Thursday, December 25, 2008

Santa didn't forget

We almost let Christmas slip by without offering a wish list for some of our favorite drivers, teams, and NASCAR personalities. I'm not going to let that happen.

Silly season never really ended. Bobby Labonte was released from Petty Enterprises even after avowing his loyalty to that team. So of course, for Bobby Labonte: A full time Interstate Battery sponsorship and a full time ride for 2009.

For Tony Stewart: A four-leaf clover, or a lucky horseshoe, or both, wishing him the best of luck with his new team.

For Stewart/Haas Racing: A full time sponsorship from Interstate Batteries and Bobby Labonte for a third team.

For Scott Riggs: A ride where he will be appreciated. Perhaps the Team Formerly Known As Bill Davis Racing has an opening?

For Bill Davis: A happy retirement after going out on top.

For all Crew Chiefs: A free pass for "pushing the envelope." We won't see much of that anyway in '09, due to lack of open testing, but if it happens, give them a break.

For Mark Martin: A Championship. Why not? He certainly deserves one.

For Kyle Busch: Some love from the fans.

For Greg Biffle: Some love from his team.

For Brian France: A key so he can escape his ivory tower, for a temporary taste of reality.

For All NASCAR Fans: A Merry Christmas, and a great 2009!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Live on Type Delay: The Ford 400 (Homestead)

Tony Stewart gets emotional as he talks about his time with Joe Gibbs Racing and the #20 Home Depot team. He has just finished a photo session with the crew he is leaving after the end of this race and this season, and has hugged each of his crew members as he turns for the interview. His voice is choked up, and, if not for the dark glasses he is wearing, we would be certain to see tears in his eyes. He would like nothing more today than to get one last victory for the team with which he has spent his entire NASCAR Cup career to date.

Carl Edwards also would want a victory. In order to have a chance of winning the 2008 NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship, he needs to lead the most laps and win the race. And even doing that wouldn't give him the championship. Edwards also has to hope that Jimmie Johnson, who leads him in points by 141 markers, finishes thirty-seventh or lower at the checkered flag. Noting the performance of the 48 team over the past ten races, we would have to say "Fat Chance!"

But, you never know. Anything can happen.

David Reutimann leads the field in his first career Cup pole position, and next to him is newcomer Scott Speed. But Matt Kenseth, who also wants to win so he can chalk up a victory for this season, quickly takes the lead on the first lap. A few laps later, Carl Edwards, starting fourth, finds his way to second place.

Kenseth is racing to win, and to maintain a spot in the final top ten standings. He isn't about to just give the lead to his team mate. He wants to make Carl work for it. Finally, around lap 18, he succumbs to pressure from the spotters and lets Carl by.

Which reminds us, there are many more races going on here than a race victory and a championship. Several teams are racing for the top ten, and several more are racing for the top thirty-five positions in owners points. That should keep the action interesting enough.

Tony Stewart, who started 13th, has moved up to ninth position, and Kevin Harvick has taken second place from Matt Kenseth. Harvick has been consistently in the top five, lately, and he also wants a win this season.

And the potential Champ, Jimmie Johnson, isn't content with running toward the back and protecting his points. He has moved up to seventeenth from his starting position of thirtieth.

Green flag pit stops begin on lap 51, and Edwards, the race leader, pits on lap 52, and retains the lead after the pit stops cycle through. Matt Kenseth loses some time after overshooting his pit box, and drops back from third to seventh.

Caution on lap 69, after Alric Almirola has a tire go down, and everybody pits. Track conditions are changing as the sun sets, so do the car set-ups. Edwards beats Harvick off of pit lane by half a car length. It looks like Clint Bowyer came off third, David Ragan fourth, and David Reutimann fifth.

Greg Biffle is the first car a lap down at the restart, and he races his way to the lead lap at the wave of the green flag. It's a wild restart as the field bunches up behind the leaders, but there are no mishaps and the race continues.

There is lots of movement of positions behind Bowyer, and Stewart has raced his way up to seventh. After 82 laps, it's Edwards, Harvick, Ragan, Reutimann, and Bowyer in the top five.

Clansi, my sweet old calico cat has parked herself on my lap, and has found that my typing fingers provide an invigorating massage for her nose and cheeks. Typos can now be blamed on the cat.

I didn't have an excuse before, now I have one.

During the commercial, David Ragan has moved up into second, and my man, Tony Stewart, has moved up to fifth. Carl Edwards has a four-second lead on the rest of the field, a familiar sight this season. Jamie McMurray has been having great runs lately, and today is no exception as he has been running in sixth place. Jimmie Johnson has run all the way up to eleventh. That's the way Jimmie runs--you will never see him taking it easy at any track in any situation. Unless he is comfortably in the lead.

Johnson is being followed by two of his team mates, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr, in twelfth and thirteenth, or thirteenth and twelfth. Kyle Busch is the next of the chasers, in fifteenth, and Jeff Burton is sixteenth.

Tony Stewart has moved up a spot, on lap 108, and is running in fourth. Green flag pit stops should begin shortly. Harvick has dropped back to fifth, so, before the commercial break, it's Edwards, Ragan, Reutimann, Stewart, and Harvick in the top five.

During the commercial, Jeff Gordon moved up into the top ten, racing Casey Mears for eighth position, and Johnson has moved back to twelfth. Junior, running way up high, moves into the ninth spot, passing Mears.

Surprisingly, on lap 125, all 43 cars are in the race, but their are only twenty cars on the lead lap. Sterling Marlin is doing a great job, running in sixteenth, in the "have-not" #09 James Finch Racing car.

Tony Stewart is the first to pit, on lap 125, then a bunch of cars make their green flag stops on lap 126. Edwards drops out of the lead to pit on lap 129, and, after the pit stops cycle through, is still in the lead. Ragan is still second, and Stewart has moved up to third. Brian Vickers, trying to get the 84 car--normally driven by Scott Speed--into the top thirty five, serves a pass through penalty for speeding on pit road.

Caution for debris on lap 140. With the track cooling down, there will be continuing adjustments for many of the teams. Dale Earnhardt, Jr runs into some bad luck in the pits, with his car stalling, and will restart at the back of the lead lap in 21st. At the restart, it's Edwards, Hamlin, McMurray, Ragan, and Kyle Busch. Did they stay out? I don't know, because I can't get MRN today, so we don't get the pit stop details we usually get from the radio broadcast.

Kurt Busch hits the wall on lap 152, twice, and brings out another caution. There will not be many takers for pit stops this caution.

On lap 153, Carl Edwards clinches the most laps led 10-point bonus, one of his goals for this race. Clansi has gone to eat, satisfied that her whiskers have been successfully groomed, so I am back to having to take responsibility for typos.

Kurt Busch has to serve a bunch of penalties, after pitting while the pits were closed, missing the pitting commitment line, and speeding on pit road. He got another penalty for failure to obey an official's "stop" signal while leaving the pit lane. He may have the record for the number of pit road penalties for one stop.

At the restart, it is Edwards in the lead, Hamlin second, McMurray third, Ragan fourth, and Kyle Busch fifth. Hamlin gives Edwards a good run for the lead after the green flag waves, but can't quite catch the leader. Kyle Busch is racing side by side with David Ragan for fourth place, and Tony Stewart is moving back up toward the top five, racing for sixth position against his good buddy, Kevin Harvick.

Now this race is getting fun, as the sun is down, and the track has more grip as it has cooled down. By lap 165, Kyle Busch has taken fourth from David Ragan, but Ragan isn't giving that spot up, either, and they change positions back and fourth. Stewart gets around Harvick on lap 168 and moves into sixth. Marcus Ambrose has contact with Reed Sorenson and hits the wall, bringing out another caution. Ambrose is racing the #47/00, for Michael Waltrip Racing and trying to keep that car in the top 35 in owners' points, while Reed is trying to make his last race with Ganassi Racing a good one. All the leaders pit for tires, fuel, and adjustments.

Clansi has eaten her fill and is back on my lap, now getting a freebie from my typing fingers by pressing her forehead against my knuckles, as I type. This is quite an exercise, and a challenge. Good cat.

Pit strategy moves Edwards back to seventh. Ambrose's car is the first car to go to the garage. Jimmie Johnson will restart in fourteenth. Jeff Gordon stayed out during the caution and leads. Reutimann is second, Kenseth third, Bowyer fourth, and David Gilliland is fifth. Restart on lap 174.

Edwards moves into fifth with 91 laps to go. Johnson just has to be careful to protect his car and avoid danger at this point. Jeff Burton spins with 90 to go, and we get a caution. It's Gordon, Kenseth, Bowyer, Reutimann, and Edwards in the top five now. Johnson pits for tires and adjustments, after four laps of harrowing racing in some dangerous traffic. This will also put the 48 car out of sequence for fuel strategy toward the end of the race, a common Knaus tactic.

Restart with 85 laps to go. It looks like Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, David Reutimann, Denny Hamlin, and Carl Edwards, in the top five, and they are racing hard from positions two on back after the restart. Kenseth takes the lead from Gordon with 82 laps to go. Edwards tries to advance on the low side of the track, but falls short, then moves up into fourth. Ragan and Reutimann are putting on a David and David show, battling for fifth. Now Hamlin gets low on Gordon and is racing for second place. Hamlin hasn't made good his pass on Gordon yet, and Edwards takes advantage and joins the fray. Just as I was wondering where my drivers were, Tony Stewart moves into fifth. Kevin Harvick is running in tenth, with 75 laps to go.

Sorenson wrecks and brings out a caution with 69 laps to go. Johnson pits, but takes two tires and the lead, moving up twelve spots. Kenseth is second, and almost before we can get the running order straightened out, there is another caution as Kurt Busch wrecks again, but not before Kenseth takes the lead. Gordon pits from seventh spot, along with Kevin Harvick and others, and they may be good on fuel until the end of the race, so this is more strategy coming into play.

At the restart, it will be Kenseth, Johnson, Hamlin, Edwards, and Stewart in the top five. They all stayed out. With 53 laps to go, Kyle Busch is challenging Stewart for fifth. Greg Biffle, the winner of the last three races at Homestead, has now moved into the top ten. Dale Jr is in thirteenth, Harvick is fourteenth, and Jeff Gordon is back in sixteenth.

Junior loves running at the top of the track and moves into twelfth. Harvick follows into thirteenth. With 46 laps to go, it's Kenseth, Hamlin, Johnson, Edwards and Stewart. Kenseth leads by just under one second.

While Edwards, Hamlin, and Johnson are all racing for second, Stewart takes advantage and takes fourth from Johnson, third from Edwards, and second from Hamlin. Edwards gets third, and Hamlin falls to fourth, while Johnson runs in fifth. Stewart will have to pit for fuel before the race is over, but he is moving fast, now, and will soon be challenging Kenseth for the lead. Johnson only has to finish fortieth to win the championship now, and that is if Edwards wins the race.

