Sunday, March 01, 2009

Live on Type Delay: The Shelby 427

Due to technical difficulties, and the fact that we were nowhere near a race track, television, radio, or a computer at the start of the race, we were unable to report directly the first 64 laps of the Shelby 427, from Las Vegas Nevada. It could have been worse--we could have been in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where none of the above exists.

KKKX., the local station that carries the race broadcasts for Colorado Springs, does not have a contract with SMI's Performance Radio Network this year. Perhaps a sign of the times, but it taught us the important lesson that one can be anywhere and still be able to catch a NASCAR Sprint Cup race broadcast anywhere.

So the Rev thanked his friend for the wonderful morning and the enjoyable excursion, apologized for having to get home so abrubtly, fumbled for his keys, and finally got inside his apartment and got the television on.

It seems that, by lap 64, Jimmie Johnson--who had started in first position after the Pole winner, Kyle Busch had to start in the back--pretty much dominated the race. Matt Kenseth, a contender to make history as the first driver to win the first three races of the season, lost his engine after only seven laps. It was there one moment, then it was gone. A careful search found the engine, but it had blown up.

Around lap 74, another Roush-Fenway Ford, driven by David Ragan, loses its engine, and Ragan is out of the race. This brings out the fourth caution of the race. Greg Biffle takes the lead on the restart, and begins to check out on the field, while Jeff Gordon moves up through the field and takes a commanding second.

Engine woes continue as Mark Martin's Hendrick Motorsports car slips out of gear, and the engine over-revs and expires. This brings out another caution, around lap 124, and we wonder if maybe everyone should have changed their engines and started in the back of the field. Jimmie Johnson once again leads at the restart, then, seven laps later, Regan Smith spins out, bringing out another caution.

The restart on lap 142 has Jimmie Johnson on in the lead, Jeff Gordon second, Before we can type another word, Aric Almirola hits the wall and is out of the race. We have another caution.

At the restart on lap 149, It's Johnson, Gordon, Biffle, Stewart, and Kyle Busch. Jeff Gordon takes the lead in turn four, and it begins to look like a race. We have mentioned this before--racing seems to get more exciting overall when The Gordon is on top of his game.

Lap 160 puts Gordon at the 20,000 mark for laps led. What an amazing career.

The race has a relatively long green flag run--a full seven laps, before another caution comes out when Michael Waltrip gets up in the marbles on the outer edge of the track and spins. All the lead cars pit. Restarting in the lead, after pit road strategies will be Jeff Burton. He is followed by Bobby Labonte, and Brian Vickers. Burton holds the lead for one lap, and Denny Hamlin spins out in turn two after getting too high up the track.

At the restart, it's Burton, Labonte, Vickers, Biffle, and Gordon. Johnson, restarting in sixth, moves up quickly and takes third before the lap is over. He doesn't stop there, and passes Labonte for second. At the commercial break, it's Burton, Johnson, Labonte, Biffle, and Jeff Gordon in the top five.

Does the light go off when the refrigerator door is closed? Does the race continue during the commercials? We have no way of knowing for certain.

With 84 laps to go, we begin to see the pit strategies for finishing races come into play, as Ryan Newman pits, reporting a vibration. Two laps later, Tony Stewart pits for two tires and fuel, giving up tenth place, and also reporting a vibration. With 71 laps to go, the other cars on the lead lap have yet to pit.

Hey, isn't it cool to see the Cat car leading the race? It's number 31, rather than 22, but it still gives us a nostalgic feeling. We wonder what Ward Burton, who made the Cat car famous, is doing now? Enlightenment! We just realized that it isn't just the Cat car, it is another Burton driving it.

Stewart has to pit again with 65 laps to go, as his earlier vibration problem had not been repaired. Jeff Gordon has to abort his pit stop, as Jimmie Johnson pits and skids through his pit box. A caution flies as Gordon's left front tire blows. Stewart gets a penalty for pit road speed. All kinds of doo-doo is happening all at once. Wow!

Burton comes off of the pit road first, Carl Edwards is second, Bobbie Labonte is third, but Edwards had to come back to the pits because of a missing lug nut. So, at the restart, it will be Burton, Labonte, Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers, and David Reutimann in the top five with 58 laps to go. Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton race hard, but cleanly for the lead, and with 57 laps to go, the younger Busch takes the lead.

Busch wisely lets Johnson race his way back to the lead lap. The 48 car seems like it is the fastest on the track. Just as we were beginning to think that Joey Logano might need fender whiskers on his car, after consistantly brushing the wall in practice, we realize that the young rookie is doing very well this race and is now in the top ten. How many people out there remember fender whiskers? That was one of my childhood obsessions, for some reason.

38 laps to go, and we know that every crew chief on pit row is figuring out fuel mileage numbers at this point. Some of the leaders are going to have to stop for fuel before the race is over.

Jeff Gordon, who brought out the most recent caution with a cut tire, had to make several pit stops during that caution. He is now back in the top ten. Carl Edwards is now in fifth, with 30 laps to go. He came back from having to pit twice.

Debris in the backstretch brings out a caution. There will be no fuel strategy now, as everyone will fuel. There will be tire strategy.

Clint Bowyer didn't pit, so now the #33 car is in the lead. Kyle Busch, who is never happy with his car--something his Crew Chief, Steve Addington has credited to that team's success--takes two tires, fuel, and a chassis adjustment, and exits the pits third, after being beaten out by Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon. Restart with 21 laps to go.

Bowyer holds the lead, Kyle Busch makes a risky move and gets by Jeff Gordon. It isn't long before he is challenging Burton for second, but Burton hasn't given up the race. This is the kind of racing for which we watch NASCAR--three cars racing for the lead.

Making a very Earnhardt-like bumper tap, Busch takes the lead, keys his mike, and quotes the words made famous by Burns and Allen, "Say good-night Gracie."

The proper response from Bowyer should have been "Good-night Gracie," but, if he did say something, we don't think those were the words he used. Now we get another caution as Paul Menard finally wrecks.

Why do TV commentators keep on talking even when they have nothing to say? Why does Rev' Jim keep typing when he has nothing to write? More mysteries of Nature.

We are anticipating a big finish here. And it is being delayed as NASCAR decides to make sure the sta-dri, which isn't really sta-dri these days, is swept off of the track.

The restart will be with seven laps to go. Kyle is first, Burton is second, and Bowyer is third. If Kyle Busch makes this restart stick the race is his. He makes it stick, but the race isn't his yet. Jimmie Johnson has gotten up into the absorbant formally known as sta-dri and gets rear-ended by the wall. The green flag comes with three laps to go.

Busch makes the restart stick. Bowyer and Burton are racing hard for second. One lap to go and Carl Edwards, runnning in fifth, sees his engine blow up. Bowyer passes Burton for second.

Kyle Busch has been the first driver to win the pole position and the race in a Cup race at Las Vegas. He now holds the record for winning the race from the highest numbered starting position. If that sounds like a paradox, it is, but it actually happened, which justifies the rumors that Kyle is from Area 51. Most importantly, he has won at home, in front of a very supportive crowd.

It wasn't a great race--too many accidents, penalties and wierd things happening, but it was a good race. It did have its great moments, with some great racing, which is something we haven't seen at the so-called Cookie Cutter tracks and the Sprint Cup car. It was at least as good as we had anticipated. If we don't stop writing, we might even convince ourselves that it was a great race after all. It was certainly entertaining, which is a good thing for most race fans.

Say good-night, Gracie.

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