Sunday, April 05, 2009

Live on Type Delay: The Samsung 500

Texas Motor Speedway is a fast track with wide progressively banked turns, a long, sweeping frontstretch, and a shorter backstretch. It has been both loved and loathed by racers, and has a history of surprises. It is one of only two tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit at which Jeff Gordon has never won. There just seems to be some kind of jinx for him. If he starts well he ends up poorly. If he starts poorly, he ends up poorly. This is not a Cup car characteristic, because Gordon had the same problem at Texas with the aero-car.

It should be noted that TMS is also where Dale Earnhardt, Jr got both his first Nationwide Series win and his first Cup Series win. That wasn't last year, though, because Carl Edwards won both Sprint Cup TMS races in 2008.

Jeff Gordon starts on the front row, outside of David Reutimann. They both get a good start and race for the lead all the way around the first lap. Gordon gets the edge on the first lap, but only leads for about ten laps until Reutimann passes him back. Jeff's car seems to be fading. Reutimann leads all the way to the time green flag pit stops begin on lap 51.

After the pit stops cycle through, Matt Kenseth has the lead, with Reutimann in second and Tony Stewart in third. Stewart battles hard with Reutinann, and takes second place, but Reutimann doesn't give up easily and races him back. But Stewart races him back again, and gets second place back. By lap 75, he is gaining on Kenseth, who had stretched his lead to almost three seconds, while lapping a lot of cars. By lap 83, Stewart has closed that gap to seven-tenths of a second. During the commercial, Stewart takes the lead, which proves this isn't the WWE, where the action seems to pause during the commercials. There is a caution on lap 98 for debris blown on to the racing surface by the high winds that are prevailing in Texas.

Matt Kenseth retakes the lead during the pit stops, Greg Biffle comes out second, and Tony Stewart is third. David Reutimann stays in the top five and will restart in fourth on lap 105, while last year's broom man at TMS, Carl Edwards comes out fifth. Just behind him is another Roush-Fenway driver, David Ragan, and Jeff Gordon has hung in there in seventh.

At the restart, Kenseth, Biffle, and Stewart all get on a good start, but only Kenseth gets away, as the other two get boxed in by the lapped traffic, where the drivers are racing to hold their positions. Kyle Busch shows that he still has a lot to learn as he bumps another driver in retaliation for something or other, and puts himself against the wall, cutting a tire. He makes it around, without bringing out a caution, but goes nearly two laps down, having to pit because of his own bad judgement.

Greg Biffle takes the lead during a commercial, around lap 117 or 118. By lap 122, Jeff Gordon has moved up into fourth. He takes third from Stewart during yet another commercial, somewhere around lap 138. During that last commercial, we noticed that Mom and Dad have reconciled and are back together closer than ever. You may have noticed that Mom was nowhere around the family, after Las Vegas, when Dad, the Kid, and Gramps took off in an RV. It turns out that Mom had traveled to Atlanta alone, where she was seern on television in the background while Bobby Labonte was conducting a post race interview. She had a small part in the commercials during Bristol and Martinsville, but seemed to still be in the background. We are happy, for the sake of Gramps and the Kid, to see Mom and Dad together again. We really miss having the MRN/PRN radio broadcasts here.

Green flag pit stops begin during another commercial, around lap 152, and Da Biff pits on lap 154. Oh my, speeding penalty for Kyle Busch during green flag stops. This could be bad, but it isn't, because Elliott Sadler spins out right in front of him, bringing out a caution. And David Reutimann picked up a penalty, as well, for pitting outside of the pit box, and taking that penalty puts him a lap down.

On lap 161, it's Biffle, Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and David Ragan in the top five. Kurt Busch has moved into sixth. By lap 179, Da Biff has a lead of three and a half seconds over second place, Matt Kenseth.

Tony Stewart takes second from Kenseth with about 135 laps to go, and the green flag pit stops begin with Kenseth with 130 laps to go. After the pit stops cycle through, Da Biff is back in the lead, Kenseth is second, Stewart third, and Jeff Gordon is fourth. Then there is another caution during another commercial, as the engine in the car of Marcos Ambrose gives up the ghost, or oil, as it is.

Jeff Gordon stayed out during the caution, while the leaders pitted again, and so did Mark Martin, so they hold positions one and two at the restart. Kenseth and Ragan are third and fourth, and Tony Stewart is fifth, being the first three out of the pits during the caution. Gordon gets a good restart and broadens his lead.

