Monday, August 17, 2009

On Type Delay: The Carfax 400 at MIS



This morning, I was awakened at 6:00 AM by the sound of engines and turbo chargers as classic cars, hot rods, street rods, and customized vehicles paraded down Colorado Avenue to enter the annual Good Times Auto Show. This open, just for fun, car show is an annual event that falls,intentionally, on the same weekend as the famous Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan. Our little show in Old Colorado City gets more popular each year, and, as a result, gets more entries each year. There are no cash prizes, just ribbons and bragging rights. And the cars, as always, are beautiful.

I love car shows almost as much as I love racing, but this is supposed to be my weekly stream of conscious race review, so we shall get on with it.

We can almost be certain, at Michigan, to see the race turn into a fuel mileage race at some point. That is because the track has so many ways to get around it, cautions, and therefore double file restarts, are less likely to happen than at other tracks. But this does provide a different kind of excitement towards the end, as we, the fans can try to second guess what the teams will do.

The race begins well, though, and we have the excitement of the green flag and get to see several of the leaders vie for the honor of leading the first lap. Mark Martin wins that challenge, and takes the lead. Pole-sitter Brian Vickers, who is having a great weekend, falls back to fourth, but regains third place from Jimmie Johnson on lap four.

It wasn't supposed to rain in Michigan today, but there was a 10% chance of showers predicted. That ten percent becomes 100 percent over Michigan International Speedway, and the race is halted on lap nine. Good, I can go to the car show and take some morepictures.

I guess it's time to get new rechargeable batteries. The ones I have are getting old and I was only able to snap 11 photos before I got the low battery signal. Crap. So many neat cars and so short a battery life.

The race resumes under caution, after nineteen minutes, and the leaders stay out on the track. From Brad Keselowski, in twelfth place, on back, most of the teams pit. The green flag flies at the end of lap 11, with Mark Martin in the lead, followed by Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers, Jimmie Johnson, and Joey Logano. Martin gets a great restart. Vickers, on the other hand, doesn't and falls back several places. Martin gains some space in his lead, while behind him there is some great three wide racing going on. Jimmie Johnson passes Kurt Busch for second, and is gaining on the leader by lap 15. Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Matt Kenseth are all moving rapidly up through the field. Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin have an exciting race for the lead on laps 21 and 22, and Johnson comes out on top. This is what we like to see, green flag racing for a lead change. At Michigan, no less.

Green flag pit stops begin on lap 40, as Ryan Newman pulls into the pits, while Vickers passes Martin for second place. It seems that Vickers' car is weak at the beginning of the run, but is picking up well towards the end of a run. The green flag pit stops cycle through until lap 51, and the running order for the top five is Johnson, Martin, Hamlin, Vickers, and Logano. Then we get a caution on lap 52, after Robby Gordon's car blows a tire. That's too bad, because the leaders were pretty close together after the pit stops cycled through, and we were getting ready for some great green flag action for the lead. Paul Menard stays out, while the rest of the cars pit.

At the restart on lap 58, it's Menard, Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, David Ragan, and David Reutimann. Kenseth, Gordon, and Menard are three wide after they cross the start line, and Kenseth takes the lead. It looks like Kenseth is having a good day, and maybe, at his "house" in Michigan, Jack (Roush) is back.

However, Johnson is moving up quickly, passing Ragan and Gordon, and challenging Kenseth for the lead. Johnson passes Kenseth on lap 64, but Kenseth doesn't give up the lead very easily. Johnson's car proves to be faster as he seals the deal. By lap 74, he has a two and a half second lead over the second place Kenseth.

As green flag pit stops approach, the performance of Mark Martin's car seems to be improving. On lap 90, Martin is approaching Johnson's bumper, and is about to challenge him for the lead. It is also on lap 90 that Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard begin the pit cycle. Martin takes the lead by passing Jimmie Johnson on lap 95, but on lap 96, both Martin and Johnson pit.

After the pit stops cycle through, the top five running order is Johnson, Martin, Kenseth, Bowyer, and Vickers. Jeff Gordon moves into the top five on lap 104. Johnson and Martin are racing each other the entire time, and are nine seconds ahead of the pack by lap 106.

Is it just me, or does the lady on the Progressive Auto Insurance commercials seem slutty? I am a fan of slutty women, but I don't know what the message on these commercials is supposed to be. Is this Madison Ave's representation of the common woman, or of insurance agents? The street wise attitude and the heavy make up seem to imply that insurance agents, like politicians, are prostitutes. Just thinking in print, which is probably not a good idea.