Love it, Stewart is stalking Kenseth, and saying "Here kitty, kitty, kitty." It would be great to see Stewart win this, but the fuel situation is touchy. Maybe we will get a caution? Is that too much to hope?

Dale Jr pits with 22 laps to go, for tires, fuel, and to see what is causing the handling problem. It may be a tire going down, so they change four. Stewart takes first.

Dale Jr pits again, reporting something wrong with the left front. Biffle pits with 17 laps to go. It's a broken brake caliper for Junior's car, and it goes to the garage.

Johnson takes a splash of fuel and two tires with 13 laps to go. Stewart pits with eleven laps to go, as does Hamlin. Hamlin takes two new skins, while Stewart's stop is a splash and dash. The top five are now Kenseth, Edwards, Ragan, Kyle Busch, and Clint Bowyer. If these cars run out of fuel, Kevin Harvick, in sixth has the best chance of winning. Matt Kenseth runs out of fuel with three laps to go. Edwards is leading and saving fuel. Kyle Busch moves into third with two laps to go. White flag, and Edwards has a thirteen second lead over second place Kevin Harvick. Edwards runs out of fuel coming off of turn four, and wins the race. Jimmie Johnson is the Champion, for a history making three in a row.

I have been critical of Edward's on camera vs on track split personality, but that is not to take away from his ability, nor from the ability of his crew chief Bob Osborne. Carl Edwards is a great all around driver, and if things had worked out, he would have had a well-deserved championship.

But it is Johnson's and Knaus' day, as they accomplished what is a very difficult feat in any sport, but especially in NASCAR. And they are also very deserving of the championship.

Tony Stewart did have a good enough finish to gain eighth place in the final standings, but, unfortunately, two other of my favorites, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr, were knocked out of the top ten.

It is the end of the season for NASCAR, but not yet for Rev Jim's RantsnRaves. We still have to write some stuff about the Nationwide Series and Truck Series final and championship races, some thoughts about the 2008 season, and a few thoughts on next season, so, if you like what you read here, check back later this week.

We give thanks for racing, for NASCAR, for NASCAR racing, and for an interesting and dramatic season. Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson, and to all NASCAR drivers for giving us what we love about the sport of auto racing.

Thanks to my readers for pointing out my errors, and still sticking with me throughout the season, even though we have been in somewhat of a writing slump.

Oh, and thanks to my sweet old calico cat for keeping me entertained while I was writing this final "Live on Type Delay" episode for 2008.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

To All Who Serve, Have Served, And Will Serve

Thank You And Happy Veteran's Day!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Live on Type Delay: The O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 KM(Phoenix)

Pre-race thoughts: Dale Jr is sporting a nice beard. Although it is neatly trimmed, it doesn't seem to fit the Hendrick dress code. I wonder if Rick is going to make Junior hit the floor and give him fifty for appearing on television like that.

Not to belittle Jimmie Johnson's racing skills--he is a very good driver--but why haven't we heard Carl Edwards say, "A monkey could win in that (#48) car?"

I have a lot of respect for Jimmie Johnson, but what if he didn't have Chad Knaus as his crew chief? He makes a lot of mistakes, and often gets himself into accidents, penalties, and other situations that would keep other drivers out of a good finish. Knaus and the team 48 pit crew invariably make up for those mistakes. My guess is that Hideo Fukyama would be a household name if he had had Knaus as a crew chief.

Eddie Haskell Mr. Phony Carl Edwards is an exceptional driver, whether he's driving a Sprint Cup car, a Nationwide Series car, or a CTS truck. He's old school in the way he man-handles a car throughout the entire race, and he apparently is very good at saving fuel. Obviously, he is not one of my favorite drivers, but I hope the points race between between him and Jimmie Johnson tightens up after this race. I would rather see Johnson as the champion than Edwards, but what I'm really hoping for is that both of them have bad finishes this race, and Greg Biffle gets into the mix at Homestead, making it a three-way race for the Championship.

Just my thoughts, as deranged as they might be.

Jimmie Johnson drops to the bottom at the wave of the green flag, but Jamie McMurray gets around in turns three and four and leads the first lap. There is already a lot of action this early in the race, as Carl Edwards tries to advance his position from his fifteenth place start. But the cars are bunched up three-wide back there, and Edwards has to let up some.

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr make contact with each other and the wall on lap sixteen, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of damage, and there is no caution, then, on lap twenty, Sam Hornish Jr and Elliott Sadler get into each other, causing minimal damage to the cars, but their spinning causes enough of a potential hazard that the first caution flag flies. Everyone pits.

Restart on lap 26, with Kurt Busch first, and the top five positions immediately get mixed up as everybody tries to gain the lead. Martin Truex, Jr's engine is seriously overheating and he has to go back into the pits, with a stalled engine. Truex seems to be out of the race as they take the car to the garage.

On lap thirty, Brian Vickers has the right front tire go down, and slams into the wall, bringing out the second caution. Kurt Busch was in the lead, Jimmie Johnson second, Ryan Newman third, Jamie McMurray fourth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr is fifth. Nobody in the front of the field pits.

Restart on lap 36 and an immediate caution for debris. Then it starts raining, but just a sprinkling of drops. The race remains under caution, but the cars stay on the track and count off laps. Jet driers are also making laps. Now, on lap 43 we get a red flag.

If you have ever lived in the Southwest United States, especially the dryer areas, you would know that "20% chance of rain" means that it's going to rain.

Only Matt Kenseth has the kind of luck that would get him a flat tire under a red flag. He was in twentieth, but will have to restart in the back, after he pits under caution to change the tires.

The race restarts on lap 46. Johnson quickly tries to take the lead, but Dirty Kurty holds the top position. Again, lots of hard racing all around the track. Kyle Busch uses the top line to move into the top seven. Hamlin is racing Earnhardt hard to get into the top five, but Earnhardt is also moving up. Edwards is still trying to make progress, but the traffic is terrible. Kevin Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Tony Stewart are all up there around the 99 car.

Meanwhile, the relative positions in the top five are changing constantly. Earnhardt, Jr moves up into fourth, Newman falls back, as Hamlin also gains position. But Jeff Gordon is in the mix, and he ends up in fifth, as Newman drops to sixth. On lap 75, the running order is Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and Jeff Gordon in that order in the top five. Newman falls way back as he has a tire going down, or suspension problems, or both.

On lap 79, Johnson is able to catch Dirty Kurty Busch and is challenging for the lead. As we know, Dirty Kurty is very hard to pass, especially while he is in the lead. Johnson tries the inside, but can't get by. He tries the outside, and can't make it stick. Finally, on lap 82, he gets around the outside and takes the lead. McMurray has caught up to the front two and is looking to take second place. Dirty Kurty won't give up second very easily, either. There should be green flag pit stops coming up soon. That is always fun at Phoenix.

McMurray moved into second during the commercial. I had to turn off the radio, because the interference was really bad. I wish we had an FM station here to pick up the MRN and PRN broadcasts. One of our local Classic Rock stations has a big sponsorship from a NASCAR sports bar, and does a lot of NASCAR promotion, so I would hope they get the MRN/PRN contracts soon. I know a music station wouldn't normally carry sports, but this one is already carrying the Colorado College Hockey radio broadcasts, so a NASCAR race every week wouldn't hurt.

Green flag pit stops begin on lap 98. The top five are pitting on laps 100 through 103. Everyone is taking four tires. Travis Kvapil leads a lap while the leaders pit. Mark Martin has to come back into the pits for a missing lug nut. Remember, this is under green, so that has to hurt. Greg Biffle, who started in the back for a transmission change, leads a lap while pit stops continue. Biffle is out of sequence from the other leaders, as he pitted on lap 44. He pits on lap 109. Johnson retains the lead. Newman ground down the front sway bar, while he was making laps on a left front tire that was very low in air pressure, so he is back in the pits while his team tries to repair the damage.

After the green flag pit stops cycle through, it's Johnson, McMurray, Earnhardt, Jr, Jeff Gordon, and Kurt Busch in the top five. Carl Edwards has made it into tenth place. All the Hendrick cars are in the top six, as Casey Mears is running in sixth. Hamlin is still in seventh. There are 21 cars on the lead lap.

On lap 126, Kevin Harvick is running in eighth, and Carl Edwards has moved up to ninth, while Kasey Kahne fills out the top ten. Now Kyle Busch moves into tenth.

Caution on lap 141 for debris. The leaders all pit on lap 143, and Johnson leads, Dale Jr is second, Jeff Gordon is third, Jamie McMurray is fourth, and Dirty Kurty is fifth. The rest of the top ten is as last reported. Kyle Busch passes Edwards for ninth, shortly after the restart on lap 153. Greg Biffle is running twelfth, Tony Stewart is thirteenth, and Jeff Burton is fourteenth.

On lap 160, they are showing the view through the windshield of Jeff Burton's #31 car, and it looks just like Martinsville. That is how rough the racing is between tenth and fourteenth positions. We have a good race going between Carl and Kyle, and should we expect less? That would be a fun one to watch.

I'm getting a kick out of that new NAPA commercial with Michael Waltrip and Ron Capps. Capps isn't used to having to work for fifteen seconds. That, according to the commercial, is three times as long as his normal "five second work day." Funny! Ron Capps is one of the superstars of the NHRA drag racing series, for those who don't know.

Jeff Gordon reported something wrong with his engine earlier in the race, and on lap 173, he starts dropping back, as he has lost a cylinder. Tim Brewer gets to talk about broken valve springs for the first time since last year. I bet he is having a flashback. Last year, he got to talk about broken valve springs and bent valves every ten minutes.

Things have finally settled down back beyond ninth place, by lap 190. Tony Stewart is in tenth, Kyle Busch in eleventh, and Jeff Burton is in twelfth. Jeff Gordon has fallen back to seventeenth. Casey Mears is now in fifth place, Denny Hamlin is sixth, Kevin Harvick is seventh, Edwards is eighth, and Biffle is ninth.

Edwards finally gets around Kevin Harvick on lap 220, for seventh, just before a caution comes out for debris. All the lead lap cars pit. In Jimmie Johnson's pit, a tire carrier fumbles with tape he was going to add to the grill of Johnson's car, and the 48 team loses first place to Jamie McMurray, who beats Johnson out of the pits. Restart with 94 laps to go, and McMurray does not hold on to first place long at all. Johnson takes that position almost immediately. That was a pretty move. This time the driver saved the pit crew, rather than the usual other way around.

Uh-oh, Steve Letarte said "valve train." I guess that means we have to hear from Tim Brewer again? Maybe not. ESPN/ABC has shown some improvement over last year.

Jamie Little reports that Tony Stewart said he would vote for David Ragan as Driver of the Year, if he had a vote. Last year, Stewart accurately called Ragan "a dart without feathers." Driver of the Year would be a good call as well, because David Ragan has made that much improvement in one year.

