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NASCAR Pocono Postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, June 08, 2009

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Tony Stewart burns victory donuts at Pocono
The NASCAR weekend saw a first time owner-driver serve notice that he may be the next Sprint Cup champion, a new restart rule that worked really well and, oh yes, Kyle misbehaved again. With that thought in mind let's start with:

THUMBS-UP to Tony Stewart who absolutely earns this week's making chicken salad out of chicken do do title. As the series' points leader Stewart was scheduled to start the Pocono 500 on the pole because mother nature rained out qualifying. Then on Saturday he crashed his car during practice, had to roll out a backup car and started the race at the tail end of the field.

In days gone by driver Tony Stewart would have been seething. But owner-driver Stewart remained calm and expressed complete confidence in his team to provide him another good car. He was correct in that assessment. Stewart went from the back of the pack to the top 15 in less than 20 laps. By lap 37 he cracked the top ten.

That leads to another THUMBS-UP for crew chief Darrien Grubb and the Stewart-Haas Racing crew whose performance was flawless. This is especially true of the final pit stop that placed their driver solidly in the lead. It was also Grubb who calmly coached his driver through a critical fuel shortage. Although Stewart said over the radio "I hate racing like this" he listened, went into low speed fuel conservation mode and scored his first official points win as an owner-driver.

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Yet another THUMBS-UP and a side order of chicken salad goes out to Stewart-Haas Racing crew members working on Ryan Newman's team. An early race electrical problem found them having to change a spark plug wire as well as the distributor cap. In a prime example of what organization can accomplish, the team made quick work to fix the problem and their driver roared through the field and netted a fifth place finish. It was a most impressive day for Stewart-Haas Racing.

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THUMBS-UP for the new double file restart rule. NASCAR's new policy of lining up lead lap cars two by two at the front of the pack seemed to work really well. It added another level of excitement to the restarts and it looked stunning on television. Pocono, with its massive width, was the perfect track to launch the new procedure.

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Following Sunday's Sprint Cup race it was likely that many members of the "Junior Nation" were again yelling WHAT'S UP with the #88 team? Perhaps they were expecting too much too soon from the new combination of driver Dale Earnhardt Jr and Lance McGrew. Once again we were treated to live camera shots of Earnhardt over shooting his pit stall. TNT Network broadcaster Kyle Petty probably put it best when he said "let's be honest, we've seen this before - lots of times." Making the situation worse was the fact that Junior parked the car too close to the pit wall and that made things extremely difficult for the crew to change the left side tires. The huge loss of track position was followed by adjustments on the car that just didn't work. The car was often sideways coming off of the turns. That, in turn, led to a disappointing 27th place finish.

Meanwhile the girlfriend, a T-shirt wearing card carrying member of the "Junior Nation", sat in front of the television and sadly shook her head. But from that came a really great line when she suggested that "maybe Junior needs to visit Jeremy Mayfield's doctor to be tested for Attention Deficit Disorder."

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WHAT'S UP with Denny Hamlin's fuel disorder? The start of the race was delayed when Hamlin's engine began to sputter. He refired the car and ran a couple of laps when it happened again this time bringing out the caution flag. It had to be the height of frustration for a driver who was heavily favored to win this race. He was able to return to the track and managed to finish 38th. He also lost five positions in the potential 12 man lineup for the Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship. Hamlin is now ranked 12th just one point ahead of Mark Martin.

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THUMBS-UP to Robby Gordon for enduring a very rugged but very profitable weekend. Gordon spent Saturday in the Mexico desert where he won the SCORE Baja 500. Gordon covered the 432.51 mile off road course in a blistering 8 hours, 35 minutes and 49 seconds. In three Score events in 2009 Gordon has two wins and a second. He now leads the points standings in the SCORE Trophy Truck Division.

Following the briefest of celebrations, Gordon had to board an airplane and fly to Long Pond, Pennsylvania Saturday night. On Sunday he climbed into his self-owned Sprint Cup car and ran the Pocono 500. He finished 31st in the Cup event but collected an additional $86,000 on top of the off-road earnings. More importantly the extra effort to make the Pocono race will keep him in the all important top 35 in NASCAR owner's points.

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THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch for another dominant and stunning performance en route to winning the Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Nashville, Tennessee. Busch led 173 of the 225 laps to score his fourth series win of the season and 25th career win.

Having said that, WHAT'S UP with Busch smashing the trophy in victory lane? The Nashville Superspeedway has a tradition of presenting its winners with a Gibson Les Paul guitar custom painted by NASCAR artist Sam Bass. Busch decided he wanted to share the guitar with each member of his team and attempted to smash it into small pieces. A team spokesman said Busch had cleared the action with both Gibson and Sam Bass. Busch said the guitar was going to be placed in a ban saw on Monday, cut into equal pieces, autographed and presented to each member of his crew. However on Monday artist Sam Bass said he was stunned to see his creative work treated in such an inappropriate manner. That prompted the Busch spokesperson to suggest that the "artist apparently has changed his tune."  Once again the "Rowdy" one has managed to light up the fans and the media with his brat-like behavior.

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A double THUMBS-UP goes out to the Nationwide Series teams who participated in Saturday's fundraiser that benefited the Nashville area's Red Cross unit. In addition to the individual team effort, the Nationwide Series Foundation donated a $25,000 check. That money will be used to provide aide to the victims of the April 10th tornado that struck the nearby community of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

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THUMBS-UP to the "Onion." Todd Bodine used fuel conservation to win Friday's NASCAR Camping World Series Truck race at the Texas Motor Speedway. It was his second win of the season, his 17th career win and he became the first series driver to score five wins at the same track.

THUMBS-UP to Matt Crafton. He finished second at Texas and his season long consistency now has him on top of the points standings.

WHAT'S UP with the former series points leader? For the second race in a row Ron Hornaday Jr experienced a frustrating evening. It started with a pit road penalty due to a runaway tire on pit road. Later in the event his engine soured and he wound up 19th four laps down.

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And Finally: a quadruple THUMBS-UP goes out to "The National Speed Sport News" and their 75th anniversary. All these years this paper has been the inspirational benchmark for print and Internet motorsports publications. Congratulations and thank you for 75 years of outstanding reporting.

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