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NASCAR Kansas Postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Race winner Tony Stewart does his polish victory lap
Getty Images for NASCAR
It also occurs to me that, if stretched far enough, the line "fly my little monkeys fly" might also work. But we're not going to do that here.

Instead we need to examine how a good, late in the race call from pit road "smoked" the competition and how a disputed pit road call cost a driver big time. We also need to ponder the astronomical odds of a broken oil pump belt and how a budding young super star proved to us that rolling a race car is really no big deal. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Tony Stewart. "Smoke" collected his fourth win of the season after winning Sunday's Price Chopper 400. It was also Stewart's 37th career Sprint Cup win which places him in a tie for 18th with the legendary Bobby Isaac on the all time winner's list. More importantly, it re establishes Stewart as a major player for winning his third championship. This win couldn't have come at a better time. This team has been in a bit of struggle lately and Sunday's win marked their first top five finish since the Watkins Glen race held back in early August.

Stewart will be the first to give credit where it's due and that leads to a THUMBS-UP to crew chief Darrien Grubb. It was Grubb who called for two tires only during the final pit stop of the race. The crew did an outstanding job and got their driver out of the pits first. That in turn led to the access of clean air on the nose of Stewart's Chevrolet a difference maker towards winning the race.


THUMBS-UP to Jeff Gordon for reactivating his "drive for five" championship campaign with a solid second place finish. This is another team who seriously needed a good Chase run. A THUMBS-UP also goes out to crew chief Steve Letarte for making some great calls on adjustments that helped put his car and driver at the front of the pack. Chief among those calls was the decision to put four tires on the car during the final stop. That allowed Gordon to become a late in the race contender for the win.


The first WHAT'S-UP of the week goes to Greg Biffle for disputing a tire call during the final stop of the race. Biffle and company was having a terrific, and badly needed, run at Kansas and led the most laps of the race.

While approaching their final stop, crew chief Greg Erwin called for two tires in order to maintain good track position. The call was immediately disputed by Biffle who wanted four tires for better grip during the final run of the race. Biffle was so adamant that he actually held up four fingers, while driving down pit road, to insure that everyone understood exactly what he wanted.

The results was Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne got off of pit road ahead of him and, despite the four new tires, Biffle couldn't race his way to the lead again. On the positive side he did manage a third place finish that the team needed very badly. You also have to give the driver credit for "manning up" when he later said "it was probably the wrong thing to do."


THUMBS-UP to the Chase contenders for adding another level of excitement to this championship run. Nine Chase drivers finished in the top ten at Kansas, the most ever in Chase history. Now we have at least eight, of the original 12 man line up, still in contention for the title heading into next Sunday's race in California. The Kansas event also marked the 20th consecutive Chase event that was won by a Chase driver.


WHAT'S-UP with more bad luck for Dale Earnhardt Jr? Once again the members of the Junior Nation felt like someone had ripped their hearts right out of their chests. There were high hopes for the #88 team after they qualified on the outside of the front row. The Junior Nation was deliriously happy when their driver led 41 laps of the race and looked like a strong contender for the win.

But it all unraveled on pit road with a lug nut problem on the left rear tire that forced a return trip for repairs. It also put Earnhardt a lap down. What followed next was just more rounds of the same bad luck that has plagued this team all season long. During the course of a second green flag stop the caution flag came out and it cost the team a second lap.

But the worst was still to come when a belt that powers the oil pump fell apart. That result was an expired engine and a caution flag due to oil on the track. A broken oil pump belt is one of those one in a million incidents that is an indicator of the bad luck this team has endured all year long.


THUMBS-UP to Joey Logano who clearly proved that he was just fine with that horrific roll over he went through in the Dover race. The 19 year old driver hammered that point home last Saturday by winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the Kansas Speedway.

Logano passed Gibbs Racing team mate Kyle Busch with four laps left in the Kansas Lottery 300 using a surprising, but beautiful, pass on the outside high line of the track. It was the fourth time that the two team mates finished one-two in a Nationwide Series race. It was Logano's fourth win of the season meaning all four wins came after passing Busch.

A THUMBS-UP goes to Busch for being gracious during his post race interview. After giving up yet another Nationwide Series win in the eleventh hour, Busch said "he just out drove me." He also made it a point to thank his crew for a job well done.

Another THUMBS-UP goes to Busch for setting a new series record for the most laps led in a single season, 2,226, which broke the previous 1984 mark set by series icon Sam Ard. Busch also broke another one of Ard's records last Saturday but he's probably not too thrilled about it. He now holds the Nationwide Series' record for runner up finishes with ten.

Meanwhile in victory lane Logano said he went from the letter "A to Z within the last week" and he needed this win to end all of the talk regarding the roll over at Dover.

Needless to say that didn't happen.

On Sunday Logano was the in car reporter for the ABC broadcast team and that leads to a WHAT'S-UP for Television analyst Dale Jarrett for immediately bringing up the wreck from the week before. It's probably the last thing a driver wants to hear moments before taking the green flag for a 400 mile race.

But another THUMBS-UP goes out to Logano for taking it all in stride by saying "it is what it is, I've gotten more notoriety from the wreck than I did for winning my first Cup race."

Unfortunately Logano found himself in an early race spin when he car snapped around in turn two. He spent the entire race driving an ill handling car to a 28th place finish.


THUMBS-UP to driver Parker Klingerman who made his Nationwide Series debut as a development driver for Roger Penske Racing. Klingerman was on the go or go home list meaning he had to make the starting line up based on qualifying speed. He stunned everyone by setting the fast time.

But a WHAT'S-UP goes to his crew who kept their driver sitting on pit road for a whopping 23 seconds which eventually led him to going one lap down. Despite that, Klingerman drove his way back to a very credible 16th. Keep an eye on this young driver. He's going to become very impressive.


Finally this week the next to the last THUMBS-UP goes to Cup driver Kevin "Happy" Harvick for one of the better lines heard from an in car radio system. During Saturday's Nationwide Series race Harvick was extremely unhappy with his car. Over the radio he told his crew "the car is riding like crap. It's riding just like it was yesterday when we thought the problem was the wind. At lease then we had an excuse." But it all turned for the best when a simple adjustment in air pressure helped the car's handling allowing Harvick to drive to a fourth place finish which made him "Happy" again.

The final THUMBS-UP of the week goes to the great racing fans of the mid west. This is racing country and they proved it on Saturday by creating one of the best looking crowds we've seen for a Nationwide race in quite awhile. Then they did it again by filling the grandstands for Sunday's Cup race.

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