I missed it somewhere, but McMurray lost second to Dirty Kurty somewhere, and now Dale Earnhardt, Jr is taking third from McMurray. Caution for debris with 51 laps to go and this will be the money stop. I actually wrote that before the guys on TV said it.

Johnson maintains the lead, coming off of pit road, and Carl Edwards moves up three positions into fourth place. I think Dirty Kurty is back in second place. Jamie McMurray is third, and Harvick will restart in fifth. Earnhardt, Jr lost several positions in the pits and will restart in sixth. Great save by Casey Mears in ninth position, as he nearly hits the wall. Hamlin makes a great move and gets into sixth, and Earnhardt gets to fifth. Harvick falls back to seventh. Jeff Gordon's engine lets go with 42 laps to go, and though there is a lot of smoke, the race stays green.

Big wreck. Casey Mears goes around, and all these other cars get involved, in the dog-leg on the back stretch. Johnny Sauter, Scott Speed. Scott Riggs, and David Gilliland are some of the other cars involved. The rear wheels of Gilliland's car ended up on the hood of Scott Speed's car. I want a picture of that. Marcos Ambrose was also involved while the traffic was trying to slow down. Red flag to clear up the wreckage. 39 laps to go in the race.

Maybe the Awesome Wreckage blog will have some good video of that wreck.

As the cars restart, Tony Stewart's #20 car had trouble starting. His fellow Hoosier and next year's team mate, Ryan Newman, gives him a push start, but he will restart in 17th. Caution with 28 laps to go, and Johnson stays out, but several cars pit for tires. The restart will see Johnson in first Kurt Busch in second, Jamie McMurray in third, Edwards in fourth, and Earnhardt Jr in fifth. Restart with 24 laps to go.

Kurt Busch gets right on the bumper of the 48 car at the restart, and Mark Martin looks like he is racing to get back on the lead lap. Another caution for debris with 21 laps to go.

It looks like everyone will stay out this time. They are showing videos of some of the action just before the caution, and I have to say, if anyone could get Jeff Burton mad, other than Kyle Busch, it would have to be Paul Menard. Yup.

Restart with fifteen laps to go, and Jimmie Johnson just takes off, and makes a big cushion between himself and second place Dirty Kurty Busch. McMurray is still in third, with Carl Edwards on his bumper, Dale Earnhardt, Jr is hanging in there in fifth. Now Harvick is racing The Bearded One for fifth, and he is going into the turns hot. So has Tony Stewart, and Allmendinger tries to get under Matt Kenseth, as Stewart is trying to get around the #17 on the outside. There is no room inside of Kenseth, so Allmendinger hits Kenseth, who hits Stewart, who spins and stalls. Stewart can't get his car restarted and goes a lap down. Allmendinger takes responsibility and feels terrible, according to his radio chatter. He ought to feel bad.

After all that mess It will be a green/white/checkered restart. Johnson is first, Kurt Busch second, McMurray third. After all that hard racing for fifth, Carl Edwards comes out of the mess in fourth, and Dale Jr is still fifth. Kevin Harvick is sixth. Kurt Busch makes a move to the inside of Johnson at the restart, but doesn't quite make it. Still racing hard on the white flag lap. He tries the outside and misses, but this race is going right down to the finish line. Johnson wins, Busch is second, McMurray third, Edwards fourth, Hamlin fifth, Earnhardt, Jr six, and it seems that everybody behind them wrecks. Matt Kenseth got some payback against the #10 car to remind AJ Allmendinger that he should feel terrible, and everyone gets caught up in the wreck.

This was another fun race, even though Johnson dominated. Dirty Kurty always throws some excitement into the mix when he is racing for first, or any position for that matter. There was no lack of action, except during the red flag. Although I feel bad for Matt Kenseth and my favorite driver, who has now fallen back to twelfth in points, I feel bad for AJ Allmendinger as well, because he knew it was a boneheaded move, but every driver out there has made that same mistake at one time or another.

Still one race to go, and I already know my NASCAR withdrawal this off-season is going to make for a difficult winter.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

How 'bout them trucks!

Expect anything to happen in a Craftsman Truck Series race, and the race will always produce more than you could ever expect. Whether the race is for the lead, the win, championship points, or even just to finish in the top ten, the competition level is very high, and the level of excitement is at its peak.

For the last seven or eight races, the championship battle has been between Ron Hornaday and Johnny Benson, with the points lead changing between them several times. Hornaday went into Martinsville with a 39 point lead over Benson, but ran out of fuel in the final laps, giving Benson the lead by sixty-five points. He dominated the race at Atlanta, only to be beaten by his team mate, Ryan Newman, on the last lap. This put him 33 points behind Benson.

At Texas, last week, Hornaday again dominated, and won the race, but Johnny Benson took fourth place on the last lap and maintained a six point lead. This set the stage for Phoenix.

Phoenix International Raceway is often referred to as "the speedway that acts like a short track." (Richmond is the short track that acts like a speedway.) Turns one and two are wide and banked like Lowe's, while turns three and four are tight and flat, like New Hampshire. This produces a drivers' track, and you know the drivers of the Craftsman Truck Series have to love it.

Ron Hornaday sat on the pole for the start of the race, with Kyle Busch on the outside. This was believed to give Hornaday an automatic advantage over Benson, who started in fourteenth at a track where moving up through traffic is difficult. But, before the first lap was finished, Hornaday, trying to pass Kyle Busch on the inside in turn three, lost control of his truck and hit the outside wall, then slipped down into traffic, which, including Johnny Benson's #23 truck, caused more damage.

While Benson's truck sustained only minor damage, Hornaday's had to go to the garage so the rear track bar could be replaced, the front suspension completely rebuilt, and the body work repaired as much as possible. After a laudatory effort, Hornaday later returned to the track, thirty laps down.

So, we would expect that Benson would be able to pad his lead in the points some, which he did. Until sixty laps to go, when he misjudged the line TJ Bell was taking through turn three, and ran into the #7 truck, then the wall, causing major damage to his truck's suspension.

Meanwhile, Kyle Busch and Kevin Havick were having the time of their lives racing for the lead. They are the only two NASCAR drivers who have won at least one race at the same track in each of the three top tier divisions--CTS, Nationwide/Busch, and the Sprint Cup Series. And that one track is Phoenix. Lap after lap, Harvick challenged Busch, until finally taking the lead with forty-five laps to go. Busch reported that his truck's handling was very loose as he dropped back to second place. With twenty laps to go, Busch said he felt a tire going down, but disaster was averted as a caution came out following another accident. By this time, Benson had returned to the track, but behind Ron Hornaday. It was his spin that caused the caution. Busch pitted for tires, adjustments, and fuel, and restarted in twelfth place. After the restart, Busch moved through the field like a hot knife through "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter." With four laps to go, he had passed Todd "Onion" Bodine for second place, but didn't have quite enough to catch Harvick, who won the race.

With Hornaday finishing twenty-fifth, and Benson finishing twenty-sixth, there are now only three points separating the two points leaders in the Championship battle. Benson barely holds the lead going to the final race at Homestead, and, if you can believe it, Todd Bodine is in third place, 145 points behind Benson. That means that if, by another strange twist of fate, Benson and Hornaday both suffer from a similar situation to that they had at Phoenix, Bodine could take the championship by finishing in the top three. Wow!

Other notes: Where the heck did this Brian Scott kid come from? Earlier this year, at O'Reilly Motorsports Park in Indianapolis, he finished 29th. Since then, his finishes have become steadily better.The young rookie, who drives the #16 Toyota has had a career best finish in every race in which he has participated. Friday night, he finished fourth. This guy seems to have a future in NASCAR.

On the other side of the coin is John Wes Townley, another young entry level driver. Bad luck seemed to plague him in qualifying this weekend. Friday, entering turn three, he lost the front right tire. I mean lost it--it came completely off the wheel. And today, during Nationwide Series qualifying, the exact same thing happened at exactly the same place! It seems as if Somebody is trying to tell Townley something like, maybe, "With a name like John Wes Townley, you should have a guitar in your hands, not a steering wheel."

I wonder if he can sing?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Live on Type Delay: The Dickies 500

We got to hear another Championship quality "Gentlemen, start your engines" and that got us fired up for what we hope to be a fun race. Jimmie Johnson doesn't have to win or even finish in the top ten to maintain a healthy lead in the points, but we know he will be making his way to the front, very quickly, from his 26th place starting position. We can expect some others to be able to move up, namely Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart. Stewart had to start in the back after going to a back up car, due to extensive damage to his primary car in Saturday morning's practice.

Jeff Gordon leads the field to the green flag, and leads for thirteen laps, but Clint Bowyer seems to be riding a rocket, and catches and is quickly closing what was a one second gap. He gets the low line, and passes Gordon on the bottom in turn three of lap 14. Dale Earnhardt, Jr follows and quickly takes second.

David Reutimann, who is not in the Chase, also has a very fast car, and has moved from twelfth to fifth in a very short period of time. The top line seems to be the fastest, and that is the one Reut has been taking. By lap 28, he has taken second place.

By lap 47, Bowyer has lapped several cars, and is a half second ahead of Reutimann. Carl Edwards is third, Jamie McMurray is fourth, and Dale Jr is fifth. As Bowyer gets hung up in lapped traffic, David Reutimann catches him, finds an opening on the bottom, and takes the lead. Green flag pit stops begin on lap 48.

Bowyer surrenders the lead to pit on lap 53, as Earnhardt Jr leads a lap, then pits. Travis Kvapil and Paul Menard both get caught speeding on pit road, and have to serve drive through penalties. After the pit stops cycle through, Bowyer retains the lead, but there is a race going on immediately as Carl Edwards catches him on lap 57 and goes around on the outside, making it look easy. Caution as the #41 Dodge of Reed Sorenson seems to have lost an engine. Edwards is first, Bowyer second, David Reutimann third, Jamie McMurray is fourth, and Greg Biffle is fifth. Dale Jr, from seventh position, leads a bunch of cars back to pit lane. Sorenson's trouble was a loose oil line, so he will continue to race.

Sorenson did lose a lot of oil at the entrance to pit road, so the clean up will take a while. There are now 29 cars on the lead lap. This could be a long race for a lot of teams. Not for Juan Pablo Montoya, however, as he has moved up from a starting position near the back and made his way all the way up to seventh.

On the restart, lap 66, Montoya passes Jeff Gordon for sixth. McMurray presses Reutimann for third, but it is Biffle who moves up and takes that position. Biffle seems to have a good car, now, and is in serious contention for second place. Biffle and Bowyer battle through lap 69, and Biffle finally gets around Bowyer, while Edwards increases his lead. On lap 73, McMurray gets third from Bowyer.

We've seen this movie before. Paul Menard is trying to keep his position of being the first car a lap down, and is racing Greg Biffle hard. Biffle just wants to get by him so he can try to catch up to Edwards, and stay ahead of McMurray. Menard finally checks up, but not before McMurray takes second. Edwards is four seconds ahead of this group.

