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NASCAR Brickyard 400 postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

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Over the previous weekend all three of NASCAR's national touring series were racing in the state of Indiana. The weekend featured many inspiring moments. We watched a popular team owner, and his winning driver, achieve an extremely difficult milestone. We watched two drivers prove that they really can get along if the right motivation is in place. We heard from a NASCAR veteran who dispelled comments that said his championship run is over. We also heard inspiring announcements that updated NASCAR's latest baby boom. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Jamie McMurray for a job well done that placed him in victory lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after winning Sunday's Brickyard 400. McMurray's second win of the season places him in some very prestigious company. Only two other drivers, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jarrett, has won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, two of NASCAR's crown jewels, in the same year.

Chip Ganassi and his crew celebrate
THUMBS-UP to team owner Chip Ganassi, of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing presented by Felix Sabates, for also celebrating an amazing milestone last Sunday. Ganassi is the only team owner to win the trifecta of American motorsports. In February he and McMurray won the Daytona 500. In may Ganassi's Indy Racing League team, with driver Dario Franchitti, won the Indianapolis 500. Then, last Sunday, Ganassi returned to the Indy victory lane after McMurray won the Brickyard 400. By the way, while Ganassi was celebrating with McMurray, his Indy Racing League team, with driver Scott Dixon won the IRL race in Alberta, Canada. To win this trifecta within the scope of a career is difficult. To win all three of these crown jewel events in the same season is simply astounding.

Juan Montoya's tore up Chevy
WHAT'S-UP with Juan Pablo Montoya's bad luck during the Brickyard 400? The second Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was heavily favored to win this race and be the one to give his boss the trifecta. Montoya dominated this event last year only to have the opportunity to win taken away by a pit road speeding penalty. This year Montoya and his domination was back. He was strong in practice, qualifying and led 86 of 160 laps in Sunday's race.

But the effort all unraveled at lap 140 when a caution flag for debris eradicated the 3.7 second lead Montoya was enjoying at this point in the race. When the leaders came into the pits for their final stops, Montoya and Greg Biffle opted to take four tires while everyone else in the top ten chose a two tire stop. This turned out to be a disaster for Montoya. He restarted seventh and discovered that his car had a reaction to the dirty air that comes with being in race traffic. In an effort to get back to the lead, Montoya lost control of his car, with 15 laps to go, hit the turn four wall and collected Dale Earnhardt Jr in the process. An apparent win quickly turned into a 32nd place finish for Montoya.

Does the team deserve a WHAT'S-UP for choosing four tires over two? Absolutely not. The general rule in NASCAR racing often dictates four tires are better than two anytime. All week long we heard television sound bites from crew chiefs who felt four tire stops were mandatory for this race.

Having said that, crew chief Brian Pattie deserves a THUMBS-UP for openly taking the blame for calling the four tire stop for Montoya. He actually has nothing to apologize for. Again, all the indicators said it was a good call. Sometimes the "that's racing" element kicks in and bites you when you least expect it. Here's hoping that Montoya made quick work in realizing that.

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WHAT'S-UP with the handling of Jimmie Johnson's #48 Chevrolet? Frankly, the U.S. Army has tanks that handles better than Johnson's car did at any point in this race. Normally this team makes very quick work of coming up with adjustments to improve handling woes. But in this case nothing seemed to work.

With 44 laps left, and the race under caution, crew chief Chad Knaus made a bold call and decided to change the front end shock absorbers on pit road. The Lowes #48 team gets a THUMBS-UP for performing this task is such quick fashion. With Knaus watching the presence of the pace car, the team came very close to keeping their driver on the lead lap of the race. They were returning the hood pins in place when the pace car passed them. Knaus sat there on the pit box with the left side of his face in the palm of his hand. It was one of the few times we've seen that look of defeat on his face.

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THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch for winning the Kroger 200, NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Saturday night at the O'Reilly Raceway Park. Busch held off a hard charging Carl Edwards during a green-white-checker finish to claim his eighth win of the season and his 38th series win. It was also his fifth win in his last six starts. He remains fourth in the series' championship points standings despite the fact that he's not running a full time schedule.

