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.


Clance' said...

Slunps suck huh? Good to see you back too!
Missed ya!
HA!! My secret word to post on your blog is kanker...teehee.

Clance' said...

I am glad Clansi speaks typoneese...she takes after me you know.
My Mitzi does the same thing and Mikey Waltripper tries. He is just too big to sit on my lap and type. He just stands here and bumps my elbow instead.