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NASCAR Richmond Postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, May 03, 2010

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Busch drives away from everyone on restart
Over the previous weekend we watched Kyle Busch steal a NASCAR Sprint Cup win from Jeff Gordon. We watch Bad Brad Keselowski steal a Richmond NASCAR Nationwide Series race from Greg Biffle. Meanwhile in Kansas we watched Johnny Sauter win the NASCAR Camping World Series Truck race that featured synchronized spinning in the final laps of the event. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP for a stellar performance by Kyle Busch after winning Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at the Richmond International Raceway. Busch dominated the Crown Royal Presents the Heath Calhoun 400 and led a race high total of 226 laps on the way to his first win of the season and his 17 career win. An additional THUMBS-UP goes out to crew chief Dave Rogers for calling a good race while scoring his first ever Sprint Cup win.

Despite a dominant performance Busch still had to steal the win in the final five laps from Jeff Gordon who came on strong leading 144 laps. Once again it appeared that Gordon was the driver with the car to win only to come up short once again. The final caution flag, due to Sam Hornish crashing on the backstretch, set up the five lap shoot out with Gordon and Busch placed on the front row for the double wide restart. Busch did a masterful job of out gunning Gordon coming off of turn two and that was the winning edge.

But Gordon deserves a THUMBS-UP for maintaining such as positive attitude after the race was over. He's been a major player in seven of the last ten races. This is the third time this season that he felt he should have been the race winner. Events at Martinsville, Phoenix and now Richmond were his for the taking only to somehow get snake bit. Instead of being angry, Gordon praised his team after the race for once again providing him with a strong car and felt like it was just a short matter of time before they end that current 39 race win less streak. The on track aggressive Jeff Gordon, that led to all of his wins and four championships, is back and he's going to be entertaining in the months ahead.

Kyle Busch gets another THUMBS-UP for accomplishing so much during a birthday weekend. He set the fast time in qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race and finished fourth in the race. Then he won the pole position and the race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Saturday. Busch spent Sunday, the actual date of his 25th birthday, watching the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from Kansas on television where driver Brian Ickler finished a strong fourth in the Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra. That's not a bad birthday weekend.

WHAT’S-UP with Jimmie Johnson who found himself dealing with an unusual amount of frustration for the second weekend in a row? All season long his supporters called this driver and his team the best in the business. His critics called them the luckiest team in the business. His fellow competitor Kevin Harvick even went so far to suggest that Johnson had a golden horseshoe up his backside.

The long night in Richmond began with an early race pit stop that was so bad it cost the driver a ton of track position. That was followed by an ill handling race car that even the wisdom of super crew chief Chad Knaus couldn't correct. Adding insult to injury, Johnson had contact with Clint Boywer and went spinning under the checkers, and into the infield grass, at the end of the race. Despite all of this the team still managed a tenth place finish so maybe the luck hasn't completely ran out. However he did fall to second in the championship standings. Kevin Harvick returns to the top of the standings with a ten point advantage over Johnson.

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Keselowski does it again
In a very interesting comparison THUMBS-UP to Brad Keselowski who dominated the majority of the Bubba Burger 250. It was Keselowski's second win of 2010, his second consecutive win and his eighth career win. He led a race high 189 laps and now has a 59 point lead over Kevin Harvick in the series' championship standings.

The drama level increased in this race with only six laps left when the yellow flag came out when Paul Menard hit the wall. That totally eradicated Keselowski's two second lead. The leaders came in for a final stop for tires prior to the green white checker finish. That leads to a WHAT’S-UP to Kyle Busch for over riding crew chief Jason Ratcliff prior to coming onto pit road. The chief wanted a four tire change while the driver insisted on two tires. On the ensuing restart Busch was quickly eliminated from victory lane. He later admitted that he was wrong for over riding the chief's tire call.

On the opposite extreme Keselowski informed his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, that he was coming down pit road for tires. Both men agreed on a four tire stop, while the other front runners changed two, and that proved to be the winning edge. They deserve another THUMBS-UP for that call even though they had to restart in the second row.

THUMBS-UP to Greg Biffle for that amazing low line move on the restart that had everyone in the grandstands jumping up and down. Biffle, and his Baker Curb Racing Ford, went from fifth to the lead due to some amazing driving. Unfortunately Keselowski's four tires overtook Biffle on the final lap for the win.

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THUMBS-UP to Johnny Sauter for winning Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, race at the Kansas Speedway. It was his second career series win.

A triple THUMBS-UP goes out to Sauter and reigning series champion Ron Hornaday Jr for some magnificent driving that prevented a major crash in the final laps of the race. With only 12 laps remaining in the race the two drivers were racing hard for the win. Hornaday's truck got loose and there was contact between the two vehicles. They went into a 45 degree slide through turns three and four with Sauter's truck grazing the wall. It was almost like the two spinning trucks were synchronized. What was the making of a sure fire crash, with both drivers handing the win to a third party on a silver platter, turned into a driving clinic. Both drivers saved their trucks with a move that only a veteran would make. Unfortunately, Hornaday burned up the rear right side tire on his truck was unable to catch Sauther to make another run for the win.

Sauter gets another THUMBS-UP for a great one liner in victory lane. After looking at the video of the synchronized spin he said "hey, maybe I'm the man."

Another THUMBS-UP goes out to the members of Sauter's Thor Sport Racing team who smeared their driver in the face with a giant cake. Saturday was Sauter's 32nd birthday.

The race was red flagged due to the emergence of thunder, lightning, heavy rain and hail the size of lug nuts. Team spotters and television cameramen had to evacuate the top of the building due to the lightning. At least Dorothy's farm house didn't fly away to the land of Oz. However SPEED Channel's Ray Dunlap gets a WHAT’S-UP for the worst impersonation of actor/dancer Gene Kelly we've ever seen. Dunlap went skipping down pit road while carrying an umbrella just like Kelly did in the classic film "Singing In The Rain."

Realizing the storm was coming, and the race was past the halfway point, Ron Hornaday Jr charged into the lead and then came on the radio and asked his team to inform NASCAR that he was seeing rain drops in turns one and two. That leads to a THUMBS-UP for a great one liner by Michael Waltrip who, from the SPEED Channel's broadcast booth, said "I'm sure the 33, (Hornaday's truck number), is saying there's a monsoon in turns one and two."

On the topic of the rain in Kansas, THUMBS-UP to the SPEED Channel for airing an episode of "Sounds Of NASCAR" during the red flag delay. It was a far better choice than those endless stream of interview with drivers standing under umbrellas giving the same answers to the same questions. Presenting a mini documentary on the role of NASCAR spotters was by far more interesting.

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The final THUMBS-UP of the week also goes to the SPEED Channel for the quality of their NASCAR Hall Of Fame documentaries. Last Friday's biographical piece on NASCAR legend Junior Johnson was outstanding. For old school NASCAR fans, those of us who are 50 plus years old, it brought back a lot of fond memories. It's also an important tool for younger fans of the sport to understand how NASCAR evolved over the years and who helped that process along.

The final WHAT’S-UP of the week goes to "The National Enquirer" for their recent piece on Dale Earnhardt Jr. It seems that the tabloid thinks that Earnhardt is responsible for the breaking up of a married couple. The article goes on to claim that he retained the services of interior designer Amy Reimann and they have been seeing each other as often as possible despite the fact that she's married to Tommy Cook who is the Assistant Defensive Line Coach for the University of Kentucky football team.

Is this a story that is worthy of any amount of printer's ink? Probably not.

Do I need to state an opinion on this story? No, it's actually none of my business.

Then why even mention it here? I never miss an opportunity to do a smack down on tabloid journalism.

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