I have to correct an error in the previous entry I posted--my preview of Sunday's race. I knew that Matt Kenseth came in second at Loudon, but I was thinking of Richmond when I said that he won the first race of the Chase. Richmond is not the first race, Loudon is, and I had to unscramble my mind at correct that. I am terribly sorry, and it just goes to show--please don't ever quote me as an "expert," because I'm not. (Happily for me neither are David Poole, Ed Hinton, or Mike Mulhern. They're just professionals--I'm not. They have peeps to check their facts--I don't, unless you kind folks correct me in the "comments section.)
How about that Tony Stewart? For the first time in his career, he not only won at KC, but he did it on gas mileage. After so many times having victory "stolen" from him in gas mileage races, he finally "stole" one himself. He didn't believe it himself--over the celebratory noises coming in over his radio, he asked,"What position did we finish in?"
He has never been a fan of gas mileage races, and now that he has won one in that manner, he still said, "I would rather win a race by racing somebody." Way to go Smoke, stand by your principles, that's why we like you.
Just to illustrate how much luck is involved in this type of a win, Casey Mears was in second place, seventeen seconds behind Stewart on the last lap when Stewart ran out of gas with a half-mile to go. Possibly, Mears could have caught Stewart before he crossed the finish line, but he, too ran out of fuel and finished second.
Where were the Chase drivers? In a normal race, they too probably would have gone for broke, but in the Championship series, the last ten races of the season for those who don't know, they have to protect their points. They all wisely refueled during the last ten laps.
How about that Mark Martin? He finished first among the chasers--in sixth place. Jeff Gordon had a camshaft break, the part that was connected to the fuel pump, and was out of the race.
All in all, in was not a good day for the Chasers. Jimmie Johnson, who had been leading the race, ran low on fuel with five laps to go, and had to pit. He had to abort his first attempt to pit, as Matt Kenseth, who was not having a good day, spun while he was trying to make pit lane, also out of fuel. This cost Johnson time, as he had already throttled down and had to go around the track again to make his stop. The caution did not come out, as Kenseth's car spun into the infield, did not wreck, and did not jeapardize traffic, so Johnson got no break there. To top it all off, he was served a penalty for speeding on exiting the pit lane, but that was moot, as he had three laps in which to serve his penalty and after he pitted, there were only three laps left.
Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt, Jr both had some excellent pit strategy, both finishing in the top ten, Burton retaining his first place position in championship points. Kevin Harvick, who had problems, but not as bad as the one he had last week when his engine blew with thirty three laps to go, finished eleventh, keeping himself within the range of Championship possibility. Denny Hamlin, who after the Checkers flew pushed Tony Stewart toward Victory Lane with his car, finished in twelth, which moved him into second place in the standings, sixty-nine points behind Burton.
Kasey Kahne, for the third straight race, had some really bad luck, and once again wrecked his car, and his championship chances may well be over. We had high hopes for him, but it looks like this isn't his year. No doubt, he is good enough to be a champion, but it looks like that will have to wait.
But you never know. Next weekend is Talledega, the so-called wild card race. Anything can happen in a restrictor plate race, because it is mostly out of the hands of the drivers. Sure, some drivers are better than others at the strategy and tactics it takes to win such a race, but there are so many other factors, mainly that the cars are packed so close together, and one little mistake by one driver could put a lot of drivers out of the race, Chasers or not. So, it could happen, that
Kahne and Kyle Busch could have a very good finish, while eight other chasers get knocked out by "the Big One, and be back within range of the championship. It could happen, but again, that would be some really weird luck
How about that Dale Jarrett? People have been waiting for him to retire, but he is far from ready to do that. He foiled all the naysayers by finishing fourth, his best finish this year. Jarrett, who has been on my list of favorites since before Tony Stewart became a NASCAR driver, has once again shown that he is not done yet.
Okay, it wasn't the best race of the season, but there was some good three-wide racing going on all around the track. The Kansas City raceway has seasoned, and that has allowed the track to become one in which any driver may find a place to race anywhere on the track. The last time I can recall the winner of a race coasting across the finish line was, I believe, but I may be mistaken, was when Sterling Marlin did it in 2000. I don't remember any time when both the first and the second place drivers had to coast across the finish line out of fuel.
In other forms of racing, how about that Michael Schumacher? Winning the rain plagued Gran Prix of China, this morning, he is now tied in points with Fernando Alonso, who has won two championships in a row. He has announced that he will retire at the end of the current Formula One season, and, with only two races remaining--at Japan next week, and the Brazilian Gran Prix in three weeks, The possibility is very good that he will retire as the Champion, for an unprecedented eigth time, proving that he is one of the greatest race car drivers of all time.
Last, but not least, how about the good news for us sprint car fans? ESPN will air eight weeks of World of Outlaws winged sprint car racing next summer, and Speed will cover twelve more. This is great news for those of us who have been waiting for it, and gives us something even more to look forward to next year. Do it in the dirt!