Jimmie Johnson has been battling a loose handling car, but, knowing the #48 team, that probably won't last long. However, on lap 82, he is running in 24th. Stewart has made it up to 21st position, and seems to be staying there. Kyle Busch is running in the top ten.

On lap 95, Carl Edwards smells blood. He can see Jimmie Johnson, running 26th ahead of him, and wants to put him a lap down. As if that will do any good. Edwards does pass him on lap 96, and Johnson's car seems to be having problems.

Lap 100, and it's Edwards, McMurray, Biffle, Reutimann, and Bowyer in the top five. Montoya is sixth, The Gordon is seventh, and Kyle Busch is running in eighth. Green flag pit stops should begin soon. Pit stops for the fast cars begin with Kyle Busch on lap 110. A great stop at 13.6 seconds. Edwards pits on lap 113. Vickers leads while the other cars pit, and he pits on lap 119, giving the lead back to Carl Edwards. McMurray is two seconds behind Edwards in second, Biffle is third, Reutimann is fourth, and Bowyer is fifth. Montoya is sixth, Kyle Busch is seventh, Jeff Gordon is in eighth, Martin Truex Jr rides in ninth, and Brian Vickers is tenth. There are 22 cars on the lead lap on lap 130.

Who wants to see a caution? I do! I do!

Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin are making it difficult for Edwards to lap them, but Edwards is racing hard, and McMurray is not getting that much of an opportunity to close the gap. Denny and Dirty Kurty try to block Edwards, but, even though Edwards is the Big Phony personality-wise, he is a genuinely good driver and he gets around Hamlin. Dirty Kurty won't give up the lead lap that easily, however, and he is making Edwards work for it.

Still no caution, and on lap 142, Tony Stewart gets lapped, but, on lap 143, we get a caution for debris. The debris is real, as we see the clean up crew in turns three and four on television, and Smoke gets the lucky dawg pass. The leaders all pit.

Brian Vickers almost gets the lead in the pits, as Edwards crosses the exit line just 1/4 a length in the lead. Greg Biffle is third, Jamie McMurray is fourth, and Clint Bowyer is fifth, in the race off of pit road.

Edwards seems to be getting what he has been hoping for, as the #48 car looks like junk. For once, Klever Knaus can't seem to get a handle on what is wrong with the car.

At the restart, there are nineteen cars on the lead lap. Restart on lap 149.

Kurt Busch races his way back to the lead lap, and AJ Allmendinger also passes the leader. Vickers, is trying to hold off Biffle and McMurray for second, but both of them get by him. Kyle Busch is running sixth and trying to get into the top five, but David Reutimann is still running well, and is a serious contender for sixth place.

Greg Biffle takes second in turn four of lap 156, but Edwards has a two -second gap over him. All five of the Roush-Fenway cars are in the top ten.

By the half-way point of the race, Edwards has passed Allmendinger and Kurt Busch, and they are back to being a lap down.

This seems early, but my PRN broadcast has disappeared, so from here on out, we will have to rely on the television broadcast. In the meantime, I will feel frustrated during commercials and tend to drift off.

The handling of Jimmie Johnson's car does seem to have improved, as he has gained some positions in his attempt to be in the beneficiary position of being the first car a lap down. But Edwards is about to lap Jeff Gordon, and that won't help Johnson much.

Right now, we're wondering where Dale Earnhardt, Jr is. Before the last restart, he re-pitted to top off on fuel, so he will be off sequence on these next green flag pit stops, which begin on lap 199. This could, under certain circumstances, give him an opportunity to take the lead. Just before the pit cycle begins, Jr is running in fourteenth.

The track is mostly in shade, now, so conditions will be changing. Everybody makes adjustments.

After pit stops cycle through, it is Edwards in first, seven seconds ahead of second-place David Reutimann. Jamie McMurray is third, Kyle Busch, who started the race in twenty-ninth, is fourth, and Greg Biffle, after pit stop problems is fifth. On lap 220, there are only sixteen cars on the lead lap. as both Stewart and Jeff Gordon have been put a lap down. Earnhardt, Jr is running in fifteenth.

Bowyer, Montoya, David Ragan, Matt Kenseth, and Kevin Harvick fill out the top ten.

With 95 laps to go, there are only 12 cars on the lead lap. Just as we are wondering if Edwards will lap the entire field by the end of the race--just like the "good ol' days--" there is a caution for debris on the backstretch. All the cars pit,

Edwards comes off pit road first, Reutimann is second, Kyle Busch is third, but takes second shortly after the restart. Greg Biffle is fourth, and before I can see who is in fifth, there is a wreck and the caution comes out. Travis Kvapil and Marcos Ambrose get into each other, trying to go three wide with Elliott Saddler. Mark Martin gets the free pass, and there are now fifteen cars on the lead lap.

Restart will see Edwards in the lead, Kyle Busch second, Reutimann third, Greg Biffle in fourth, and Jamie McMurray in fifth.

Restart with 83 laps to go, and Jeff Gordon tries to race his way to the lead lap, but Edwards gets by. This puts the 24 car between Edwards and Kyle Busch, so it looks like Cuzzin' Carl will break away again.

Wouldn't it be cool if Carl did his back flip while firring off the six-shooters he gets for winning at the same time? Awesome thought! Or not. Even blanks could cause serious injury in an accident at close range.

There was a caution during the commercial involving the #42 Dodge of Juan Pablo Montoya. It looks like David Gilliland hit him in retaliation for an earlier bump and run. That looked pretty blatant. Oops! Rough driving has become a judgment call in NASCAR, but this is a case where the judgment should be easy. We expect the 38 car to be parked. We expect it, but that doesn't mean it will happen. This should be a good video though.

McMurray and several other cars took two tires only. McMurray restarts in first, Bowyer second, Biffle third, Truex fourth, Dale Jr is fifth. Kyle Busch will restart in sixth, the first car that took four tires, and Edwards is in seventh. Gilliland's car has been parked for the remainder of the race. First is was a five lap penalty, but somebody must have said something inappropriate, as both the driver and the crew chief have been called to the NASCAR hauler.

With 57 laps to go, Edwards takes sixth from Busch. A few laps later, he takes fifth from Earnhardt, Jr.

32 laps to go, and we should see some green flag pit stops soon. This is kind of anti-climatic. We need to see some more retaliation or something. Matt Kenseth is the first to pit, for two tires and fuel, with 25 laps to go. Kevin Harvick has moved up to seventh from tenth, where he has been hanging most of the latter part of the race. Johnson is still a lap down at this cycle, but he is the first car a lap down. Allmendinger gets a speeding penalty. Carl Edwards is staying out, and this may be a "go for it" moment. The front four, McMurray, Bowyer, Biffle, and Edwards have yet to pit.

McMurray pits for two tires and fuel with thirteen to go, putting Biffle in first, and Edwards in second. Biffle pits with 12 to go, for two and fuel. Carl Edwards still leads, but it really does seem like a stretch for fuel. But now, the 24 car of Jeff Gordon and the 88 car of Dale Jr also plan on staying out until the end. Six to go, and Edwards, with a 21 second buffer between himself and the second place car of Jeff Gordon is going for it, able to conserve fuel now. Jr runs out of fuel with 5 to go.

On an incredible, gutsy fuel call, Edwards wins, Jeff Gordon is second, McMurray is third, Bowyer fourth, and Greg Biffle is fifth.

That was an amazing call by Bob Osborne, Edwards' crew chief. I don't think anybody has gone sixty-nine green flag laps on fuel before, but it worked out. Getting the buffer between first and second position helped, because it allowed Edwards to manipulate the throttle to save as much fuel as he could without losing position. The Chase has changed, and, with two races left, it is a two-man race again. Edwards is now 106 points behind Johnson, a difference that can be made up in one race.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Live on Type Delay: The Pep Boys 500 (Atlanta)

This weekend has already given us some exciting finishes. In the Craftsman Truck Series race at Atlanta, Ron Hornaday, second place in the Truck Series championship points, dominated the race, but found himself in a tough battle with his temporary team mate, Ryan Newman Newman caught him and raced him clean and hard for several laps, clinching the lead in turn two of the final lap. In his first CTS race of his career Rocket Ryan Newman won after an exciting closing race.

Meanwhile, in Memphis, David Reutimann opted to race Eddie Haskell Carl Edwards clean, not the way Mr.Personality would have raced if the situation were reversed, and blew his chance to repeat his performance at Memphis last year. This isn't me, Reutimann himself said he should have done it, because he knew that Edwards would have done it had it been the other way around. Even the TV commentators said that it would take a bump and run for Reut to win the race.

But it was exciting to watch as the race ran right down to the wire with Reutimann just off of Edward's bumper.

Today's Pep Boys 500 at Atlanta starts out promising more excitement. Jeff Burton, starting in third gets a bad start and the field has to spread out behind him. Right from the start, Carl Edwards quickly moves up to second and is challenging Jimmie Johnson for the lead before the first lap is over. Greg Biffle, who started second according to points, is also challenging for the lead by lap three, then Bill Elliott and Sam Hornish, Jr get crossed up and bring out the first caution of the race.

The race restarts on lap eight, with Johnson first, Edwards second and Biffle third. The front three quickly widen the gap between themselves and the rest of the field. Edwards' charge forward is more aggressive than Jimmie Johnson's protection of his lead--smart for Johnson this early in the race--and Edwards breezes into the lead on lap 20.

Caution on lap 36, as Scott Riggs brushes the wall, and everybody pits. The restart is on lap 38, with Johnson, Edwards, Biffle, Jeff Gordon, and Matt Kenseth are the top five at the green flag. Edwards immediately races Johnson for the lead at the drop of the green, and Matt Kenseth tries to take fourth from Gordon, as Dale Jr, who restarted sixth, battles for the fifth spot. This is good racing among the top five.

Edwards retakes the lead on lap 46, as Kenseth takes third place. Jeff Gordon has moved back into fourth, and Denny Hamlin has taken fifth. Tony Stewart started the race with a tight car, and had fallen back to seventeenth prior to the second caution, but some adjustments were made and he has moved into fourteenth. Kyle Busch also had a poor start to the race, but air pressure adjustments made his car more to his liking, and he has made his way up to eighth place.

By lap 55, Dale Jr has made it back into the top five, but this happened during simultaneous commercial breaks on both TV and PRN.

We prefer the MRN broadcasts over those of PRN, because MRN has less commercial breaks, but, according to broadcast agreements, we only get one or the other each week. That's okay, because it's hard enough listening to one radio station and the TV at the same time--imagine two radio stations and the TV all at once.

While I was busy typing that last paragraph, Johnson has fallen back to fourth by lap 65, and, while Edwards still leads going through lapped traffic, the top five is still a volatile situation. Kenseth, Dale Jr, Jeff Gordon, and Johnson are mixing it up. Excuse me while I yell at the TV. "EFFIN' GREAT TIME FOR A COMMERCIAL, ESPN/ABC."

