Monday, August 03, 2009

On Type Delay: Pennsylvania 500

The return of the Old Spice Candy Apple Red: I love that paint job. That is the paint job Tony Stewart's Old Spice car had when he raced in the Nationwide Series last year. For Pocono, in the Sprint Cup Series, that paint job is back.

The race was postponed from Sunday due to weather and wet track conditions. Those conditions have been resolved, the "weepers" on the track have been drained, and we are ready to race on a Monday. There are a surprising number of people in the stands for a Monday. Apparently, a lot of race fans used a sick day to be here.

Because of an accident during Saturday's practice session, Tony Stewart had to go to a back up car and will start at the rear of the field. No problem for Stewart, considering what he did at Pocono in June.

However, as the cars hit the track, their set ups are for the cooler weather that was predicted for Sunday. Since the race was postponed, and the weather is much warmer, every car will seem like it has a missed set up. There will be a competition caution around lap 20.

Jeff Gordon leads the field to the green flag. Jimmie Johnson, who started on the outside in second position, races Gordon for the lead, and leads the first lap. By lap ten, Stewart has moved up to 29th position, but then he reports tire problems, and pits on lap 13, going a lap down. The caution flies at the end of lap 20. Stewart gets the free pass.

Denny Hamlin takes the lead out of the pits. He maintains the lead. Dale Earnhardt, Jr started 22nd and is running around positions twenty sixth and twenty seventh. He makes a scheduled green flag pit stop on lap 50, and then the caution comes out, because of debris from Paul Menard's blown tire. The 88 car gets caught in the pits at the wrong time and goes a lap down, but he can stay out after the wave around and get back on the lead lap. Stewart's car still needs a lot of work, as he can't seem to get past the thirty fourth spot before he starts losing ground again. His crew makes some major changes in the pits.

Hamlin maintains the lead at the restart. Then there is a caution for debris on lap, because a caution light fell apart and landed on the track. The leaders stay out, and the cars from thirteenth position on back pit for tires and much needed adjustments. Hamlin still leads after the restart.

Finally, Stewart is able to start moving up. He gets up to twenty seventh position, so the adjustments are beginning to go in the right direction. Adjustments seem to be working for Dale Earnhardt, Jr, as well, as he has moved up to seventeenth position.

Green flag pit stops begin on lap 82, with the cars that didn't pit on the previous caution. When the pit stops cycle through, Hamlin is back in the lead, but Stewart has yet to pit, and is running in fourth position. He pits, and as he is leaving the pits, the caution comes out on lap 96, due to a spin by Bobby Labonte. Stewart manages to make it out of the pits under caution and stays on the lead lap. This turns out to be very fortuitous for Smoke, as the leaders pit, and Stewart stays out and takes seventh position. Yes, it's lucky, but we will take that kind of luck.

Stewart has four new tires, while most of the cars that pitted among the leaders took two. Kasey Kahne stayed out and will lead the field to the green flag. There is a lot of beating and banging on this restart. At the halfway point, it's Kahne first, Reutimann second, Kenseth third, the Tasmanian Devil, Marcos Ambrose is fourth, and Kurt Busch is fifth.

On lap 106, Jimmie Johnson reports that his engine has dropped a cylinder. He pits, and the crew quickly replaces a spark plug wire that has come lose, He gets off of pit road ahead of the leaders, staying on the lead lap. However, a few laps later, the leader, Kasey Kahne, passes him and puts him a lap down. Johnson is still having engine problems.

Hamlin restarted ninth after the last caution and makes it up to third place by lap 111. Now the 48 car is having problems maintaining minimum speed. The 14 car of Tony Stewart restarted in seventh, fell back, picked up again and is now in tenth position. Denny Hamlin moves up to second on lap 121.

While we are viewing a television commercial, I just want to say that I like Pocono, and when I suggested that I would like to see Darlington as the longest track, it wasn't because of my preferences, but because I'm tired of hearing some fans and bloggers complaining about the lack of good racing at the longer tracks. I am enjoying this race so far, and having fun ignoring the clowns in the booth who insist that Stewart won't get better than a fifteenth place finish. A lot of people complain about clowns in the booth, but I think they are funny.

