not losing that many points.
That someone can finish nearly seventy laps back from the lead can finish in the top thirty can only attest to how heavy the attrition rate was. Blown engines took out Kurt Busch, Elliott Sadler, Jeff Gordon, and Jamie McMurray, among others. Other drivers, including Clint Bowyer and Chaser Kevin Harvick, had transmission problems. It was definitely a Friday the Thirteenth weekend for many drivers.
There were some really great moments, and some very heartwarming moments. On the restart--after a caution for debris, with 28 laps to go, Tony Stewart, my main man, was the first car a lap down, and the first car in line on the inside lane, could have raced the leaders to get his lap back, as so many others had done during the course of the race. He didn't. Instead he held off, letting the leaders, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr by before getting back into the race. He didn't have to do that, and he displayed some excellent sportsmanship by doing so. Way to go, Smoke. I'm sure that many of the Stewart haters were wondering who was actually in the #20 car. It's Smoke, people, and that is why we love him.
There were some other good times. Junior and The Gordon racing clean and hard, some very good challenges and passes for the lead, and some previously unthought-of of drivers, especially Tony Raines showing some remarkable ability in racing some of the top drivers. Raines led some laps, and stayed mostly in the top ten throughout the race. Talk about stepping up! Prior to Saturday's race, Raines had only led 3 laps in his Cup career, and had not yet had a top ten finish. Saturday, he finished ninth. Sterling Marlin, an old favorite, got his first top ten finish in over two years, and we were happy to see that. Bobby Labonte, another old favorite, did exactly what he had to do, and brought the famed Petty #43 Dodge to a respectable fifth place finish.
And it was Kasey Kahne who won, sweeping both Lowe's races, with Jimmie Johnson second, and Jeff Burton in third. Junior kept his championship hopes alive by finishing fourth, but Matt Kenseth, who once again had car problems, and was often two laps down finished sixteenth, high enough to maintain second place and forty-six points out of the lead.
Congratulations to Kasey Kahne, the "cute little guy," who now has six wins to his credit this season. He is still over 120 points out of the lead, but, considering his rough start in the first three races of the Championship series, he is doing well, and is not yet out of contention. A lot can happen in five races, and at least one of them is going to be as tough as the first five have been. Martinsville, the shortest oval on the NASCAR Cup circuit, is the home of next week's race, and it will be back to old school racing. Forty-three high-speed cars on a half-mile track always ensures some rough racing. It should be fun.


Babs said...

I like Yeley too, but he does get into so many wrecks. Guess we'll see soon enough what Gibbs does with him.

Babs1 said...

I do the same thing with template changes. I keep a copy of my last template on hand, just in case I muck it up. I learned that the hard way.
But I just couldn't get blogger to do what I wanted this time. *sigh*

NASCAR-Bethie said...

That was the weirdest race I've seen. Maybe they shouldn't schedule them on Friday the 13th weekend anymore.