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NASCAR Texas postscript

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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Denny Hamlin
NASCAR spent the previous weekend in the state of Texas where everything there is bigger. That includes the rain which kept the race teams there until late Monday evening. There was also Texas sized drama during the course of running two major NASCAR events on the same day.

A young driver proved he had Texas sized heart that allowed him overcome the pain of an injury to win the race. We saw a happy team owner smiling underneath a cowboy hat because his organization had a Texas sized weekend.

Then we witnessed the makings of an alleged feud between two of NASCAR's biggest superstars that quite frankly has the texture of a Texas sized cow pattie. With all that in mind, let's begin this week with:

THUMBS-UP to Denny Hamlin for winning the Samsung Mobile 500 over the course of a long Monday afternoon while pretending he didn't feel the discomfort in his knee from his recent ACL surgery. Hamlin led the final 12 laps of the event to take his second series win of the season as well as his tenth career win. He very carefully exited the car in victory lane and you could clearly see the pain in his eyes from a swollen knee that simply would not bend. However earning the right to stand in the Texas Motor Speedway's victory lane wearing a cowboy hat and firing off a pair of six shooters has got to be pretty good medicine for any malady.

THUMBS-UP to Joe Gibbs Racing, JGR, for their Texas sized Monday afternoon. In addition to Hamlin winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race, driver Kyle Busch finished third and then won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race later that afternoon. The third JGR driver, Joey Logano, got caught up in that late race multi car crash during the Cup race and finished 28th, four laps down. However, Logano was a huge player in the Nationwide Series event and finished second behind his team mate. All in all JGR left the state of Texas Monday night with $1,039,766 in combined purse money. By the way, all of this came after Coach Joe Gibbs was inducted into the Texas Motorsport Hall Of Fame on Friday evening.

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WHAT's-UP with that multi car crash that red flagged this race for approximately 20 minutes with 17 laps left in the event? The crash seriously damaged nine cars who were well on the way to a strong top ten finish . That included Jeff Gordon who had a very stout ride capable of winning the race. This was of course a racing deal featuring hard charging drivers looking to charge to the front in the final laps of the race. To a certain extent a wreck like this was even expected.

Having said that, a THUMBS-UP goes out to drivers Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards who took responsibility for this crash during a live radio on PRN after the race.

THUMBS-UP to Jimmie Johnson for a very strong second place run that made the end of this race very exciting. Johnson had to come back from a cut tire that placed him a lap down. But in the final ten laps of this race he took off after race winner Denny Hamlin and literally ran him down before the laps ran out. There were moments during this run when Johnson's car looked like it was on a dirt track. Many observers said that if this race had been two laps longer he would have passed Hamlin for the win.

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Now let's get to a major WHAT's-UP over all of this commentary regarding a feud between Jimmie Johnson and his team mate/car owner Jeff Gordon. Yes, there were a few bump and run moments during the Texas race between these two drivers, Yes, both drivers complained about each other over their in car radios. Yes, Jeff Gordon hasn't won a race in a year now and he's getting plenty antsy.

That doesn't mean the team mates are no longer reading from the same page and are now mortal enemies. What I saw was old school Jeff Gordon last Monday. The guy who charged his way to victory lane and turned that into four championships. He said he treats everyone the same on the race track and I believe that. Gordon seems to be on fire again and we the fans are going to benefit from watching it.

Johnson pointed out that there has been moments between them in the past and they made quick work of talking their way through it. He also made it clear that they will not be playing any future talks in front of the media. Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief, probably put it best when he said "if they weren't passionate about what they do we wouldn't want them."

Let's not go crazy here looking for a feud or an act of retaliation next Sunday. We all have better things to pay attention to such as a restrictor plate race at Talladega.

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THUMBS-UP to the Junior Nation fans who must have been thrilled watching their guy Dale Earnhardt Jr during the Texas Cup race. Earnhardt led the race seven times, for a total of 46, and finished eighth in the final rundown in a car that was clearly loose. NASCAR's most popular driver is currently seventh in the championship standings and the Junior Nation must be in a celebration mode.