Sam Hornish spins with 101 laps to go and brings out the caution, and it was not during the commercial. The 96 car gets caught up in the action and forces Bobby Labonte to take that car to the garage. The leaders stay out this time, but several cars, from eighth on back, pit.

You know what there is not to like about high definition television broadcasts? When the signal power drops for any reason, we get a message that says, "Bad Signal" and a blue screen, instead of a fuzzy picture of the action. Or, in this case, a Fox Television Network logo. Speaking of which, Foxes do burrow, at least to dig a den. Why couldn't they have a fox ground cam instead of a gopher cam. Foxes are the foxes of the animal kingdom. Gophers aren't cute, they are ugly little rats.

There was an interesting effect of the sun reflecting off the windshields of the cars from one camera angle. It really looked like all the cars had the old fashioned radio antennas cars used to have, except they were on the drivers' side.

Caution again during the commercial, with 83 laps to go. Robby Gordon's engine blew up, the second Toyota to do so. Dale Earnhardt, Jr, who was in eleventh place, takes the lead by taking two tires during the caution. It is still early to say if this will become a fuel strategy race, as there will be too many laps to go without a fuel stop, unless you are Carl Edwards, who last year went 94 laps without a stop for fuel. It doesn't matter, "Jooooooonyer!" will restart in the lead!

The restart is with 76 laps to go. Brian Vickers is second, also having taken only two tires, Jeff Gordon is third, Edwards fourth, and Stewart is fifth. On turn one, Kyle busch on the inside lane is trying to get one of his laps back, gets into the sta-dri, and into Jr, probably endangering himself to the possibility of being hated to death, but he does get one of his laps back. This gives Gordon the lead, and Jr drops back to seventh before he recovers. With 67 laps to go, Edwards has moved into second, and Tony Stewart is third.

Great racing between the 48 and the 88 for sixth place with 61 laps to go. Jr and Johnson keep changing positions racing each other high and low. Johnson seems to have the advantage on the straightaways, but Jr beats him in the corners. This is fun, the two drivers have two completely different styles, and they are battling hard.

With 51 laps to go, it's Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, and David Ragan in the top five. Johnson is now in sixth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr is seventh, but Da Biff is on the run and overtakes the most popular driver. Biffle likely won't be hated to death for that, but we do remember when "the Bug-eyed Monster" was one of the least popular drivers.

Now, with 42 laps to go, Ragan has to make a green flag pit stop with an over-heated engine. Also, bad news for Junior Nation as Dale Earnhardt, Jr gets too close to the wall while trying to make a run on Da Biff. He has to pit for repairs, losing a lap.

Meanwhile, Carl Edwards has taken the lead from Jeff Gordon with 40 laps to go. With 36 laps to go, Stewart takes second from Gordon. With 31 laps to go, David Stremme, running in twelfth spins in turn four while trying to get to the pits with a flat tire, and brings out the caution. Still, we get to see some of Stremme's oft overlooked skill as he makes a great save.

Jeff Gordon gets out of the pits first, Tony Stewart second, and Jimmie Johnson third, while Carl Edwards apparently had some trouble and does not exit the pits among the top ten. This should be one heck of a restart with 26 laps to go. Gordon gets a clean start and keeps the lead, while Johnson is racing Stewart for second. Matt Kenseth is fourth, and Da Biff is fifth. Da Biff is fifth. Say that out loud, it sounds wierd. Now try it without lisping the "s" in "is"

With seven laps to go, Jeff Gordon is far enough ahead of Johnson that it is almost safe to say he might win this race. The Booth Bunnies have already given him the race. But with four laps to go, lapped traffic named Max Papis, who really is lovable, has slowed Gordon down, and Johnson has closed the gap to half a second. Biffle is still charging and passes Stewart for third. White flag, Gordon holds the lead through more lapped traffic, and wins his first ever victory at TMS, and his first points race win since October of 2007. What a special moment. Seriously.

In spite of all the side trips we took during our recounting of this event, this was one of the better races we have seen on a 1.5 mile track. That was a big difference from the first Texas race last year, which was a 500 mile snooze fest because no one could pass anybody. We hope to see the racing keep getting better as the teams finally grow into the Sprint Cup car. Jeff Gordon was one of the last of the top drivers to get the hang of this car, but it was worth the wait.


Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


RevJim said...

Selina, thank you for your kind words and for posting a comment.