Still, PRN is just as bad, if not worse, and we may be better off if I just ditch the radio broadcast and go by what we see and hear on television.

By lap 75, the top three cars are more spread out, with Edwards nearly three seconds ahead of Kenseth, and Kenseth two seconds ahead of Jeff Gordon. Earnhardt Jr is still running in fourth, and Kurt Busch takes fifth from Jimmie Johnson. Of the other chasers in the top ten, Hamlin is running eighth, Kyle Busch ninth, and Tony Stewart is tenth. After 78 laps, there are 28 cars on the lead lap, and we are starting the green flag pit stop cycle.

Kasey Kahne, already a lap down pits first for new tires. Tony Stewart passes Kyle Busch for ninth, so it seems they have fixed his car. The cars a lap down or more are pitting first during the green flag run, on lap 85, then Hamlin is the first of the leaders to pit on lap 87. Stewart, Kurt Busch, and Kyle Busch pit on lap 89, and Edwards hasn't pitted yet. Edwards pits on lap 90, and Johnson comes in. Matt Kenseth gets five bonus points for leading a lap.

Dale Jr pits on lap 91, and Johnson has to drive through the pit lane, after getting a pit road speeding penalty.

After the pit stops cycle through, Edwards retains the lead, Kenseth is second, Kurt Busch is third, Jeff Gordon forth, and Dale Jr is fifth. There are only twenty cars on the lead lap at this point. Johnson is a lap down in twenty fourth. Where some cars started the race tight, almost every driver is complaining about his car being loose. Michael Waltrip, in his 1000th start in the series has moved into tenth spot, having a very good run in the ill fated #55 car. 108 laps are now gone.

Caution on lap 109, it happened during commercials, and the leaders all pit. Kenseth beats Edwards out of the pits, and takes the lead. Gordon is third, Biffle fourth, and Earnhardt Jr is fifth. Johnson gained seven spots in the pits and restarts as the first car a lap down. on lap 114. Johnson, Kenseth, Edwards, and Jeff Gordon are giving us some exciting racing, as Johnson tries to pass Kenseth to race his way to the lead lap. Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon are battling for third, racing side by side into turn four, and Earnhardt passes on the bottom for the position.

The fourth caution of the day comes out on lap 130 as Kasey Kahne gets sideways, spins, and doesn't get hit or hit anything. Jimmie Johnson is back on the lead lap. No surprise. It seems that nothing that goes wrong stays wrong with the 48 team.

Restart on lap 135, with Kenseth in the lead, fighting off Edwards close in second. Jeff Gordon is third, Dale Jr is fourth, and Kurt Busch is fifth. Dale Jr falters a bit, as a tear off is obstructing his vision, but it gets blown off of his windshield, and Jr only loses one position. Jr doesn't let Dirty Kurty get away, and races him for several laps. On lap 147, he gets the bottom and passes Busch for fourth.

At the halfway point, Kurt Busch has retaken fourth, Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart running in fifteenth and eighteenth are both reporting loose cars that are very hard to drive. Since the racing has settled down some, I will take this opportunity to voice my opinion, for what it is worth.

I am a die hard Tony "Smoke" Stewart fan. But if I were Tony Stewart, I would retire right now. Not only from the race, but from active driving. Go out while still a respected competitor. Just concentrate on being a team owner. But I am not Smoke, and Smoke is not me. Stewart still has his famous competitive edge, and is far from done. That is just another reason he is my favorite driver.

While I'm at it, if I was one of those people who got free tickets from a sponsor, I would be in that one section of the stands that is nearly empty. No matter what. Even if I weren't such a hard core NASCAR fan, I would go for the party, because, outside of a Grateful Dead concert, NASCAR races are the best event parties there can be.

Meanwhile, Mikey Waltrip almost loses his car, brushes the wall, and saves it enough to get to the pits. No caution. On lap 183, the next green flag pit cycle begins. Pit road is very busy on laps 184 and 185, as the cars pit closer together this time around. Edwards and Stewart pit on lap 187, as does the leader, Matt Kenseth. Kenseth actually stops and retains the lead. Edwards is still second, Kurt Busch is third, Denny Hamlin is fourth, and Kevin Harvick is fifth, after the stops cycle through.

A name we haven't mentioned much in the past, Juan Pablo Montoya, is having a great day and has taken sixth place from Jeff Gordon on lap 194.Gordon takes it back on lap 200. On lap 204, the leaders pass Greg Biffle, and there are now only fourteen cars on the lead lap. Caution for debris as Michael Waltrip hits the wall for the fourth time in ten laps and cuts his right rear tire. The leaders all pit.

Kurt Busch beats Matt Kenseth off of pit lane by less than a hair's width. Biffle is the lucky dog. Jr re-pits to complete adjustments, but stays on the lead lap, restarting at the end of the line. Kurt Busch is the leader, Matt Kenseth second, Denny Hamlin is third, Carl Edwards is fourth, and Jeff Gordon is fifth.

On lap 222 Matt Kenseth catches Kurt Busch. He goes low, and passes the leader, but doesn't press the issue, and Busch gets the lap. Kenseth on the bottom, Kurt Busch on the outside, Kenseth fights for a few more laps, and on lap 225 takes the lead. Denny Hamlin has gained some time on the two leaders, but is still ten car lengths back.

With 85 laps to go, it's pretty much routine driving around the track. Dale Jr has moved back up into tenth and may be a contender. The reason for the multiple pit stops for the 88 was to make sure all the adjustments that were needed were made, and in the last runs of the race, the 88 may be the strongest car in the field. Babs sure would be happy if Matt won this race, and I would be happy for her and Matt, but a lot of people would be happy if Jr were to see Victory Lane.

Lap 250, and Junior passes Kyle Busch for ninth. He is moving up. Caution on lap 253 for debris. That saves Greg Biffle from getting lapped. David Ragan is the lucky dawg. Matt Kenseth needed this stop because, even while in the lead, he was too tight going into the corners and too tight coming off.

The #11 crew celebrates as they get Hamlin off of pit road in the lead. Kevin Harvick, who has been having a very good day, gets caught speeding, and will have to restart at the end of the longest line. Kenseth will restart second, Kurt Busch is third, Carl Edwards is fourth, Jeff Gordon is fifth.

With 65 laps to go, Earnhardt, Jr is challenging Gordon for fifth, Edwards beats Dirty Kurty for third, and Earnhardt Jr makes a cross-over move and gets in front of his team mate, Jeff Gordon. Kyle Busch is also moving up from eighth, challenging Juan Pablo Montoya for seventh, and, with 60 laps to go, gets by Jeff Gordon for sixth. Meanwhile, Earnhardt Jr is racing Dirty Kurty for fourth, and Denny Hamlin is increasing his lead. Carl Edwards is closing in on second place Matt Kenseth. A lot of racing going on, as Jeff Gordon continues to fall back. He has been passed by Montoya, McMurray, and Johnson over the course of two laps. Now, it's Hamlin by a huge lead over Kenseth. Edwards is in third, Dirty Kurty is in fourth, and Junior is in fifth. 47 laps to go.

Kyle Busch is in sixth, followed by JP Montoya. Jamie McMurray is eighth, Jimmie Johnson is ninth, and Casey Mears is tenth. With 40 to go Montoya takes sixth from Kyle Busch, then gets in a side by side race with Dale Jr for three laps, then gets the bottom and takes fifth. Michael Waltrip crashes again, and brings out the caution. If anybody has been keeping track, I think Waltrip has broken Kyle Busch's record for hitting the wall the highest number of times during a single race. I think Kyle hit the wall at Darlington some 297 times on his way to victory, and Waltrip has hit the wall 312 times in this race, on his way to another disappointing finish. Jeff Burton gets the free pass.

Off of pit lane, it's Hamlin, Kenseth, Montoya, Kurt Busch, and Carl Edwards. Coming off of pit road, Dirty Kurty got dirty and ran into Edwards, who ran into Earnhardt Jr. Junior is not happy and lets Dirty Kurty know before the cars start forming up for the restart.

Caution for debris in turn one with 27 laps to go. Some of the lead lap cars pit, from Montoya on back. On his way out of his pit, Montoya gets hit by Clint Bowyer and messes up the body work on the front of his car. A great day ruined.

It looks like Hamlin will lead the restart, followed by Kenseth, Edwards, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch. Restart with 23 laps to go. Edwards moves up fast to the inside of Matt Kenseth, and as he takes second, about five cars get involved in a big wreck. Montoya, Reed Sorenson, Jeff Burton, Joe Nemecheck and Dave Blaney are involved. It looks like Blaney fell off the pace, was clipped by Burton, and the other guys couldn't avoid the carnage. It looked almost like "Dog pile on the kid with the ball," a game we played in elementary school before adult supervision was deemed necessary and it became organized football.

Restart will see Hamlin in the lead, with Carl Edwards right behind him, wanting the lead. Matt Kenseth is third, and Kyle Busch is fourth. I'm assuming that would put Kurt Busch in fifth. They're interviewing Blaney TV about the wreck, but I can't hear it because I have the radio on. Montoya, of course, is too irate to interview. Can't blame him here.

Carl Edwards gets around Hamlin on the high side right after the restart, and there is a big battle for third behind them. Earnhardt Jr restarted in sixth. That battle for third settles down as Sam Hornish, Jr, two laps down, gets involved in racing Kenseth and Kyle Busch. With 12 laps to go, there is a phantom caution to allow Tony Stewart to get the lucky dawg pass, or for something or other. Oh well, at least Smoke is back on the lead lap.

Okay, the caution was because Jeff Gordon ran over debris. I feel better. I don't want to go through another month of reading forum posts about how NASCAR treats Tony Stewart more favorably than any of the other driver.

Johnson, running in eighth, pits for tires, Biffle and Stewart follow. Jeff Gordon, who may have tire damage, stays out. Restart will be single file, with Edwards first, Hamlin second, Kenseth third, Kyle Busch fourth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr in fifth. Staying out nabbed eighth position for Jeff Gordon. Restart with eight to go.

Edwards gets away as the rest of the cars in the top seven battle for position. Johnson is taking advantage of his fresh tires--he restarted in twelfth position, and with 4 laps to go has made it into fourth position. With three to go he has his sights set on Kenseth. Edwards will get the win, but the race for third is where the action is. Johnson gets by, and is catching Hamlin for second. Johnson passes Hamlin on the last turn of the last lap, and gets second. This will probably clinch the championship for the #48 team of Johnson and Knaus, for all practical purposes. That team is magical and mystical in the way they can turn bad luck to their advantage. Amazing.

Hamlin was third, Kenseth fourth, and Kyle Busch finished in fifth.

Don't have much to say in the way of final thoughts here. That 48 team is amazing, and they certainly deserve the championship. Imagine that, being in danger of going two laps down early in the race, they finish in second. The fat lady is finished warming up, she is about to sing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How old school is this?

