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.

2 comments:

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