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NASCAR Martinsville Postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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Last Sunday we watched a home town hero return to a Sprint Cup victory lane, at the Martinsville Speedway, and take a beautiful grandfather clock home. We watched a very aggressive future star win the Nationwide Series race at Memphis and take home the last ever Elvis trophy. Then we saw the raw emotion of a first time NASCAR winner in the truck series race also at Martinsville. All in all it was a pretty good weekend for NASCAR. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

Denny Hamlin
THUMBS-UP to Denny Hamlin for winning Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway. The grandstands were loaded with his fans watching the home town hero win the race. Hamlin only lives a few miles away from the speedway. It was Hamlin's third win of the season and seventh career win. He scored max points with the win and led the race three times for a total of 206 laps including the final 139 circuits.

THUMBS-UP to Jimmie Johnson for his second place finish at Martinsville. It was another stellar effort for the Lowes 48 team and Johnson left Virginia with his championship points lead over team mate Mark Martin now up to a season high of 118 points. It just seems that gaining points on this team is getting harder and harder to do.

WHAT'S-UP with Juan Pablo Montoya's aggressive tactics especially while racing with Jeff Gordon? Some of that beating and banging actually had Gordon wondering what he had done to make Montoya angry. But, at the same time, THUMBS-UP to Montoya for providing some of the best video moments of the race while racing with literally everybody. This team came to Martinsville with the attitude that said "we have nothing to lose and everything to gain." The result was a third place finish and his fifth top five finish in the six completed Chase races.

WHAT'S-UP with driver John Andretti trying to move his wrecked race car on the final lap of the race? As the field took the white flag, Andretti's car was hit and spun into the front stretch wall. By the time he came to a complete stop the field was already halfway down the backstretch en route to the checkers. The situation got a little tense when Andretti tried to drive his wrecked race car from the scene. The car stall facing the front stretch wall and was now in a precarious position as the field came roaring off of turn four. Many observers felt it would have been safer to Andretti to leave the car parked against the wall.

WHAT'S-UP with Penske Racing driver Sam Hornish Jr? What a horrible Virginia weekend this man had. It started during a Friday practice session when he wrecked his primary car. Then, during Sunday's race, he found himself involved in a double car crash with his Penske team mate David Stremme. Returning to the race following repairs, Hornish crashed again this time sending the car to the garage area for good. One has to believe that the body guys at Penske Racing are starting to get really tired of this routine.

You have to wonder if Dale Earnhardt Jr left Virginia asking "is it New Years Eve yet?" WHAT'S-UP with this man's ongoing bad luck? Three right front tires went flat on him. At one point he was two laps down which he eventually got back due to the lucky dog free passes only to have the final flat tire remove him from the lead lap and to a 29th place finish. At one point Earnhardt actually yelled "I'm getting pissed" over his radio.

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Saturday's Nationwide Series race at the Memphis Motorsports Park got pretty interesting as well. THUMBS-UP to Brad Keselowski for winning the Kroger On Track For The Cure 250. It was his fourth win, for JR Motorsports, of the season and his sixth career win. He also collected a $75,000 bonus from Nationwide's Dash For Cash program. Keselowski will also get to take home that last ever Elvis Presley trophy that has been a victory lane trademark for many years at the Memphis track. Apparently the mold for this statue will now be broken and replaced with a newly designed trophy.

Keselowski gets another THUMBS-UP for that brilliant race winning move where he dived low in turn one to create a three wide situation that garnered him the race lead for good. Let's give him yet another THUMBS-UP for controlling his car on the final lap after receiving a chrome horn from second place finisher Kyle Busch.


However, having said all of that, WHAT'S-UP with some of that overly aggressive driving during the race? This is especially true after he rammed Carl Edwards and triggered a wreck. There has already been post race chatter that says Keselowski doesn't want to be bringing that level of on track aggression to the Sprint Cup when he joins his new team at Penske Racing next year. But, then again, maybe Cup racing needs a little more aggression.

THUMBS-UP for the invention of the SAFER barriers often referred to as Soft Walls. It prevented driver Eric McClure from sustaining serious injury following a lap 163 wreck that saw his Ford crash head on into the wall. The driver was taken to a local hospital as a precautionary measure. It was reported that he had a left foot bone bruise and ankle sprain but thankfully no broken bones.

THUMBS-UP to series veteran Mike Bliss for his strong run in the Memphis race and his fourth place finish which moves him up to sixth in the series" point standings. This is a guy who doesn't have a full time ride and has been climbing in any seat he can in an effort to keep himself in the top ten of the points. It's amazing someone hasn't offered this man a full time contract yet.

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Meanwhile back in Martinsville-Virginia last Saturday another home town hero was setting a personal milestone. THUMBS-UP to young Timothy Peters for scoring his first ever NASCAR national win. Peters, who lives just down the freeway from the race track, won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' Kroger 200. It was the first win for his team, Red Horse Racing, since 2006.

THUMBS-UP to crew chief Chad Kendrick who also won his first major NASCAR event. The nervous chief, who was actually seen on live television making the sign of the cross during the final laps, later said "I've never had a feeling like this other than the time when I met my wife."

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The final WHAT'S-UP of the week goes to the ESPN2 Network's "NASCAR Now" program who last week did some live interviews from the North Carolina shop of Richard Childress Racing. RCR was celebrating their 40th anniversary in the sport and opened the facility up to the fans. Making the special day even nicer was the fact that all proceeds from the events were being donated to the Childress Institute For Pediatric Trauma.

Right in the middle of a live television interview show host Nicole Manske made a highly inappropriate move by steering the direction of the questions to the disappointing performance levels of the four RCR race teams and the recent loss of primary sponsor Jack Daniels that could force them to shut down their fourth team and release driver Casey Mears. Childress answered the questions as quickly as possible and it was apparent he was not pleased with the new direction of the interview.

Following a commercial break the show returned to the RCR shop for a live interview with drivers Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer who were apparently warned to expect the inappropriate line of questions. The always candid Burton abruptly answered the questions and desperately tried to change the subject. Bowyer didn't seem to want to talk at all. In fact, before Manske could finish thanking them for their time Bowyer was already removing his audio ear piece and was leaving his chair.

This interview ambush was way out of line. This was a day to honor the legacy of Childress' 40 years in NASCAR. It was a time to reminisce and share funny antidotes for the many successful seasons. It was a time to salute RCR for their contributions to the sport. It was also time to support a very important charity. ESPN2 and "NASCAR Now" should be very embarrassed over this interview.

Relative to this story is the final THUMBS-UP of the week which goes to the NASCAR Foundation who donated $100,000 to the Childress Institute For Pediatric Trauma.

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