There is a caution on lap 116 for debris. All the lead lap cars, except for the 55, pit again, as the end of race fuel strategy begins. Tony Stewart takes two tires and the lead out of the pits. Waltrip pits, and Stewart will lead the field to the green flag.

The restart is on lap 120, and it's Stewart, Johnson, Vickers, Martin, and Kenseth. Johnson gets a good start, and barely avoids passing Stewart illegally before the start/finish line. He does get the lead as Stewart falls back. Almost immediately, David Ragan and Kurt Busch make contact, and Busch's car hits the wall, suffering heavy damage. the race once again goes under caution.

In the "I didn't know that category," Sam Hornish, Jr gets black flagged for pitting twice for fuel under the last caution. That's a rule we don't hear about very often.

The race restarts on lap 126, with Johnson in the lead, followed by Stewart, Vickers, Martin, and Bowyer. Stewart gets the great start this time, and takes the lead in turn 1, but then gets passed by Johnson in turn 4. Stewart's car doesn't seem to be very good for Michigan, and I think the 14 team may be using this race for testing. In other words, they are taking a Mulligan. To reinforce that feeling, Martin passes Stewart for second on lap 129, and Kenseth is threatening to take third. Stewart loses a four-wide battle and falls back to sixth.

On lap 133, Ragan spins after being bumped by Hornish, and the caution comes out. Stewart, in sixth, and half the cars behind him pit. Green flag at lap 140, with Johnson in the lead. Martin, Kenseth, Vickers, and Jeff Gordon fill out the top five. Kyle Busch moves into the top five right after the restart, and Gordon also advances. Gordon takes second from Kenseth on lap 144, and there is a caution for rain on lap 146. This will be the "money stop" for much of the field on lap 149, as many teams take the gamble that they might be able to make their fuel last for 51 laps. Stewart stops for fuel only. The cars that will be in the top five at the restart all stayed out.

So the restart on lap 152 has Reutimann in the lead, followed by Hamlin, Logano, Earnhardt, Jr., and Truex, Jr. The crowd goes wild as Earnhardt, Jr takes the lead and holds it. Logano takes second from Logano. Logano is racing Earnhardt for the lead on lap 155. The race for the lead continues until lap 157, when David Stremme becomes the meat in an RCR sandwich, between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton. Stremme spins and brings out the caution. The top fourteen cars stay out. The number fourteen team pits, trying to get the best they can out of a bad day.

The top five at the restart on lap 161 are Brian Vickers, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, and Jamie McMurray. Johnson takes the lead in turn one of lap 166. the top five cars are in fuel conservation mode. Jeff Gordon moves into the top five, and takes third from Martin on lap 171. He is also in fuel conservation mode. Dale Jr, however, is not, and is steadily moving up through the field. He passes Mark Martin for fifth on lap 181. The Booth Bunnies are now calling this Jr's race to win. I bet my Jr fan friends are excited.

On lap 182, Gordon is given the go ahead, by his crew chief Steve Letarte, to go for the win, even though they may be short on fuel. Jr takes fourth place from Carl Edwards on lap 190. Ten laps to go, and the top three are very worried about fuel.

Brian Vickers is pressuring Johnson for the lead. He could run them both out of fuel, but he doesn't seem to be worried. Meanwhile, Matt Kenseth, who started out having a good day, is falling way back. His car isn't running well at all on old tires. With four laps to go, Johnson still leads, but Vickers is not letting up on the pressure. Neither is Jr as he is closing in on the top three. With two laps to go, Johnson runs out of fuel and gives the lead to Vickers. This must be frustrating for Jimmie. I wonder if he is going to get whipped with a dipstick by a Scotsman.

One lap to go. Will Vickers make it? Earnhardt isn't gaining anything on Gordon, as Gordon is going for broke. Halfway through the lap, and we know there has to be nail biting in the #83 pit. The big gamble could pay off, and it does.

This is Brian Vickers' first win in Cup since his Talladega win in 2006, making it his first win in 100 races. This is also Toyota's first victory at Michigan, and Red Bull's first win in NASCAR Cup. Jeff Gordon finished second, Dale Jr third, Carl Edwards fourth, and Sam Hornish Jr overcame early set backs to finish fifth.

There was some pretty good racing in today's race, to go along with the usual fuel strategy drama. Vickers played his cards right in order to take the victory, even though it was a gamble.

In the near future, I will try to post some more pictures from the Good Times Auto Show.

1 comment:

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