Sunday, September 07, 2008

Live on Type Delay: Chevy Rock n Roll 400

This is not the usual flag-to-flag coverage we present in Live on Tape Delay, due to the fact that we committed the almost unforgiveable sin of oversleeping on race day. We managed to start watching just before Kyle Busch got his payback from Dale Earnhardt, Jr in retaliation for "the spin heard around the world" at Richmond last Spring.

That finally being over with, and done with a finnesse of which only Junior is capable of, we watch a race that only Richmond is capable of presenting. Three wide racing all around the track, some bumpin' some beatin' and some bangin' is what makes the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 rock & roll.

The seventh caution of the race gave David Reutimann the opportunity to take the lead by staying out while the leaders pitted. It didn't take long for Tony Stewart and the others who pitted to catch up to him, but he did very well by holding the lead for the entire segment. Shortly after the eighth restart, Smoke catches him and takes the lead, with Jimmie Johnson close behind him.

There is another caution with around forty laps to go, and the leaders pit again. Truex comes off pit road first, but he only took two tires. Jimmie Johnson, whose #48 team got him out first among those who took four tires, makes quick work of Truex, and Stewart is right behind him.The final caution occurs with thirty six laps to go, and the final restart is with thirty one to go.

We have to stop being so cynical of Jimmie Johnson's abilities. For the final 25 laps, Stewart and Johnson are racing hard. Johnson plays it smart and maintains the high line that gives him more momentum off the turns. Stewart catches him with ten to go, and this is getting very exciting. Stewart does gain the lead for one lap, but Jimmie is faster on the high line, and pins Smoke to the bottom. The race goes all the way to the final lap--a well fought race that Johnson wins. This was a great finish that fed us almost too much adreniline. We are as disappointed as Smoke that he couldn't catch Johnson at the end--a win here would have been awesome--but Johnson showed brilliance in holding the lead for the win, and it was a very good race.

Meanwhile we had more drama going on between the drivers trying to get that twelfth position for the Chase. David Ragan, starting the race only seventeen points behind twelfth place Clint Bowyer, got damage to his front splitter in an incident early in the race--something that should have caused him problems, but didn't. At times he was as much as seven points ahead of Bowyer, and for much of the race was running side by side with Bowyer. But a damaged car is just that, and it was only a matter of time before the handling problems multiplied and it became too difficult for Ragan to keep up, so Bowyer ended up safe within the Chase for the Championship. His victory earlier this season gives him fifth seed in the Chase.

Earnhardt, Jr had a good car, but not good enough. He did get a top five finish with the car that never really looked better than being top fifteen capable. This is another thing that impresses us about Junior, and we wonder what would happen if he ever got a really good car. This is Hendrick Motorsports we are talking about, and, for the Chase, maybe they can get things stepped up as far as equipment goes.

There doesn't seem much hope for Jeff Gordon this year. At times, the 24 team has been brilliant, but for much of the regular season, it seemed lackluster. We are still expecting some sort of change in that team during the last ten races of this season. It would be difficult to change crew cheifs at this point, because of communication concerns. But if Gordon and Letarte aren't on the same page at this point, what would it hurt to put someone else on the pit box for the last ten races?

The organizations that performed the best this season are the organizations that made the Chase. Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush-Fenway, and Childress each have three cars in the Chase. Gillett-Evernham was the only Dodge team that had a chance to be in the Chase, with Kasey Kahne, but that team, which had been as high as eight in the standings, ran into trouble earlier this season and never really recovered. We could probably expect NASCAR--who changed the eligibility requirements for the Bud Shootout at the beginning of the season to ensure that all the manufacturers were represented--will once again tweak the Championship rules to include all the manufacturers in the Chase next year.

Final thoughts:

The race was awesome, and so was the Home Depot ad that featured Tony Stewart literally handing the wheel of the Home Depot car to his replacement, Joey Logano.

Kyle Busch handled himself very well in the post race interview, and did not seem angry or disappointed that he was taken out of the lead by Jr. He didn't put any blame anywhere, and congratulated his team, happy to be going into the Chase seeded in the top position. We will see some more wins from him this year, because he has the right attitude, and the right team with which to do so.

The fans at Richmond are loyal, and, even after the weather postponement, the stands were very nearly full, as far as we can tell. Richmond is one of the best tracks on the circuit, and continues to deliver great racing even with the new car, where the racing at the intermediate tracks has often fallen flat. We feel that the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 is an excellent venue with which to end the regular season.


Vinny said...

It was a good finish to the race I could not believe that Jimmie Johnson held Tony Stewart off for those final few laps.

Tony is hungry for a win and Jimmie won just last week. Being a Jimmie Johnson fan I am happy Jimmie won.

RevJim said...

Yeah, Jimmie ran that race well and made me think it's not mostly Chad after all. I like the fact that Smoke got mad. That means he's still wanting to win. Congratulations to Jimmie.

Charlie said...

Smoke getting mad is nothing new. But trying to throw his team under the bus - only to have Zippy shut him up - is not the act of a leader. Doesn't seem to bode well for his status as driver/owner next year.

The Richmond races are usually my favorites. They are "good looking" races, if you know what I mean.

RevJim said...

Charlie, why do you think I have been so cynical of my favorite driver's chances of succeeding with his own team?