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THUMBS-UP to Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski for proving last Saturday night that they can co exist with each other even on a short track like ORP where bumper banging is more the norm than the exception. There was a moment there when Keselowski came perilously close to the bumper of Edwards' car but he backed out and gave his rival room.

Edwards gets a THUMBS-UP for a pre race press conference where he acknowledged the fact that the Gateway race incident, which placed both him and Keselowski on NASCAR probation for the remainder of the year, heavily impacted a lot of cars, drivers and team owners. He profusely apologized to them.

WHAT'S-UP with the ESPN and SPEED television networks beating the Edwards versus Keselowski rivalry to death even after NASCAR had issued penalties impacting both drivers? The networks aired the video from the final lap of the Gateway race so many times last week we practically were able to memorize the off track sound bites. Anyone who truly believed that these two drivers were going to mess with each other a matter of days after being placed on probation were seriously misled.

Edwards gets yet another THUMBS-UP for a very funny line overheard from his in car radio prior to the start of the Kroger 200. Edwards was the in car race reporter for the ESPN2 broadcast. During the parade laps ESPN's Rusty Wallace contacted him and asked about the element of aggressive driving on a short track, how it could create hot tempers along with drivers yielding to temptation to wreck each other. Through the opening of his driver's helmet, you could literally see the amusement in Edwards' eyes when he said "why would you ask me that Rusty? I wouldn't know anything about that."

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THUMBS-UP to Ron Hornaday Jr, and his team Kevin Harvick Inc, for finally getting that first win of the season Friday night during the AAA Insurance 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the O'Reilly Raceway Park. It marked the 46th career win for the four time series champion.

More importantly, the win completely eradicated media comments that this team was out of the running for a fifth title due to harsh luck from previous races. Hornaday came into the ORP event sixth in the points standings. He's now tied for fourth. This team is not even close to being done yet.

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WHAT'S-UP with Kyle Busch, who finished second at the ORP race, wanting to remove the words "Toyota Tundra" from the hood of his self owned truck? When a full season sponsorship deal fell through literally weeks before the start of the season, Kyle Busch Motorsports began signing sponsors on a race to race basis. They often promoted the Toyota Tundra brand when they couldn't locate a full sponsor for a race. After Friday night's truck race Busch said "we've got to take Toyota Tundra off of our truck. It's a curse. We can't win with Toyota on it. So, if anyone wants to sponsor us.....

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The final THUMBS-UP of the week goes to Roush Fenway Racing, RFR, who last Sunday topped a whopping one million miles in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. That's enough miles to cover the earth 40 times over. It took 16 Sprint Cup drivers 23 plus years to accomplish this unique milestone. During the course of that time RFR entered 2,688 Sprint Cup races and compiled 116 wins, 632 top five finishes, 1,102 top tens while winning 65 pole positions during qualifying. Also during the 23 year span RFR drivers raced 768,810 laps and led 37,754 of them. Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth gave team owner Jack Roush Sprint Cup championships.

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Finally we end with some GOD Bless items that clearly indicates that the 2010 NASCAR baby boom is stronger than ever. Last Sunday's race winner Jamie McMurray and his wife are expecting their first child in December. How touching was that site of McMurray kissing his wife's stomach in victory lane?

Adding to the baby boom were announcements from Drivers Sam Hornish Jr, who said they were expecting their second child, along with Ryan Newman and his wife who will be welcoming their first child.

In the final phase of the baby boom are Ingrid and Jeff Gordon who are expecting their second child, a boy, within the next two weeks.

That means Hendrick Motorsports will once again be making plans for "operation baby", just like they did for Jimmie Johnson recently, in case Gordon has to get home in a hurry. That includes a helicopter on standby to get Gordon to a private Hendrick plane. The plan also includes back up drivers as well. Aric Almirola will be the back up for Gordon's team at next Sunday's Pocono race. Almirola also backed up Johnson at the Chicago race. Road racing ace Scott Pruett will be on standby to drive Gordon's car at the Watkins Glen race in two weeks.

Is there something in the Gatorade these guys are drinking?

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