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NASCAR Fontana postscript - 2

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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Kevin Harvick leads but note the 4-wide racing behind him
During the course of the previous weekend we saw proof that the Auto Club Speedway can produce some good racing despite long standing criticisms to the contrary. We watched a championship team prove that they are both lucky and good and we watched another team return to their proper status. We even got treated to a "Spiderman" move on pit road. With those thoughts in mind, let begin with:

THUMB's-UP for the NASCAR weekend at the Auto Club Speedway and the quality racing in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. Three, and even in some cases four, wide racing was seen all weekend long. The extremely close finishes for both events had the fans on their feet screaming out loud. It was absolute proof that this speedway can produce some good racing.

So, what's the difference between this particular weekend and the others from years gone by? It appeared to be NASCAR's double file, shootout style, restart policy. Those restarts were simply awesome. Again we send NASCAR another THUMB's-UP for implementing this policy. It's turned out to be one of their better ideas.

Another THUMB's-UP goes out to MRN, Motor Racing Network, who, during their live broadcast of the Auto Club 500, reminded us that "racing is in the eye of the beholder." The MRN broadcast was patched into the track's public address system for the fans to enjoy. MRN acknowledged that the race leaders have a tendency to get a little strung out during an Auto Club Speedway event and invited the fans to take a close loose at the mid pack racing, from positions ten to 20th, where the on track action was consistently door to door and three wide.

THUMB's-UP to Auto Club 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, and his #48 team, for padding their already impressive statistics at this speedway. It's been well documented that Johnson and company were the beneficiaries of two separate acts of good luck. The first was escaping the situation of getting caught in the pits when the caution flag came out. The second piece of luck came in the final laps of the race when a hard charging Kevin Harvick brushed the wall while trying to take the win away. The fact of the matter is this team is very well trained and knows how to capitalize on good luck circumstances. On pit road a very calm crew chief, Chad Knaus, guided his team through the pit stop and their performance was a huge factor in keeping their driver from losing a lap on pit road. During the final laps of the race Johnson knew that Harvick's car was very strong on the outside line. He moved up there and eliminated some air from the nose of Harvick's car. That cause Harvick's Chevrolet to wiggle just a little and led to the brush with the wall.

But the element of luck in this race does lead to a THUMB's-UP for the best NASCAR themed "Twitter" of the week which stated: "that #48 team has a golden horseshoe up their butts."

WHAT's-UP with the horrible luck Ryan Newman and his Stewart Haas Racing team seems to be enduring? So far this year there's been a crash followed by a blown engine in California. At this writing the team is actually outside of the top 35 in owner's points which will guarantee a start in a Sprint Cup race when the 2010 points becomes effective after race number five.

THUMB's-UP to the performance of Richard Childress Racing in the Auto Club 500. Drivers Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer finished second, third and eighth in the race. All three teams are now in the top five of the championship points standings. That quite a turn around when you consider this organization had no wins and no top five finishes in 2009. It's probably too early to say this team is back but their progress so far has been quite good.

WHAT's-UP with that horrible Sunday afternoon spent by Dale Earnhardt Jr? The momentum of his second place finish in the Daytona 500 was completely wiped out one week later in California. An ill handling car kept him mired down in the middle of the pack. That was followed by a broken axle which left him 12 laps down with a 32nd place finish. The car had to be taken to the garage area because the team discovered they didn't have an extra axle in the pit road equipment box.

That leads to a WHAT's-UP with Hendrick Motorsports having to deal with broken axles for the second race in a row? Jimmie Johnson had the same problem during the Daytona 500.

THUMB's-UP to Adam Mosser, the tire changer for driver Jamie McMurray's team, who did an amazing "Spiderman" leap to avoid being run over by Kevin Harvick's car on pit road. The crew member was in the midst of a four tire stop. He changed the right rear tire and, in the process of running to the car's left side, found himself directly in front of Harvick's car who was leaving his pit stall. Mosser put his foot on the nose of the Harvick car and used it as a launching pad to jump over the Chevrolet.

However, WHAT's-UP with the McMurray team being assessed a penalty for their tire rolling out of the pit box? Prior to leaping to safety over the Harvick car, Mosser dropped the tire he was carrying and it rolled out onto the traffic area of pit road. To be completely fair, the rules clearly say that this is a penalty situation. The problem here lies in the fact that the rule has no provisions for rare occurrences such as what happened in this case.

THUMB's-UP to Kyle Busch for literally stealing a win on the final lap of the NASCAR Nationwide Series' Stater Brothers 300. Busch and Greg Biffle conducted a stunning door to door run to the checkers with Busch pulling ahead by the smallest of margins . Another THUMB's-UP goes to Biffle who went to victory lane to say congratulations and let Busch know how much fun he had racing that hard with him.

Finally we have a WHAT's-UP for a race fan who decided to create a brand new definition of tagging the front stretch wall at the Auto Club Speedway. Someone took a black Sharpie pen and drew a target on the wall. Adjacent to the target was the following message:

"$1,000 REWARD 4 PUTTING KYLE BUSCH RIGHT HERE"

Whomever did this deserves a WHAT's-UP for defacing private property. Yours truly also deserves a WHAT's-UP because I'm still laughing about it.

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