Brian Vickers finished eleventh at Martinsville. But his #83 Red Bull Toyota was chosen for random inspection after the race, and the NASCAR inspectors found that the sheet metal on some parts of the car's body work was thinner than the .025 inch required by NASCAR. That has resulted in a 150 points penalty for Vickers and 150 points penalty for the Red Bull team. Kevin Hamlin the crew chief was suspended indefinitly, according to this article, and fined $100,000. Car chief Craig Smokstad was also suspended indefinitly.

The sheet metal was allegedly made thinner by acid dipping. A better explaination than I can provide, of how this would affect the performance of the car is given at Stock Car Science, but if there is less weight in the body work, then more weight in ballast can be added, and that extra ballast could be used to lower the car's center of gravity. That would help the car perform better in the turns.

Smokey Yunick lives! That was my first thought upon reading the story. Yunick set the bar for crew chiefs, and his innovations were so subtile, NASCAR officials were never sure if what he did was actually cheating.

Then I wondered, how in the heck did they think to check the thickness of the sheet metal? It seems to be getting harder and harder to get away with cheating these days.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Recommending a great site.

I want to give a shoutout to Seeing 20twenty and WFO Racing Fans, A site that has much to offer the NASCAR race fan. I discovered the site after they discovered me, and, with permission, posted a copy of my "Live on Type Delay: Kansas" item a few weeks ago.

The site has many different pages, featuring blogs, charities, and bits and pieces from the world of NASCAR race fans.

From the editor's page:

Seeing20twenty and WFO RACING FANS(TM)
We want to put racing in focus, but we also want to put you in focus! Whether you are a business or a fan, we want you to feel that we are doing everything possible to make sure the focus is on you.
Fans:WFO Racing Fans will be a fan oriented web site, and will focus on getting the fans veiw noticed. There will be many forums for your opinions, as well as chances to be a featured writer

I've spent much of my allotted hour per day on line exploring this site, and, while it is still in its growing stages, it already has a lot to offer, and promises to offer much more. Please check it out, it is worth the visit.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Live on Type Delay: The Tums Quick Pack 500 (Martinsville)--Corrected

There is nothing in racing like short track racing, and when you have 43 Sprint Cup level racers on a short track at the same time, it is very special. That is why I love the racing at Martinsville. The action is non-stop, as the drivers meet the unique challenge of negotiating the track and traffic while trying to keep their cars intact.

The first twelve laps feature side by side racing all around the track, then the race straightens out to single file to run the preferred bottom line. Jeff Gordon demonstrates why he is the Professor of Martinsville, as he quickly negotiates his way to third place, then moves up into second by lap 19

Travis Kvapil spins on lap 29, bringing out the first caution. Most of the leaders stay out, but Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr lead many of the cars further back on to pit lane. Jr gets caught speeding and has to restart at the back of the longest line.

The restart is on lap 37, with Johnson in first and Jeff Gordon in second. Gordon quickly challenges for the lead, and there is some hard racing up front, Gordon moves to the outside, and Johnson tries to block the bottom line. Gordon completes the pass and leads the field by lap 39. Meanwhile, Jeff Burton has fallen back some, and Tony Stewart has moved up to fifth. There is some good side by side racing for eighth and ninth, as Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer find themselves side by side.

Jimmie Johnson retakes the lead, having never let off of Jeff Gordon, around lap 56. Kasey Kahne's car stalls for some reason and brings the caution out on lap 63. All the leaders pit this time. Off of pit road, it's Johnson, Edwards, Biffle, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick, But several cars stayed out for the caution laps, and it will be Aric Almirola leading the field at the restart. Johnson and the others who pitted will restart from positions 14 and back. Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, and Michael Waltrip also stayed out, and will be restarting in the top five. Dale Jr stayed out and will restart in seventh.

On lap 82, Jamie McMurray, running in third is bumped from behind by Dale Jr, and spins, an accidental contact as Jr went into the turn a little hotter than McMurray, and the caution comes out. Nobody pits this time, and the restart is on lap 87.

Jr makes a move for second, racing Ryan Newman, then Regan Smith loses his brakes and spins out in turn two, bringing out another caution on lap 89. The restart will be with Almirola still in the lead, Ryan Newman second, Dale Jr in third, Jimmie Johnson fourth, and Casey Mears in fifth. Johnson is moving up quickly, and challenges Jr for third on lap 97. He makes it stick, and then takes second from Newman, as Dale Jr retakes third right behind him. There is heavy action in eleventh through fourteenth as some of the top drivers try to get their cars back into the top ten. Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch are racing close and hard, with Michael Waltrip trying not to fall back too far. Stewart prevails and moves into eleventh.

On lap 114, Matt Kenseth's luck continues to suck as he gets tagged from behind, or cut a tire, or both. He either cut a tire, then got hit, or got hit and cut the right rear tire.

Tony Stewart takes two tires during the resulting caution and comes off of pit road first. He will start in sixth behind Jamie McMurray and four other cars that stayed out during the caution. At the restart, it's McMurray, Bobby Labonte, Clint Bowyer, and David Gilliland in the top five.

Stewart quickly moves up to third, while McMurray cushions his lead. Johnson, who restarted in eighth, moves up to fourth. On lap 135, McMurray leads, Bowyer second, Stewart third, Johnson fourth, and Denny Hamlin fifth. Jeff Gordon has moved up into sixth. Johnson then takes third from Stewart, and continues a very strong march forward, passing Bowyer a few laps later. Positions eighth through fourteenth seem to be changing as if they were racing at Talladega, as Dale Jr, Juan Pablo Montoya, Keven Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, and Casey Mears are engaged in heavy combat.

Johnson is catching McMurray, as leader catches the tale end of the field. Stewart has regained third position from Bowyer, even though his car isn't supposed be that good because he only took two tires.

On lap 154 Jimmie Johnson catches Jamie McMurray and takes the lead, but McMurray is running well on older tires, and may stay in contention. Jeff Gordon is on a forward march of his own in fourth. Carl Edwards, who usually isn't that good on short tracks, has a happy car running in fifth.

The first real weirdness of the race occur on lap 165, as three cars, those of Kyle Busch, Tony Raines, and Sam Hornish, Jr all seem to cut a right front tire simultaneously, and all three end up against the wall. Kyle Busch is penalized two laps for "intentionally causing the caution flag."

Jimmie Johnson leads the field off of pit road, followed by , Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, and Carl Edwards, while Tony Stewart has fallen back to sixth, with Jr in seventh. Greg Biffle, who stayed out during the caution and takes the lead on the lap 171 restart, Johnson takes the lead on lap 173, as Biffle got lose. Biffle is really having problems, in fourth, and Carl Edwards takes that position from him. Tony Stewart, now on four fresh tires gets the fifth position.

The seventh caution comes out on lap 197, as Elliott Sadler tried to move down to the inside, and found Aric Almirola there. He gets clipped in the left rear and spins.

I hate it when both the radio and television broadcasts break for commercials at the same time, because we don't know who is pitting this time.

The restart will be with Johnson leading, Jeff Gordon in second, McMurray third, Carl Edwards fourth, and Tony Stewart in fifth, on lap 203. Kurt Busch is 26 laps down, and looks like he wants to race Johnson for the lead. We have seen this movie with Dirty Kurty before, haven't we?

Earnhardt, Jr has taken fifth from Stewart, while Kurt Busch was raising mayhem up front. Dirty Kurty doesn't want anyone to pass him. Team mates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer are doing some good ol' fashioned beatin' and bangin' for tenth, further back. Bowyer hangs on, and we have the three RCR cars running in tenth, eleventh, and twelfth.

As we near the halfway point of the race, things seem to settle down as all the drivers seem to be happy where they are, set up for the final laps of the race. This is still an important part of the race, as the drivers realize they need to save brakes and tires. Surprisingly, the attrition rate has been low, for Martinsville, as there are only two cars in the garage area; those of Elliott Sadler and Joe Nemecheck. I feel like I inadvertently jinxed Sadler, as I picked him in a pick five game. Sorry about that, Elliott.

Now the leaders have caught the rear of the field, and the action picks up a little. Jeff Gordon dives to the inside of Johnson in turn one of lap 243. Going through the traffic, McMurray and Edwards close in on the leaders, and Jr is right behind them. Ken Schrader is making it hard for anyone to lap him, fighting to stay on the lead lap, and Gordon and Johnson find themselves racing him. Biffle falls of the pace and pits. It is a scheduled pit stop--the only green flag stop of the day, as far as we can tell.

Gordon finally gets around Schrader and is in the clear. Arrrgh, simultaneous commercials again! This is one of those races where I really wish I was at the track, can you tell?

During the commercials, three cars again cut tires about the same time, at the exit of turn 2. Tony Raines, again, Bobby Labonte, and someone else.

Johnson, Gordon, Edwards, Earnhardt, and McMurray are the first five cars off of pit road, and Biffle gets caught a lap down. Ryan Newman gets penalized for rough driving in the pits, as he forces a jam between Harvick and Burton. Restart with 233 to go. Stewart will restart in sixth. Three wide, unbelievable at Martinsville, but that is what is happening as Biffle tries to race his way back to the lead lap.

They actually pull it off with no problems. After they clear the lapped traffic, Jimmie goes wide on the exit of turn 2, and Gordon immediately takes advantage and takes the lead.Somewhere along the way, the 83 car of Brian Vickers has made it into the top ten.

Gordon has not been able to increase his lead over Johnson, and Johnson makes several attempts to get underneath the 24 car. On lap 291, he gets under him again, and makes the pass for the lead.

Matt Kenseth is back on the lead lap, after his earlier problems and is in seventeenth, working his way toward the front. His #17 team seems to be always under the radar, but this shows how good they can actually be. They deserve the praise they are getting.

Earnhardt Jr quietly takes fourth from McMurray, and is in competition with Carl Edwards for third. They are catching Jeff Gordon, and on lap 328 Gordon and Edwards are side by side. They go three wide through lapped traffic, and on lap 329, Edwards and Earnhardt pass Gordon on the low side. Breathtaking racing there for second and third. Earnhardt is running strong, and seems to be a serious challenge for Edwards in second place. A bunch of cars have blown tires, over the last several laps, including Ryan Newman, but none of the incidents have brought out a caution. Now McMurray gets by Gordon, and is now running in fourth. Gordon is reporting that the handling is off on his car.

Johns finally gets a mark on his car on lap 241, trying to get by Michael Waltrip. His car has been unmarked up to this point, which is why it was worth a mention. Say what you will about the Champ, the guy has been great in lapped traffic today.

I jinxed him. Now Johnson gets nose damage as he gets into Bill Elliott. Kyle Busch's bad luck gets worse, as he cuts a tire, and is now five laps down. Still no caution.

Tony Stewart, who was running in eighth cuts a tire and has to pit on lap 363. Still no caution. Stewart is now two laps down.