I would also like to enlighten my readers who may be wondering about the ending of the current Old Spice Swagger commercial with Tony Stewart. Back in his USAC days, Tony and his high school sweetheart, Krista, used to have to skip food in order to be able to pay for enough gas to get to the track at which Stewart was to race. Now, after Swagger, Tony has plenty of money and plenty of food.

Earnhardt, Jr is going sideways around every corner, and it is a nasty loose problem rather than productive drifting. But Junior is hanging in there staying away from serious damage from the walls. He is managing to stay around the twenty fifth position.

Green flag pit stops begin on lap 126 with Jamie McMurray. Kasey Kahne pits on lap 128. New leader Denny Hamlin pits on lap 131, as do Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Harvick stays out and gets a five point bonus for leading a lap, then pits on lap 134. Kahne retains the lead after the pit stops cycle through, and Johnson goes two laps down. After 136 laps, it's Kahne, Hamlin, Reutiman, Michael Waltrip, and Kurt Busch are in the top five, but Waltrip hasn't pitted yet, and, when he does, Jeff Gordon moves into the top five.

On lap 139, Denny Hamlin gets by Kasey Kahne for the lead. That's a green flag lead change without a caution being involved. Now the 48 team is speculating that they may be suffering from fuel contamination. If Darrell Waltrip were still racing, we might suspect what the problem is, but right now we have no idea.

David Ragan makes contact with the wall on lap 141 and brings out the caution. After the leaders pit, Hamlin comes off of pit road first, followed by Carl Edwards. I think these were two tire stops, but Kahne took four. Some cars stayed out, so the restart order will be Mark Martin first, Brian Vickers second, Jeff Burton third, Sam Hornish Jr is fourth, and Denny Hamlin is fifth. The restart was on lap 147. On lap 148, Jeff Gordon moves into the top five. Stewart and Newman are battling for twentieth spot, and we have no idea what happened there, because Johnson's engine problems were much more important.

Caution on lap 151, when Robby Gordon spins, and, with nowhere to go, David Stremme makes contact with him. The 48 car is the only car not on the lead lap so it gets the free pass. His team is still working on his engine in the pits. The previous pit stop, they changed the carbruator, and are now changing the spark plugs. We are reporting this because ESPN seems to believe that it is second in importance only to the commercials. The racing takes a distant third.

And, the reason I'm complaining is because Colorado Springs no longer has a radio station that carries the MRN play by play broadcasts, we have to rely on the television coverage, and ESPN makes it very difficult to consistently follow the race. At the same time I am complaining, I have to give ESPN credit for trying to cover all the racing throughout the field.

Restart on lap 153.Martin is first, Kurt Busch is second, Vickers is third. Kurt Busch takes the lead on lap 154.

Well, during the commercial, Robby Gordon tried to spin David Stremme by bumping his car into the rear end of Stremme's car. That doesn't work, so Gordon goes to pass Stremme high in turn two. Stremme apparently didn't care much for the bumping, and decides to show Gordon what it feels like. Gordon spins, and the caution flies. Both drivers get penalized five laps. Robby Gordon's penalty is for bumping a car under caution, Stremme's is for rough driving.


Restart on lap 160. Kurt Busch is first, Edwards second, Martin third, Gordon fourth, and Vickers is fifth.


During the commercial, Juan Montoya pits with 35 laps to go, and a caution comes out for debris. Montoya makes it out of the pits and stays on the lead lap. The leaders pit for what will be the final scheduled stop of the race, as fuel strategy should no longer be a factor. Great stops by teams that will gamble that there will be another caution by taking fuel only, and Earnhardt, Jr comes off of pit road first, followed by Tony Stewart, who gained seventeen positions in the pits.


The top five at the restart are unknown because we are not being told what it is. We can figure out that Sam Hornish Jr will restart third, Juan Montoya will restart fourth, Dale Jr is fifth and Stewart is sixth. Clint Bowyer, we are finally told, will lead the field to the restart with 31 laps to go, and Scott Speed is second. Hamlin took four tires and will restart back in seventeenth.

