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NASCAR Las Vegas Postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, March 01, 2010

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Jeff Gordon (L) and Steve Letarte.  Letarte's dumb call to take only 2 tires on the final pitstop cost Gordon the race he completely dominated
During the course of the previous NASCAR weekend in Las Vegas we learned a valuable lesson regarding two tires versus four tires and we learned what is required to make Kevin "Happy" Harvick happy again. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

Did you hear that unusual sound that followed the conclusion of the Shelby American 400? It was an rather odd sound associated with someone walking. It sounded something like "walk walk-whoomp, walk walk-whoomp." It turned out to be the sound of Jeff Gordon's crew chief, Steve Letarte, kicking himself in the butt all the way to the team's car hauler.

WHAT'S-UP with the Jeff Gordon's team only taking two tires, instead of the highly recommended four tires, during the final pit stop of this race? If there's one thing that we've learned from all of these years of watching NASCAR broadcasts it's "four tires will beat two every time." That was the scenario that allowed Jimmie Johnson to overtake his team mate and steal his second victory in a row. It also allowed Kevin Harvick to take second away from Gordon late in the race. In their defense, Gordon and Letarte guessed wrong on pit road. They truly thought the other teams who followed them down pit road were also there for a two tire stop.

However, in all fairness, we need to send a THUMBS-UP to Gordon and company for a dominant performance that reminded us of days gone by. Gordon led 219 of the 267 laps but it was, again, that two tire call that cost him this race with only 16 laps to go.


Of course a THUMBS-UP goes out to Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports #48 team for yet another championship caliber performance. The Las Vegas trip to victory lane was Johnson's 49th career win, his second win of 2010, his second win in a row and his fourth win at Las Vegas. Johnson has now won at least two races every year since his first full time Sprint Cup season back in 2002.

THUMBS-UP for that professional wrestling style championship belt the speedway presented to the race winner. There's no truth to the rumor that states Johnson is going to defend his title at "Wrestlemania."

THUMBS-UP for Hendrick Motorsports for placing three cars, Johnson-Gordon and Mark Martin in the top five of the final finish.

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But WHAT'S-UP with that Hendrick fourth team? During practice sessions prior to Sunday's race, Dale Earnhardt Jr turned in some highly impressive lap times and then set the fourth fastest time in qualifying. The Junior Nation was practically salivating while anticipating what could happen on Sunday. But during the race Fox Sports treated us to some in car radio transmissions between Earnhardt and crew chief Lance McGrew. It was apparent there was trouble in the communications area between the two. It was also shades of that horrible 2009 season this team endured.

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WHAT'S-UP with team mates taking each other out during lap 94 of this race? Can you imagine the dismay of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing when they realized that an on track altercation took out both Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya? That same incident also killed any chances of Las Vegas native Kurt Busch winning in front of his home town crowd.

A THUMBS-UP goes out to McMurray here for manning up and accepting responsibility for the crash. That, however, did not seem to appease a distraught Montoya who, in a live television interview, said "I know he's trying to prove a point that he knows how to drive a race car."

Actually many think that McMurray proved that point after winning the Daytona 500. When asked to comment on what his team mate said, McMurray stated "don't put too much stock into it. Typically, most people don't have anything nice to say after a crash"

Speaking of Juan Pablo Montoya, WHAT'S-UP with those funky white sunglasses he's been wearing lately? They reminded me of Elton John, live in concert, circa 1972.

Was the ghost of Elvis having a little fun during the Las Vegas race? WHAT'S-UP with two electronic malfunctions in the speedway's on track caution lights that created two mysterious yellow flags during this race? When the yellow caution lights come on, without someone turning on the switch, then there's something really spooky going on.

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THUMBS-UP to Kevin Harvick for winning Saturday's Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. The event was Harvick's 35th series win and his second at Las Vegas even though there were moments on pit road that had Harvick's Las Vegas evening literally heading for the pits.

Having said that, WHAT'S-UP with the overall performance of Harvick's pit crew. Two incredibly bad stops in a row caused him to lose a ton of track position and he had to repeatedly drive his heart out to get the team back into position for the eventual win. At one point a very angry driver, and team owner, came on his radio and yelled "you guys look like a bunch of idiots on pit road." On his way to victory lane a somewhat subdued Harvick came back on his radio and said "we've got to work on the pit road situation, but the car was a bullet."

WHAT'S-UP with Dale Earnhardt Jr, and his JR Motorsports Nationwide teams, who endured their second expensive weekend in the last three races? The team left Daytona and Las Vegas with two seriously damaged race cars. The company expense account started its growth process on lap seven when Kelly Bires slammed into the wall. The process escalated on lap 85 when fan and media darling Danica Patrick found herself involved in the middle of a collision with driver Michael McDowell.

THUMBS-UP to Michael McDowell for manning up and taking responsibility for the collision with Patrick. He made it a point to find her in the garage and apologize. He echoed those sentiments during a television interview and then added "Danica fans I'm sorry, Junior Nation people please don't hate me."

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Finally this week here's a series of THUMBS-UPS for some deep thoughts and one line comments heard during NASCAR Las Vegas weekend.

We're all aware that Danica Patrick will be taking a hiatus from her transition to NASCAR to prepare for the opening of the IZOD Indy Racing League season. Patrick's NASCAR training program has been all about seat time and logging laps but her next NASCAR race won't be until June. That leads to a THUMBS-UP to her crew chief, Tony Eury Jr, who during a practice session last Friday said "I'm going to have her run laps until her tongue hangs out."

With Patrick going on her hiatus that prompted my long time racing buddy, Six Pack Eddie, to call in to remind me that this means that Kasey Kahne is once again the prettiest person in a NASCAR garage.

A THUMBS-UP goes out for this observation from Fox Sports' Chris Meyers who said "Jeff Gordon said his car was stupid tight. I thought he was talking about me tipping the door man at the Bellagio Hotel."

This week's THUMBS-UP for the best NASCAR themed "Twitter" goes to the always fun Michael Waltrip who wrote "my friend said he kept getting parking tickets so he took his windshield wipers off."

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