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Coca-Cola 600 Postscript

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, May 27, 2009


David Reutimann's 'double oh' car
There's a line from a great old song by the Carpenters that goes "rainy days and Mondays always bring me down." Tell that to David Reutimann and he'll laugh at you. It was his car that was sitting in the front of the line when NASCAR pulled the plug on the Mother Nature 600, following two days of rain, at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

The Coca-Cola 600 is NASCAR's longest race on their schedule. Under the best of normal conditions it takes approximately four and one half hours to run the 600 miles/400 laps. In direct comparison the rain soaked Mother Nature 600 took 12 hours and 40 minutes to run 227 laps before NASCAR officials finally declared that the race was over.

Also during the Memorial Day weekend we were treated to a sorely missed Tony Stewart tirade and we were treated to another episode of the Dale Jr-Tony Jr soap opera. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to David Reutimann and his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup victory. He was the first to say that "it certainly wasn't the prettiest win but somebody had to win this thing." Reutimann only led five laps of the race with all of them being yellow caution flag laps due to rain. Then he had to stand around, for what must have seemed like an eternity, waiting to see what the weather was going to do.

THUMBS-UP to crew chief Rodney Childers for making the gutsy call that kept his driver on the track during what turned out to be the final yellow and red flag that concluded the race. All of the leaders came onto pit road for tires and fuel when that final yellow flag appeared. It was a sheer note of irony that allowed the Reutimann team to stay out on the track. They were pitting out of sequence with the other teams due to the fact that Reutimann hit the wall earlier in the race. Childers told his driver "we're either going to win this thing due to rain or we're going to finish 24th."

THUMBS-UP to Michael Waltrip Racing for getting their first team win. Hopefully that will lead to a momentum boost for an operation that is already beginning to show signs of improvement.


WHAT'S UP with all of that rain in North Carolina during Memorial Day weekend? Everyone knows that, during this time of the year, the rain is supposed to be located in Indianapolis, Indiana so Mother Nature can wreak havoc on the Indy 500 weekend.


THUMBS-UP for Tony Stewart for treating the fans and the media to a sorely missed display of "Tony The Terrible." It seems that team ownership has mellowed Stewart a bit this year and we've all been deprived of his famous candid barbs.

But Stewart delivered during the Monday portion of the race. He was unhappy with Reutimann driving so aggressively at such an early point in the event. Stewart came over his radio and said "Somebody needs to tell him that this isn't the Nationwide Series. If he keeps racing me like this I promise that he'll beat the traffic on the way home."

When another rain delay red flag came out, and the cars were parked on pit road, Stewart made it a point to express his displeasure to Reutimann in person. Stewart reminded Reutimann that this was not a Nationwide Series race, where the events are considerably shorter in distance, and he didn't need to be that aggressive so early in the race when there were still over 400 miles left to run.

That leads to a WHAT'S UP to Dwayne Bigger, a mechanic on the Reutimann team, who decided to contribute his two cents worth to the issue by getting in Stewart's face. Later, during a live television interview, Stewart said "Then he's, (Reutimann), got a bald crew guy down there who wants to jump up and be a Billy Bad Butt. Maybe he needs to ride in the car with him since they both seem to have it all figured out." You can't tell me that you don't miss moments like that from Tony Stewart.

That leads to another THUMBS-UP to Stewart for calling Reutimann Monday night to congratulate him on his first win. They also had a chance to air out Monday's issue and everything appears to be just fine between them.


THUMBS-UP to Bill Elliott for his 800th career NASCAR Sprint Cup start at the Coca-Cola 600. Elliott also delivered a great line during one of the rain delays when he said "I told them, (NASCAR), it sure was nice of them to throw in a few old man cautions in there with those red flags to let me get out of the car and rest for a few minutes."


THUMBS-UP to Ryan Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing team for creating chicken salad out of chicken do do. Following a pit stop, Newman was ordered to return to pit road due to some loose lug nuts. The incident was devastating for the team's track position. However some late in the race pit strategy led the team to a second place finish which elevated them to seventh in the Sprint Cup championship standings.

A similar THUMBS-UP goes to owner-driver Robby Gordon who also used late in the race pit strategy to elevate a basic 20th place car to a third place finish. It marked Gordon's first top five finish since 2007.


WHAT'S UP with Dale Earnhardt Jr and that #88 Hendrick Motorsports team? It's not a secret that this team isn't even close to living up to pre-season expectations and a 40th place, two laps down, finish in the Coca-Cola 600 is only going to increase the level of frustration they're already feeling. Needless to say the rumor mill has hit overtime regarding a parting of the ways between Earnhardt and his crew chief-cousin Tony Eury Jr. The rumor mill is saying that even team owner Rick Hendrick is starting to rethink his position about keeping them together and a major change may be coming more sooner than later.

WHAT'S UP with Kevin Harvick and his Richard Childress Racing team? Harvick's nickname is "Happy" but no one dares to call him that these days. The team, now 23d in the championship standings, had another miserable race and finished 41st in the Coca-Cola 600. This was due to contact with Sam Hornish Jr that cut down one of their tires. That was followed by Harvick hitting the wall. Here's another pre-season favorite to make the Chase For The Championship that needs to turn things around in a hurry.


THUMBS-UP to Mike Bliss for winning Saturday's rain shortened NASCAR Nationwide Series race. It marked his first Nationwide Series win since 2004.

But WHAT'S UP with Bliss and the team parking the car early, after only running 42 laps, during the Sprint Cup race? This was due to a reported vibration in the car. Generally this type of problem is resolved through some form of adjustments on pit road. Sometimes, especially if it's late in the race, a driver will just ignore the problem and do the best he can to get a decent finish.


THUMBS-UP to NASCAR for making good use of their time during the red flag rain delays. They used the time to conduct drug tests and sent ten randomly selected crew members to the medical center to participate in a completely different type of "cup event."


Finally this week a double THUMBS-UP goes to NASCAR for throwing a red flag during the Monday portion of the race at exactly 3 pm eastern time. The cars were parked on pit road with their engines off in order to participate in a moment of silence. It was part of a national moment of remembrance in honor of Memorial Day. It was a very classy thing to do.

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