Wild stuff back in the field. Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Carl Edwards are having some funm racing among themselves for eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth while Hamlin moves into the top ten. Kyle Busch is in a race with guys fighting for twentieth, and that is fun to watch as well. Reutimann gets into some trouble with 27 laps to go and brings out the caution. Great wheel work by Ryan Newman to avoid trouble in that wreck.

Clint Bowyer last got fuel with forty two laps to go. The 33 team is going to go for it, as they tell Bowyer to stay out and conserve fuel. This strategy seems iffy to me.

Jimmy Johnson gets the free pass and is back on the lead lap. Kyle Busch picked up some damage during that last wild restart, and also, apparently made contact with the 00 car of Reutimann while it was spinning, and is sitting in the pits getting repairs.

Clint Bowyer leads the field to the restart with 21 laps to go. Montoya is second, Sam Hornish Jr is third, Kasey Kahne is fourth and Tony Stewart is fifth. The restart is wild, Kurt Busch gets by Stewart, and so does Denny Hamlin. Hamlin gets by Busch, and takes fifth. Cars are going four wide going into turn one, and, of course, there is a big crash involving Reed Sorenson, Joey Logano, David Ragan, and Bobby Labonte. The running order, under caution, with seventeen to go, has Bowyer in the lead, Hornish second, Kahne third, Montoya fourth, Hamlin fifth, and Kenseth is sixth. Hamlin seems to be the booth's favorite to win at this time.

Kurt Busch is lining up in seventh, and Tony Stewart seems to be in eighth. Brian Vickers will restart in ninth with fourteen laps to go. Earnhard, Jr will restart tenth.

At the restart, Kenseth makes a move around Kahne, Kurt Busch gets shuffled way back. Jimmie Johnson gains twelve positions in one lap. In the melee, Montoya and Kahne make contact, Kahne falls back and Montoya maintains well enough to move into third by the time the smoke clears. With thirteen laps to go, Hamlin is challenging Bowyer for the lead, and with ten laps to go Hamlin takes the lead. Montoya moves into second with nine laps to go. With eight to go, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson are battling for tenth, while Tony Stewart passes Matt Kenseth for eighth. Mark Martin had a great restart a few laps previously, and is running in seventh. with 5 laps to go Kasey Kahne and Sam Hornish Jr are having a terrific battle for fourth, and Brian Vickers is about to take fifth. With four laps to go, Hamlin leads Montoya by nearly a second, Bowyer is still third, Hornish is fourth, and Kahne is fifth.

Three laps to go, and Gordon gets the eighth spot from Stewart. There is just too much good racing going on to watch it all, and this is mainly due to the double file restarts.

Hamlin takes the white flag, Montoya is second. Martin and Vickers are racing furiously for sixth place, one trying to stay in the top twelve, the other trying to make it into the top twelve. Hamlin wins. Montoya finishes second for his first top five finish of the season. Bowyer is third. Sam Hornish, Jr is fourth for his best finish ever in NASCAR. Kasey Kahne takes fifth, and Brian Vickers held of Mark Martin to take sixth. The top ten are filled out by Jeff Gordon, eighth, Kurt Busch, ninth, and Tony Stewart, tenth.

The number fourteen team did a great job of getting a bad car together and pulling a tenth place finish from what could have been a very bad day. The 48 team's day could have been worse, but it also could have been better. They finished thirteenth.

Denny Hamlin is very emotional, still in mourning over the death of his grandmother a few days ago. Hamlin did a great job being able to put aside a personal tragedy to concentrate on racing. Seriously, I need tissues.

My pick fives really sucked this week, but that is a different story, This was a pretty good race at Pocono, especially toward the end. The aggressive racing throughout the field continued long after the restarts, and the importance of making the cut for the Chase for the Championship is made very clear.

ESPN is getting much better at covering the racing throughout the field, although it is still a little jerky, lacking transition, but we feel they are very close to getting the hang of it. Just as the racing gets better, so will the coverage. Good job to all the drivers and to ESPN for providing us with a very good show.

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