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NASCAR Homestead postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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A NASCAR dynasty - Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports and the Lowe's Chevy.
I've never really cared for dynasties in professional sports. I certainly didn't like it when the New York Yankees won all of those World Series year after year. At the middle of NASCAR's 2009 Chase For The Championship I was beginning to have that same feeling regarding the prospect of Jimmie Johnson winning the title for the fourth consecutive year.

But it was the race at the Texas Motor Speedway that made me change my mind. Following the now well discussed crash on lap three during that race, I watched Johnson's team rebuild a badly damaged race car in a little over one hour. Afterwards I learned that the team has actually practiced the procedure in case they did have a crash during the Chase. Only a championship caliber team is that thorough.

So let's begin with a quadruple THUMBS-UP to driver Jimmie Johnson and his Chad Knaus led team. That's one THUMBS-UP for each of the four titles they have won in four years.

THUMBS-UP to Hendrick Motorsports for finishing one-two-three in the 2009 Chase while collecting their ninth team championship. This amazing organization is now officially regarded as one of the most efficient in major American professional sports. They've won nine NASCAR Sprint Cup championships since their 1984 inception and that computes to a title winning percentage of 34.6.This team has also won 188 Sprint Cup races since 1984 and that averages to seven wins per year. This season the Hendrick teams had a combined 13 trips to victory lane.

THUMBS-UP to Jimmie Johnson's dad, Gary, who wore a cap with the "Superman" logo on it during the champion's presentation.


THUMBS-UP to General Motors who won their 33d NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

Next we have an item that is neither a THUMBS-UP or a WHAT'S-UP. It's a GOD BLESS. Team owner Rick Hendrick wasn't at the Homestead Miami Speedway to enjoy his latest championship. His strong sense of family kept him in North Carolina where he maintained a vigil over his young niece. 29 year old Alesha Gainey is in a hospital undergoing an emergency liver transplant. Let's all send her good thoughts in hopes that the young lady will make a speedy recover as well as a return to a happy and healthy life.

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Oh, by the way, there was a winning driver at the conclusion of Sunday's Ford 400. THUMBS-UP to Denny Hamlin who won his fourth race of the season, and his eighth career win, by a margin of 2.6 seconds. The combination of Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford had some very strong moments this year and the Joe Gibbs Racing team is already being touted as major championship contenders next year.

Another THUMBS-UP goes out to Hamlin's pit crew for their performance. The team's second pit stop was under 13 seconds.

THUMBS-UP to Richard Childress Racing for a most impressive end of the season comeback. This is especially true of the suddenly red hot Jeff Burton who finished second in Sunday's race. Team mate Kevin Harvick had one his best runs in quite some time with a third place finish. It's no secret that the performance of the Childress teams has been a mystery all year long. But from what we've seen lately, especially from Burton, it appears that the situation may be on the upswing.

WHAT'S-UP with that 40 MPH multi car pile up on pit road? The damage on Elliot Sadler's car was so severe he wound up in the garage area.

WHAT'S-UP with a call for two tires only for Kurt Busch's Dodge during the final pit stop of the race? No one, from the driver to the ABC Sports broadcast team, could believe it. The following day on the Speed Channel driver Greg Biffle made an interesting observation and pointed out that the stop required a full load of fuel to finish the race. It's well known that you can easily change four tires in the time it takes to pack the car completely full of fuel. But we do need to be completely fair and give the team a THUMBS-UP for making a decision, that no one believed in, work. Busch drove the car to a fourth place finish.

We all know that Busch and crew chief Pat Tryson will be parting ways. Tryson moves on to a new job with Michael Waltrip Racing and driver Martin Truex Jr. It's understandable that Busch got upset with the two tire call, but WHAT'S-UP with him blasting Tryson in a post race interview? Busch said "hey I'm throwing him under the bus because we don't have him anymore and we're looking for a new crew chief."

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THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch for wrapping up his first NASCAR championship, in the Nationwide Series, by winning Saturday's Ford 300 in a very convincing manner. In the process he managed to establish series records that are going to be very tough to top in the years to come.

Let's send a somewhat awkward THUMBS-UP to Denny Hamlin for being a man of his word. It's very widely known that Hamlin and driver Brad Keselowski have not been getting along lately. The latest round of the feud was launched at the Phoenix race when Keselowski spun Hamlin who swore he would get revenge during the Homestead Miami Speedway event. Hamlin did exactly that and spun his rival.

But WHAT'S-UP with these two drivers and their on track acts of retaliation? It's extremely dangerous and it's a miracle that a large, and possibly bad, wreck wasn't launched during these two races. It's certain that the other drivers, in the vicinity of those two intentional spin outs, didn't appreciate being put in that precarious position.

THUMBS-UP to NASCAR officials for ordering Hamlin to report to pit road for a one lap penalty. But, at the same time, WHAT'S-UP with NASCAR not taking a similar action during the Phoenix race? A quick and decisive punishment could have prevented another on track intentional altercation the following week.

Live television interviews from the garage area is a perfect place for a driver feud and that leads to a THUMBS-UP to both drivers for some delightful sound bites that were entertaining. Another THUMBS-UP goes to crew members from other teams, many of which are not that thrilled with Keselowski's aggressive driving tactics, who were seen clapping their hands and giving Hamlin a thumbs up when he came down pit road to serve his one lap penalty. Now that was a fun television moment.

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Finally this week a THUMBS-UP goes to Kevin Harvick Inc who had an outstanding week in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. That seven days of good fortune began in Phoenix when Harvick won the truck race and his driver Ron Hornaday Jr wrapped up the series' championship a week early. A week later, at the Homestead Miami Speedway, Harvick also won that truck race while Hornaday's finish helped KHI win the series' owner's championship. That a tremendous accomplishment within the same week.

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