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THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch for another stellar performance during Monday evening's O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. It was his third series win of the season. More important was the fact that it was Busch's fifth consecutive Nationwide Series win at the Texas Motor Speedway and that feat places him in some very distinguished company with two legendary drivers. Only Dale Earnhardt and Jack Ingram has won five consecutive Nationwide races at the same track.

Busch came under the checkers in front of his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Joey Logano by the mere margin of 0.688 seconds. The two Gibbs drivers combined led 186 of a 200 lap race. The win also elevates Busch to the top of the championship standings. Now there's garage talk that says Joe Gibbs Racing may be rethinking their position on letting Busch run both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series schedules full time.

THUMBS-UP for the 14 double duty drivers who found themselves racing 800 miles in both events due to the rainy weather. These drivers had very little time between races to bulk up with some food and drink before the Nationwide Series race started. By the way Joey Logano swears by pasta and a cheeseburger to refuel his energy levels.

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THUMBS-UP to the 14 teams who raced out of Texas Monday night to participate in a two day tire test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that began on Tuesday morning.

THUMBS-UP to an estimated 92,000 fans who stayed to Monday to watch both races. THUMBS-UP to Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage and company who allowed fans with Saturday only Nationwide Series tickets to join the fun on Monday and take in the Cup race as well.

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WHAT's-UP with Fox Sports and their unbelievably lengthy pre race show on Sunday? I get that it was raining and they had time to fill, but how many interviews regarding Kasey Kahne's move to Hendrick Motorsports could we possibly sit through?

But you know a television network is getting desperate to fill a rain period when they present fun facts regarding a speedway jet dryer. In case you missed it, and are now curious, here they are:

There are eight Service Master Clean Jet Dryers at the Texas Motor Speedway.

The Jet Dryers can operate for 50 minutes on a full tank of fuel.

It takes approximately 150 minutes to dry a 1.5 mile track after a significant rain fall.

175 gallons of fuel are needed to fill the tank of a Jet Dryer.

There are 4,500 Service Master franchises worldwide.

20,000 gallons of jet fuel are available on the premises of the Texas Motor Speedway for use in a drying effort.

In all fairness, these facts were actually rather interesting. Thank you Service Master for sharing the facts and entertaining us during the rain.

Once the decision to postpone the race until Monday was announced, Fox Sports vacated the air waves. Those of us who dwell out here on the "left coast" were treated to reruns of the crime drama "Cops". It was almost like an act of mercy.

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The final THUMBS-UP of the week goes to A J Allmendinger, driver of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. In a live radio interview, during a rainy Texas Friday afternoon, Allmendinger was asked the inevitable question regarding the departure of Kasey Kahne. Without a second's hesitation, he replied "oh, is something going on at Richard Petty Motorsports I haven't heard about?" Yet another reason why we all love "the Dinger."

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The final WHAT's-UP of the week goes to the Sprint Cup teams of Max Papis, #13 Toyota, and Marcus Ambrose, #47 Toyota, both of which are built by Michael Waltrip Racing. It seems that both teams had the radiator pans from their cars confiscated following a post qualifying inspection last Friday. NASCAR officials referred to the radiator pans as "unapproved ballast weight mounting." In other words, the pans somehow added some extra weight to the cars.

These radiator pans are approximately one-eighth of an inch thick, are constructed out of aluminum and reportedly weigh virtually nothing more than just a couple of pounds. However last Friday the radiator pan on the Max Papis car weighed in at a whopping 45.2 pounds. The pan on the Ambrose car was 25.7 pounds. That's actually pretty easy to do when you attach steel plates to them. A penalty announcement could be coming at a later date.

Now here's the really interesting part of this story. Frank Kerr, crew chief for the #47 team, claims they have been using that very same radiator pan since the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the Auto Club Speedway last February. Kerr also alleges that last February he asked NASCAR if the radiator pan was okay and claims he was told they replied "it's a little on the edge, but it's okay."

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