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NASCAR Michigan Postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, August 17, 2009


Dale Earnhardt signs autographs for adoring fans
While watching the final moments of Sunday's Carfax 400, at the Michigan International Raceway, we learned that the second place car can save several valuable laps of Sunoco race fuel. In comparison the race leader doesn't enjoy that luxury if he seriously wants to win the race.

We also witnessed a 2009 dream come true for NASCAR and its fans: The Chase is seriously getting dramatic.

We even got to see smiles on the faces of the Junior Nation for the first time since forever.

We got to see the one thing that NASCAR's Nationwide Series really needed the most: a last lap drama win and two angry guys squaring off of pit road.
Oh yeah, Jeremy Mayfield's crazy step mother paid him a visit last Saturday. With all that in mind let's begin with:

HOORAH to Brian Vickers for getting his second career Sprint Cup win at Michigan. The fact that he won the race from the pole position makes it even sweeter.  It was Red Bull Racing's first Cup win and Toyota got their first win at Michigan: the back yard of America's big three auto makers.

HOORAH to Vicker's crew chief, Ryan Pemberton, for willing to push the poker chips "all in." Stretching a tank of fuel 51 laps, something never seen before at this track, was a very gutsy call but he knew that he had the one driver who could conserve the fuel needed to finish the race. Vickers was told he needed to conserve approximately two and one half laps to make it to the end. Vickers responded by drafting race leader Jimmie Johnson and saved close to five laps of fuel. His reward was a green light to victory lane when Johnson ran out of gas with three laps to go. Ironically Vickers ran out of gas enroute to victory lane. After the race Vickers admitted that, during the final two laps, he really wasn't watching where he was driving. He was too busy looking at his fuel gauge.

Just how big were the rewards from this gamble? Prior to the race Vickers and company were trying to find the back door to the 12 man line up for the Chase. The win elevated him to 13th in the points just 12 markers away from that highly coveted last Chase spot.

That leads to a never before issued ONE HALF OF A WAZZUP to Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, for taking the 51 lap fuel gamble. This situation really had to hurt because it was the second time this year Johnson lost a Michigan race due to lack of fuel. So, why the one half WAZZUP? That's because it was a gamble well worth taking that could have paid off huge. Johnson, and his #48 team, is so well entrenched in the Chase standings that Knaus felt they could roll the fuel dice to try to collect the winner's ten bonus points which could have loomed large in the final championship numbers. The only real pitfall, from running out of gas, is the fact they team fell from second to third in the current rankings.

Now we have a rarely issued DOUBLE WAZZUP to Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports team mate Mark Martin and his crew chief Alan Gustafson. They also tried the 51 lap fuel gamble and turned up to be the big losers of the day. The big difference was the fact that Johnson, again, had very little to lose. Martin's position in the Chase standings wasn't exactly a done deal and team plummeted to 12th in the standings and will have to dig themselves out of this hole during the course of the next three races to make the Chase.

HOORAH to Dale Earnhardt Jr who showed us that he still knows how to charge to the front when his car is handling right. When Earnhardt took the race lead you could hear the cheers from the Junior Nation for miles. Another HOORAH goes out to crew chief Lance McGrew for the pit stop timing that placed his driver in contention, with fuel to spare, to win this race. That third place finish was something this team really needed.

HOORAH to Tony Stewart for being the first driver to officially clinch his starting berth in the Chase. Watch "Smoke" during the final three races before the Chase begins. He's now free and clear to go after those winner's bonus points.

HOORAH to the Michigan final results that has created a dramatic Chase For The Championship picture that going to fuel early morning water cooler conversations among the fans for the next three weeks. NASCAR now has the Chase drama that they wanted and even the so called experts aren't really sure who's going to make that 12 man championship line up.

WAZZUP with that candy car? At first I thought that Kyle Busch, and his M&M's Toyota, might be doing a little points racing to insure themselves a spot in the Chase line up. But it didn't take very much longer to realize that the handling on this car was really that bad and the team just couldn't seem to come up with the needed adjustments to correct it. Busch's 23d place finish dropped him from 13th to 15th in the current points standings. Something big is going to have to happen for this team to make the Chase. If you think he's been surly in the past get ready: we haven't seen surly yet.

WAZZUP with Juan Pablo Montoya and alleged problems with Mark Martin? Montoya claims that Martin once again ran into his car last Sunday the same way he did during the Pocono race.. Montoya now says "it's time for us to have a talk, he's been behaving like an ass lately."

HOORAH to Brad Keselowski for that outstanding, late in the race, maneuver that won him Saturday's Nationwide Series race. Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch were so busy fighting each other for the win that I don't think they realized Keselowski was coming at them from the outside until it was too late.

HOORAH to Busch for launching that pit road face to face with Vickers. Busch thought that Vickers was aggressively blocking him during the final laps of the race. The truth of the matter was Vicker's Toyota was so "evil loose" that he barely had control of it. Cooler heads soon prevailed but that little shove me shove you moment on pit road was something that seriously elevated the excitement level of a Nationwide Series television broadcast.

HOORAH to ESPN2's "Back Street Drivers" broadcast experiment during the Nationwide Series event. The broadcast was sans the traditional supervision of a network play by play commentator and was handled by the collective efforts of five NASCAR champion drivers and crew chiefs. Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Ray Evernham, Andy Petree and Tim Brewer actually did a very nice job and were often entertaining.

The final WAZZUP of the week goes to Jeremy Mayfield who once again found a way to make the NASCAR news under bizarre circumstances. It seems that Lisa Mayfield, the driver's step mother, decided to pay a visit to his Catawba-North Carolina home very early Saturday morning. Mayfield called the police and told them she was a trespasser.

However later in the day Mayfield did another one of his famous television news interviews and said Lisa Mayfield was drunk when she banged on his front door, was verbally abusive and even threatened to kill him and his wife.

Mayfield has never believed that the 2007 death of his father was a suicide, as ruled by officials, and truly thinks the step mother had a hand in his father's passing. During Saturday's interview he said that he was "this close" to completing the filing of a wrongful death suit against the step mother. Lisa Mayfield has already filed a civil suit against him alluding slander and defamation of character.

I was just thinking, less than  week ago, that we haven't heard a really good Mayfield story lately.

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