Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kansas: Whattha...?!?

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

We have to say that the Life Lock 400 turned out to be one of the most unique and, well, bizarre races we have ever seen. Even our ruby slippers wore out. And Greg Biffle finally ended up in Victory Lane. One can't help but to think that a mere thirty minutes more of rain would have resulted in a win for Tony Stewart, or even if the NASCAR officials suddenly became rational, Smoke would have won a called race. But, as most of us should know by now, NASCAR is anything but rational.
I will interject here that this isn't a report of the race, but a reaction to the event. If the reader didn't seen the race, I urge them to find somebody who TiVoed it, or at least to read an account of the race.
We wanted to see Da Biff win one. He is, after all one of the top drivers in the sport, and even if we aren't all that fond of him, it seemed frustrating to have to wait so long for him to win one.
The attrition rate among the Chasers was heavy, with seven of the twelve Chase drivers being involved in accidents. The entire Chase for the Championship has brought about moments of intensity that haven't been matched during the short history of the Chase. These guys are racing at a level we have never before seen. Amid all the carnage, we have seen some amazing and superior racing in Dover and Kansas. As dull as Loudon was--excepting Clint Bowyer's first victory--we knew the Chase had to get better, but never would we have expected this.
Who woulda thunk that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would be the first non-chaser to carry the onus of taking out a championship contender? It was a rare misjudgement on the part of Driver #8, who is among the best drivers when it comes to car control. Running into the back of The Schrub's (Kyle Busch's) car changed the playoff picture quite drastically. But then, so did several other incidents during the race. For instance, Greg Zippadeli and the #20 team should not have waited to look at the decision to gamble in retrospect. We knew that the correct strategy should have been to pit and repair, and we could all foresee that the tire would deflate. This is yet another what if--Tony would have been much closer to the points lead if his team had made the rational decision. My question is, after the gamble to stay out just before the rain hit turned out a winner, did Zippy develop a temporary gambling addiction?
At both Dover and Kansas, Matt Kenseth seemed uncharacteristically aggressive. He had every right to be so, because in both races, he had an exceptional car. However, Dover ended in disaster for him, and he narrowly escaped disaster at Kansas. One should wonder, if Kenseth had stuck to his accustomed driving style, would he have won both races? We'll never know.
After Johnny Paul Montoya cut a tire, and shed debris all over the track with four laps to go, the race should have ended with a green-white-checker shootout. However, darkness fell, and the race ended under a bizarre caution. Bizarre because the race leader, Greg Biffle, ran out of fuel in the final turn and had to coast across the finish line. Now, I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the rules in this case are that the car must cross the finish line under its own momentum, which it did. Nobody pushed the car across the line, and the speed was reasonable in that nobody had to stop to avoid passing it. That is the other applicable rule, that the field is frozen at the time of the caution and that there is no passing under the caution. The Hendrick Motorsports drivers, namely The Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, decided to make their own interpretation of the rule, which, if allowed, would have created a paradoxical situation in which fifth place Casey Mears would have been the winner. For once, probably for the first time in the history of the organization, NASCAR made a rational decision and avoided the paradox, giving Greg Biffle the victory.
Something else that had nothing to do with the race seemed just as bizarre as the race itself. ABC/ESPN ran out of commercials to air. They must have. I don't think there were more than one or two of the annoying interruptions for the entire period after the coverage switched from ABC to ESPN2 due to time constraints. How unusual. once again, it would be a good idea to check CawsnJaws for details.
If it had rained for another thirty minutes, think what we would have missed.

My pick for the best quote of the weekend: Saturday, in the closing laps of the Busch Series race, Kyle Busch was running behind Matt Kenseth before a restart. On the back of Kenseth's Arby's sponsored car are the words "Free fries on Monday if I win."
Kyle radioed his Crew Chief, and asked,"Do I want free fries or radio call-in on Monday?" He chose the media hastle of the radio call-in by beating Kenseth to the checkers.
The best interview is a toss-up between the very informative one with Ray Everham, during the rain delay, and Clint Bowyer's post race interview in which he displayed profound sportsmanship.

Other news:
Stewart will not be penalized for expletive Told ya so. It turns out that it was not the same as it would have been had it been an interview. Though the audio was on with the camera, the commentators were talking over it, and it could not be heard clearly. Besides, no one was watching, anyway.

Motorsports icon Wally Parks dies at 94
Parks founded the NHRA in 1950, and is every bit as much a household word among race fans as Bill France. Drag racing as we know it was practically invented by the man. He served on the Board of Directors of the NHRA until his death last Friday.


Anonymous said...

another wild one...I am beginning to think my gut feeling that the chase was going to be weird and wonderful was correct...Kansas was a good warmup for Dega...let's see a new car never been tried...combined with the usual dega was built on an Indian burial ground there are all kinds of things working there...

Trixie said...

I think the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys were working over time last weekend. Thank goodness we are not in Kansas any more.

Zippy made a good call before the 2nd rainstorm, but a bad one by not bringing Tony in to fix the fender.