Let's just give Johnson the championship now and move on to next year. No, wait a minute. I'm a Tony Stewart fan, so I will probably have to move on to 2010 or 2011 while his new team works its way to a competitive quality.

We finally get a caution on lap 389, for debris, after Kurt Busch cut a tire for the third time. We will see pit stops, and this could be the money stop. Johnson comes off pit road first, Edwards second, Earnhardt, Jr third, and it is close between Brian Vickers and Jamie McMurray for fourth and fifth. McMurray wins that race and makes it out fourth.

After the restart, as Carl Edwards is about to catch Johnson, Junior catches Edwards, and engages him in a battle for second. Edwards protects the bottom of the track, and Earnhardt, Jr tries to feint to the outside, then dives to the bottom, but still can't get around him. But that race isn't over yet, and it will continue until Jr gets around him. Meanwhile, Jamie McMurray, who has been running so well in the race, spending most of the day in the top ten even after an early spin, has mechanical problems and takes his car to the garage. Broken rear end, is what they are saying. What a disappointment. The top five are now Johnson, Edwards, Earnhardt, Jr, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin.

Junior finally gets by the #99 car on lap 412 or somewhere around there. The crowd goes wild. Now it is only a question of how good the 88 car really is. We know the driver is good, so if he can catch Johnson, we should see a pretty good race at the end.

And with 76 laps to go, Earnhardt Jr is catching Jimmie Johnson. But Johnson is a little better going through lapped traffic, and Jr falls back to nearly two seconds behind the leader.

Kyle Busch cuts down a right side tire again, and has to pit. He's not a contender, but we are tracking bad luck here, while at the same time thinking that if this trend continues, there will be another caution before the end of the race. That would change everything.

A little personal commentary here--sometimes we don't appreciate how good all the Sprint Cup drivers really are, but think about it:

If this were an ARCA race, with all the three wide racing through the lapped traffic at Martinsville, no less, it would be safe to say that many of these cars in the top ten would have been crashed by now. The talent it takes to be a Sprint Cup racer in NASCAR is real, and pretty much at the pinnacle of racing. Just had to give some props there, because we are impressed by the skillful driving and lack of big wrecks in this race.

That being said, Tony Stewart cuts another tire and falls back further. Reed Sorenson wrecks with 41 laps to go and brings out the caution. This is going to be a chess game in the pits. The cars could make it to the end on fuel, but they are going to want tires and adjustments. Johnson and Earnhardt Jr pit, and so do the rest of the leaders. Jimmie Johnson gets out of the pits first, Earnhardt Jr second, Carl Edwards third, and Jeff Gordon, comes out fourth. Matt Kenseth--remember that wreck I was crying about earlier (?)--stays out and will restart in the lead. Jeff Burton had some bad problems in the pits, pitting outside the box, after trying to avoid contact with the 24 car of Jeff Gordon. He had to go around again and re pit, then got penalized for pit service outside the box.

Greg Biffle races his way back to the lead lap on the restart, Kenseth momentarily holds the lead, then has to race Johnson side by side with a little bit of beatin' and bangin.' Johnson has the better car and takes the lead.

Man, oh man, that 48 team of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus is good. There will be no stopping them from winning this race, and probably no stopping them from winning this Championship. Something drastic would have to happen. And that doesn't happen with the 48 team.

Something drastic does happen to David Gilliland, however, as he runs into the wall after contact with the #44 car, and brings out the caution. We are getting close to shootout time now. This could be interesting. Some cars pit for tires, but not the front five cars.

Here comes the restart with eight laps to go. Johnson gets the jump, but both Earnhardt Jr and Carl Edwards try to go low. Johnson gets some cushion, and Edwards tries to pass underneath Jr, but doesn't make it.

David Ragan hits the wall and brings out a caution. Green/white/checker restart, and Johnson holds the lead and wins. Dale Earnhardt Jr comes in second, Edwards third, Jeff Gordon fourth, and Denny Hamlin is fifth.

I love short track racing, and this was a fun race. There have been better races, even this year, but this is still some of the best racing in NASCAR. Johnson's points lead increased by quite a bit, Biffle's twelfth place finish moved him into second, Gordon moved up to seventh in the standings, and Stewart fell to eighth, but other than that, this "wild card" race didn't shake things up. Most of all we are impressed by the quality of racing we saw during the Tums Quick Pack 500 at Martinsville. It could have been a real wreckfest, but it wasn't. For once NASCAR wasn't so quick with the cautions as they have been in the past, and at Martinsville, that is a good thing.

Four races to go, and, as we said, it is getting hard to imagine anybody but Jimmie Johnson winning the Cup. That would make history, as Johnson would be the first NASCAR driver to win three consecutive Cup titles since Cale Yarborough did it in 1976, '77, and '78. He would be only the second driver to do so. Should we congratulate him now?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Tale Of Two Championship Series

It was the last race of the ARCA season, and the championship had come down to the wire. All Scott Speed needed to do to clinch the title was finish seventeenth or better, and all Ricky Stenhouse, Jr had to do was hope that something would happen to make sure he could make up the 90 point deficit he held. .

From the very beginning of Sunday's race at Toledo Speedway, it looked as though Stenhouse was out to make sure Scott Speed wouldn't finish seventeenth or better. Starting in the second row, along with Speed, he rode Speed's bumper lap after lap, beating and banging aggressively until only a little more than twenty laps into the race, he rode Speed's bumper all the way into the wall.

It is possible that Speed's car could have been repaired well enough to finish seventeenth or better, but Speed himself felt that it would at least take twenty laps to repair the car well enough to the point where he could make it around the track. So, already two laps down, he took his crippled car back on to the track, waited for Stenhouse to pass him, then gunned the throttle and knocked Stenhouse's #99 car hard into the wall. Needless to say, neither Speed nor Stenhouse won the championship. Justin Algaier, who entered the final race fourth in the championship points, won the race and the championship.

In my mind, retaliation is never a good thing. It is a poor display of sportsmanship, and endangers not only the two cars and drivers involved, but often results in damage to the innocent bystander who might get collected in the wreck. But that doesn't mean it can't be justified. If Stenhouse had won the championship after wrecking Speed, something would have been terribly wrong.

As Brad Daugherty pointed out on ESPN's NASCAR Now, every stock car has either been on the giving or receiving end of retaliation, at some point in his or her career. However, retaliation doesn't always have to result in a wreck. I'm thinking about Jeff Burton's retaliatory bump of Kyle Busch's car after Busch used his bumper to move Burton out of the way earlier, in the race at Kansas a few weeks ago.

Jeff Burton lives by the rule "you get raced the way you race." He was upset by the way Busch had passed him, but he didn't wreck the 18 car. Instead, he bumped him just enough to let him know he was displeased, and to get the car loose enough for him to pass.

Burton is quite possibly the most unique driver in the sport. Where every other driver sees racing as primarily a physical sport, Jeff Burton takes the cerebal approach. He studies every track, and every driver. He notes where his best line is, and how he races against each driver's unique style. He remembers how his car handles at every turn, and the effect of traffic on the handling of his car. He plans, and he is always ready to advance his position when the opportunity presents itself. He seems to never be caught by surprise. He knows the car in front of him is going to get loose in turn three, because he has been watching it, and he will be there to pass when that other car does get loose.

He avoids trouble in much the same way he gains positions. He pays close attention to the way the cars in front of him are moving up and down the track. He sees it when a driver gets too close underneath another driver's car and compensates to avoid the inevitable spin, or, at least, the wobble. As good at car control as most of the other best NASCAR driver, Burton is always prepared to thread the needle when the need arises.

All this is part of why Jeff Burton is the second favorite driver of many a NASCAR fan. If he were to win the championship this year, something which he has a very good chance of doing, there would be very few fans who would be unhappy. He now stands a mere 69 points out of first place in the championship points. All he needs to do is keep on doing what he is doing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Live on Type Delay: Chase Race 5 at Lowe's

The starting lineup for Chase race number 5 at Lowe's Motor Speedway was determined by points standings, due to the rain out of qualifying Thursday. Jimmie Johnson takes the lead from the pole, and already, Jeff Gordon gets pinched against the wall. By lap three, Gordon has moved up to sixth, behind fifth place Dale Earnhardt, Jr, hits the wall again, and Tony Stewart takes sixth from him. Johnson is taking off in the lead while the rest of the field goes three wide at times battling for position. This could be a wild one.

Gordon has to pit on lap ten to pull out the fenders and change the right side tires. It is still early in the race, so this is not too bad of a deficit for the 24 team at this point.

Stewart takes third from Biffle on lap 24 and is still the fastest car on the track. Johnson still leads second place Carl Edwards by .7 seconds, and Stewart is .8 seconds behind Edwards. Johnson hasn't exactly got away from Edwards, but he is in a position where he can take it easy and preserve his car. This is one thing I like about the 1.5 mile tracks, is that every team and driver holds their cards close to their chests during the early going, so we don't know what to expect until the race nears the end. It keeps the drama going.

By lap 31, as Johnson runs up on the tail end of the lead lap, Stewart has caught Johnson, and takes the lead on lap 33. Dale Jr is also running well, and has moved into fourth, quickly approaching third place Carl Edwards. After Junior passes Edwards, he reports his car is "real, real loose," and he begins to drop back. As the coverage breaks for commercial, Jr has fallen back to sixth spot.

We have no radio play by play to go by this week, because the station that carries MRN and PRN--it would be PRN this week--cuts power at 6 PM Mountain Time on Saturdays, so we don't get it here. I am as blind as everyone else watching the race on TV.

Joe Nemechek hits the wall on lap 40 or something during the commercial. Everybody pits. Jimmie Johnson retakes the lead, exiting the pit road first, while Tony Stewart comes out fourth. Carl Edwards regains second spot. Jeff Burton is third, and Greg Biffle is fifth.

I have to say, I love the 800 lb gorilla Amp Energy commercial with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. That's great.

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AJ Allmendinger, in the MWR #00 car, spins and hits the wall hard on lap 51, bringing out the caution again. Carl Edwards, who had just pitted to investigate a vibration he was feeling from his car, gets caught in the pits, as the yellow waves, and gets put a lap down. Excuse me while I do a backflip in celebration.

More confusion as NASCAR gives the lucky dog pass to Jeff Gordon, but the 99 team seems to think that they should have the free pass, but NASCAR says the field was frozen at the caution, and the 99 car was still on the lead lap at the time, and was passed after the caution came out. I don't get it either, so there must be a better explanation than the one I gave here.

Johnson leads the restart at lap 60, with Tony Stewart in second. Greg Biffle is third, Jeff Burton fourth, and last night's Nationwide Series race winner, Kyle Busch is fifth.

On lap 64, the caution comes out again as Michael Waltrip gets shoved into the infield, comes back up, and Mike Skinner, stuck in the middle between Waltrip and Schrader, gets tangled up with Ken Schrader's #96 HOF Racing Toyota and they both wreck.

