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Dover Autism 400 postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, June 01, 2009

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Sunday's Sprint Cup race at the Dover International Speedway was a spectacle that NASCAR really needed. The race was outstanding from start to finish and was loaded with drama especially during the final laps. It was also an opportunity to raise awareness for autism. That effort was strongly supported by Heluva Good Sour Cream Dips and Cheese who presented the Autism 400.You could even go so far to say that it was a Heluva of a good weekend.

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Jimmie Johnson won in the Lowe's Chevy
The WHAT'S UP/THUMBS-UP award for making chicken salad out of chicken do do absolutely goes to race winner Jimmie Johnson and the Lowe's Chevrolet team. It's very rare that you see this team make a major mistake on pit road. However, during their final stop, the process of changing the left side tires resembled an old "Keystone Cops" film. Johnson entered pit road as the race leader and exited the pits in ninth with time running out.

Johnson pretty much had this race in his hip pocket all day long and led a career high 298 of the 400 laps on the track known as "the Monster Mile." But the miscue of pit road had him restarting ninth with only 36 laps left in the race. Johnson referred to the incident as "a minor hiccup" and began the process of chasing down race leader Tony Stewart. Johnson passed Stewart with two laps left in the race in what turned out to be a very exciting finish.

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Another THUMBS-UP goes out to Johnson for graciously allowing teammate Mark Martin to pass him so he could lead a lap and collect the five bonus points. Martin started the race 12th in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship standings and was only 13 points ahead of David Reutimann. Those extra bonus points from Johnson could loom large later this fall when the 12 man Chase lineup is announced.

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THUMBS-UP for Tony Stewart and another top five finish that now has him on top of the Sprint Cup points standings. Stewart left Delaware with a 46 point lead over former series leader Jeff Gordon. It marks the first time that an owner/driver has led the NASCAR championship standings since 1992.

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Speaking of Jeff Gordon: WHAT'S  UP with his weekend in Delaware? He finished 26th, two laps down, in a backup car. The primary car smacked the wall hard during qualifying. I'm sure it didn't help that chronic back pain situation he's been dealing with since last year.

But his day at Dover did prompt one of the better lines heard during the Fox broadcast. Chris Meyers said "I'm beginning to think that Hendrick Motorsports put one of Dale Earnhardt Jr's old engines in the 24 for this weekend." Sidekick Jeff Hammond replied, "Let's not start any new rumors now."

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Speaking of Dale Earnhardt Jr, THUMBS-UP for a solid 12th place finish following his formal debut with new crew chief Lance McGrew. Junior's spot in the finishing order does not properly reflect the good day this beleaguered team had. At one point in the race he was in third and spent a majority of the afternoon running in the top ten.

There were some handling issues here and there but overall the communication, heard on "Trackpass", was mostly positive between driver and crew chief. The pit work was quite good also. It's of course too early to say that the problems the #88 team has been having is officially resolved but there does seem to be a sense of relief that things may now be headed in the right direction. When you consider the performance level of this team over the past several weeks a 12th place finish is practically cause to pop champagne corks.

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THUMBS-UP to David Reutimann for an outstanding job of defensive driving while avoiding hitting a spinning David Stremme. The moved prompted Fox broadcaster Larry McReynolds to quip "He'll be coming to pit road to get four tires and a new set of drawers."

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WHAT'S UP with that eyebrow raising contact between Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards? It makes me wonder if these teammates are still on the same page.

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WHAT'S UP with the fans and their loud cheering when Kyle Busch came down on to pit road with a tire issue? The Rowdy one had to settle for a 23d place finish. Is it possible that the fan's reaction had something to do with Busch's pre race caddy remarks about Dale Earnhardt Jr?

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THUMBS-UP to Brad Keselowski for winning Saturday's Nationwide Series race, The Heluva Good 200, following a riveting green white checker finish. Kyle Busch had this one in the bag but, on that final restart, he was hit by teammate Joey Logano and suffered a cut tire. Logano hung in there to take second. Busch had to settle for a very frustrating 17th.

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THUMBS-UP to Brian Scott for scoring his first ever NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Saturday at Dover in the AAA Insurance 200. THUMBS-UP to crew chief Jeff Hensley for a very gutsy call that put his young driver in victory lane. Late in the race tire wear became a serious issue. Kyle Busch completely dominated the event before a blown tire caused him to lightly touch the wall. Moments later Colin Braun, riding second at the time, slammed hard into the wall after also blowing a tire. During the final caution laps Hensley made the race winning gutsy call and told his driver to stay on the track and go for the win.

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WHAT'S UP with Kyle Busch refusing to grant even a brief media interview after all three of the Dover races? He was seen stomping off in the direction of the motor home lot with his giant boo boo lip scraping on the ground. Granted he had a tough weekend at Dover. He had at least two of the three races won before tire issues upstaged a trip to victory lane.

But that's not a proper excuse for refusing to talk to anyone. He could have used the interview to thank the sponsors who put up mega millions to support his racing. He could used the time to thank his team who worked very hard to provide him a potential race winning vehicle in all three events. At the least case scenario he could have used the time to fire off one of his famous sarcastic barbs at Goodyear. Perhaps it's time for Coach Gibbs to have a sit down with this kid.

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The final THUMBS-UP this week goes to Matt and Katie Kenseth for one of the more heartwarming stories of the Dover weekend. As we all know the Kenseths are expecting their first child as a couple in July. They have been very adamant that they didn't want to know the child's gender prior to the birth and just wanted to be surprised with a healthy child.

They recently hired an interior decorator to work on the nursery in their home. This decorator was given a sonogram photo by a doctor in order to select the nursery's blue or pink color scheme. The decorator locked the nursery door each evening after work in case one of the parents got a little too curious. When it came time to installing the new carpet on the floor some towels were jammed into the bottom of the door so the color of the rug could not be see.

This is all too cute and we wish them the best.

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