As the cars are getting lined up for the restart, Carl Edwards' car stalls, and he can not get it started. I really don't wish this kind of luck on anyone, even if it is my least favorite driver. As Edwards goes yet another lap down, we can see that the Chase standings will once again get shaken up, and the bad luck for the 99 team, which was 79 points out of first at the beginning of the race, is good luck for points leader Jimmie Johnson.

The restart is on lap 71, with Johnson leading, Stewart second, Biffle third, Burton fourth, and Kyle Busch is in fifth. Busch takes fourth on lap 72. Kasey Kahne, winner of the last two Sprint Cup races at Lowes, as been moving up steadily, and enters the top ten on lap 73.

I really do feel bad for Carl Edwards, who still can not get his car started, so please ignore the break dancing and back flips, because I am actually celebrating as Tomy Stewart takes the lead on lap 78.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr, racing dangerously close to the wall, as he is wont to do at Lowe's, has moved back up to sixth place, and Kyle Busch has moved into third by lap 81. Stewart is taking advantage of his lead position, and has left quite a gap between himself and Jimmie Johnson.

The #99 team finally gets the car fired up, and Carl Edwards returns to the race sixteen laps down. Jack Roush is taking it philosophically and manages to express his disappointment without blaming Toyota.

It looks like Kyle Busch is gaining on second place Jimmie Johnson as his car is gradually being adapted to track conditions. Tony Stewart is still moving away from the field.

My favorite AT&T commercial is still Mary, the "Phelps Phan," because I know someone like that, but this one with the guy being taken to jail because he didn't get the call about the alarm code for his friend's house is pretty good.

What is not pretty good is that Dale Earnhardt, Jr has lost his right front tire, and has hit the wall. When will the 88 team's luck change for the better? There is a lot of talent in the driver and on the team, and they still can't do better than run well in the first part of the race.

This race off of pit road is exciting, as Tony Stewart beats Kyle Busch by what looks like an inch or less, with Johnson coming out of the first pit nearly side by side with the 18 and the 20. Three cars trying for one position--first place. Matt Kenseth stayed out and will be leading at the restart.

Kenseth pits, so at the restart, it's Stewart first, Kyle Busch second, Jimmie Johnson third, Jeff Burton fourth, and Clint Bowyer is in fifth. Restart on lap 110, and Kyle Busch catches Stewart quickly and takes the lead on lap 111. Johnson is also good on the restart, and takes second place before lap 112, but Stewart is reporting that his car is loose and has fallen back to seventh position by lap 118.

It has been noted that the 20 car takes a few laps to come in to the track, so this could just be typical. Perhaps the handling will get better after a few laps. Now, Mike Wallace, in the GEM #10 car, blows a tire and spins out, and the caution comes out again. This is still too early to begin fuel strategy stops, so Kyle Busch leads the leaders to the pits. Now, we get some fuel only and two tire stops, as everybody is trying for position and makes me a liar about strategy. I am not surprised.

Johnson and Burton took fuel only and come off of pit road in first and second, while Kyle Busch took two tires and exits pit road in third. Ryan Newman stayed out and will restart in first, so the restart will be Newman, Johnson, Burton, Busch and Bowyer in the top five. Johnson makes a move at the lap 126 restart, but Newman hangs on and maintains the lead. By lap 130, Brian Vickers has moved into third, and his car is a rocket, as they say. Meanwhile, on lap 132, Johnson feints high then goes low to pass the Rocket, Ryan Newman. Vickers' # 83 car comes into second, and challenges Johnson for the lead. He takes the lead on lap 135. Kyle Busch has taken third spot from Newman, and Johnson is still in second as we head into commercial time.

I think Dale Earnhardt, Jr has gotten used to his bad luck, because he doesn't seem nearly as consternated about his luck as he has in the past.

Closing in on the halfway point, Vickers is first, Johnson is second, Kyle Busch in third, David Ragan is fourth, and Greg Biffle is fifth. On lap 150, Dale Earnhardt Jr;s team gets his car back on the track after extensive repairs, 45 laps down. It is important for a Chaser to finish the race, because you never know what is going to happen. Earnhardt needs to get as many points as he can, just in case the improbable happens and Knaus and Kompany have a run of bad luck. If there is any consolation, Jr is only one position behind Carl Edwards in this race.

Tony Stewart's team has his car running better now, and Tony Stewart has taken the # 20 car to fifth place, but he reports his engine is running hot. It is lap 176, and green flag pit stops have begun. The leader, Vickers pits on lap 180.

David Ragan and Regan Smith both incur speeding penalties on pit road, and have to serve drive through penalties. After the pit stops cycle through, it's V ickers in the lead, Greg Biffle moving up fast in second, Jeff Burton third, Jimmie Johnson fourth, and Kyle Busch is fifth. Caution for debris on lap 187, and Kasey Kahne gets the free pass. The leaders stay out.

We could say at this point that the 48 team is playing it safe and protecting Jimmie Johnson's points lead, but we said that about this time last year, and that proved not to be the case, as Johnson began running more aggressively than ever for the rest of the season.

Look for Biffle to make a move for the lead on this restart. But Vickers gets a good jump and pulls ahead, so Biffle hyas to wait a lap before he can make his move. He is running hard behind the leader, and looks like he just needs to be in the rightr place to take the lead. But now we have a big wreck on the back stretch, involving Tony Raines, Matt Kenseth, Chad McCumbee, and Travis Kvapil. I hate seeing this for Kenseth, especially because I have been secretly rooting for him to get his second championship this year. The Chasers have been having terrible luck this year.

They showed some great in car video and audio of Kasey Kahne threading the needle to avoid that wreck. We heard some great throttle control and saw some great car control as Kahne barely avoided disaster. Good save, we say. Bravo.

The leaders all pit this time during caution. Vickers takes two tires, but Jeff Burton comes out first, with Biffle second, Johnson third, and Kyle Busch fourth, while Vickers comes out fifth. Martin Truex, Jr stays out and leads a lap.

Restart with 132 laps to go. Truex is in first, Jeff Gordon second, and Mark Martin is third. Jeff Burton is the first car that pitted and is in fourth. Gordon takes the lead on lap 204. Another big wreck on lap 204, on the front stretch, involving Bobby Labonte, Casey Mears, and Michael Waltrip. It looked like it started when Jimmie Johnson got sideways and saved it, but causing an accordion effect where Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart also had to save their cars, and the guys behind them got all tangled up checking up. It looked like their may have been oil or fluid on the track. Close call for a lot of cars. Reed Sorenson gets the free pass.

TV is affecting my writing, so I have to write--and this is an entirely unsponsored comment--Orange Blossom Cream Ale is great stuff. If you like that kind of beverage, and it is available in your area, you should give it a try. It is currently keeping me mellow and satisfied. It has a great flavor, not too heavy, and has a nice aftertaste.

Maybe Buffalo Bill's Brewery will see this and send me some big bucks, hint hint.

Going to the restart, it's Jeff Gordon in first, Mark Martin second, Martin Truex, Jr in third, Jeff Burton in fourth, and Greg Biffle is fifth. Great racing between Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin for the lead, as they race side by side and both get loose and save it. Martin hangs in there for a lap, but gets loose again and has to fall back, allowing Jeff Gordon to keep the lead. Biffle takes second from Martin on lap 215. There are three other Chasers in the top ten, with Kyle Busch in sixth, Jimmie Johnson in eight, and Tony Stewart in tenth.

It is actually exciting with Jeff Gordon in the lead. Gordon in the lead always seems to result in a good race. While the commentators are talking about how much trouble Smoke is having, he makes his way up to sixth position.

On lap 235, Denny Hamlin almost wrecks it after contact with Clint Bowyer, but makes an amazing save. No caution.

As we approach another round of green flag pit stops, we know that Jeff Gordon fans are feeling that anxiety that accompanies the exciting feeling that maybe their driver will win his first race of the season. My readers know that, even though I am not a Jeff Gordon fan, I respect him immensly for his talent and demeaner, and I know how those fans feel. I would not be unhappy if Gordon were to win this one.

Pit stops begin with 83 laps to go. Vickers hits the wall, but saves it, and there is no caution. Paul Menard is black flagged for a loose panel on the rear of his car, then, after he can't get into the pits, is white crossed, which means he is not being scored. He finally makes it to the pits for repairs.

Aw man, too fast on pit road penalty for Tony Stewart. Dammit again. The 18 of Kyle Busch also gets pegged for speeding. This is the kind of stuff you do not want to have happen at Lowe's, especially in the final segments of the race.

Robby Gordon cuts a right rear tire and brings out the caution with seventy laps to go. After all the different pit strategies and cautions, and whatever happened, Greg Biffle will restart in the lead. Jeff Gordon re pitted, and is in seventh. Burton is in second, Tony Stewart is a lap down and trying to race his way back to the lead lap. Jonson is in third, and with 57 laps to go Jeff Burton is challenging Biffle for the lead. Burton takes the lead with 61 laps to go. Stewart has passed Biffle and is on the lead lap, though at the tail iend.

With forty laps to go, there should at least be some gas n go stops coming up. Now we will see strategy come into play. If there is a caution, Jeff Gordon's earlier strategy, may work out for him. Now a caution with 38 laps to go as Montoya wrecks from contact with the 2 car of Kurt Busch, as they are beatin and bangin for five laps. The contact cut a tire, and Montoya hits the wall. This is the money stop, and it will be interesting to see the various strategies. It's strategy or stragedy time.

Jeff Burton leads the field to the restart. Johnson is second, Kasey Kahne is third, Kurt Busch is fourth, and Greg Biffle is the first car that took four tires, restarting with 33 laps to go in fifth. Jimmie Johnson immediately begins racing Burton for the lead, and Burton is racing well and fighting hard to maintain the lead. This is pretty good stuff. Gordon and Kyle Busch are fighting hard for seventh place.

With 27 left to go, this is exciting watching the race for the lead, and now, Kurt Busch, in third, is moving to crash the party. Kasey Kahne is up there as well, and may be a factor in the finish. He takes third from Kurt Busch with 22 laps to go, and Kyle Busch is moving up to fifth, taking the position from Jamie McMurray with 21 laps to go.

Jimmie Johnson seems to have used up his car, and he starts falling back with a little more than ten to go. Jeff Burton increases his lead, but Kasey Kahne is moving up from second with seven to go. Kahne's car is faster than Burton, but you know a lot of us want to see Burton win at this point. Still it's exciting as it looks like Kahne has just about caught the leader with two to go.

We hold our breath, Burton takes the white flag, and Kahne is not close enough to challenge. Jeff Burton Wins!!!! Let's watch Kim, that is always fun.

This was a good race, technical and pretty much straight forward. There was nothing really exciting about it, but it had its moments. The 31 team did the right thing at the right time and their strategy for position paid off big. Good job for the 9 car in their second place finish for Kasey Kahne.