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NASCAR Pocono postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, August 02, 2010

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Race winner Greg Biffle
Jim Garrahan/AR1.com
Over the previous weekend at the Pocono Raceway we watched a Sprint Cup driver and a major automobile manufacturer make a return to victory lane. That created a huge dose of good medicine for the winning team owner who watched the race from his hospital bed. We also witnessed the highs and lows of a very popular driver return to victory lane on Saturday only to find himself in the middle of one of the worst wrecks we've seen in quite some time the following day. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Greg Biffle who, during the final laps of the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, ran away from the competition. It snapped a winless streak of 65 races for Biffle and returned Ford to victory lane for the first time this year. It's been so long since Biffle participated in post race ceremonies that he smiled and said "I almost forgot what to do."

But this win followed some early race frustration for Biffle. During the early portion of the event the car's handling was terrible. An angry Biffle came over the radio and yelled "this car is embarrassing." All of that leads to a THUMBS-UP for crew chief Greg Erwin and the entire 3M Ford crew for their outstanding pit road calls and performance that led to the well earned post race celebration. Chief among those good calls was the decision to only take two tires during the final pit stop. That was the catalyst that placed Biffle on the front row for the final restart.

THUMBS-UP to team owner Jack Roush who watched his team return to victory lane from his hospital bed at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Roush is recuperating from injuries, and recent surgical procedures, sustained from his private plane crash in Wisconsin this past Tuesday.

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WHAT'S-UP with that horrible crash with 35 laps remaining in the race? This wreck was launched via bump drafting by Jimmie Johnson who delivered a high speed tap to the bumper of Kurt Busch's Dodge. Busch bounced into the outside wall, was collected by Clint Bowyer and then came across the track and hit the inside wall. Despite the savage hit, the driver was okay but the same could not be said for his badly damaged race car.

Meanwhile, right behind this crash, Elliot Sadler's Ford was collected and he sustained an extremely hard hit into the portion of the inside wall that was not fortified by the presence of the energy absorbing safer barrier. The G force of this hit was so powerful the car's engine literally flew through the air and landed on the race track.

That leads to a THUMBS-UP to NASCAR's car of tomorrow and the mandated safety features that comes with it. That same THUMBS-UP also applies to NASCAR's mandated use of head and neck restraint systems. That hard hit literally took the breath right out of Sadler's body and he gingerly climbed out of his car and laid down on the track. But the important point here is the fact that the mandated safety equipment did the job it was intended for and the driver walked away without any major injuries.

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THUMBS-UP to Travis Geisler, the crew chief for the #77 Dodge driven by Sam Hornish Jr, for a very gutsy call that almost won this race. When NASCAR released the red flag condition, following the Busch-Sadler accident, the rain had arrived. The field was under caution while crew chiefs anguished over what to do regarding tires and adjustments for what was going to be their final pit stop.

Some teams took two tires and some chose four. Geisler surprised everyone by opting to keep Hornish on the track and placing his driver into the race lead with rain falling on the track. The ploy almost worked. NASCAR officials brought the field down pit road under a red flag due to the rain. For awhile there it appeared that Hornish was going to become the newest member of NASCAR's rain man club. Unfortunately the rain dried up and the field returned to yellow flag laps. Hornish restarted the race on the front row with Biffle who used his two new tires to make his race winning move. Despite having tires that was practically as old as the driver, it took a lot of green flag laps before the front runners, with newer tires, were able to take second away from Hornish.

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THUMBS-UP to the 44th entry in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. That would be Mother Nature. The official 43 starters found themselves racing against the threat of rain that was rapidly approaching the raceway. With the race already past the halfway point, when NASCAR could declare a winner in the event of rain, the intensity level of this event hit brand new levels. Drivers were doing everything they could to charge to the front of the field and improve their positions anticipating that weather was going to produce what could turn out to be a race ending red flag. What came from this was some very exciting, often three wide, racing that had the Pocono fans on their feet.

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THUMBS-UP to Tony Stewart for overcoming a tough Friday night on the left side of the country by creating a big finish on the right side of the country. Stewart was in Fargo-North Dakota Friday night participating in a sprint car race. He crashed his car, while running second, on the final lap of the race. That was followed by the near 1,000 mile late night plane ride back to Pocono-Pennsylvania where he finally got to bed around 530 am Saturday morning.

With barely enough sleep to constitute a good nap, Stewart climbed into his car for qualifying and toured the Pocono Raceway's 2.5 mile triangle with a lap of 171.393 MPH. It was more than enough to claim the Coors Light Pole for the race. He followed that accomplishment up with a solid second place finish in Sunday's race.

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THUMBS-UP to Elliot Sadler for driving a Kevin Harvick Inc Chevrolet Truck to victory in Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Pocono. The emotionally charged Sadler celebrated his first win in a NASCAR national touring series since September of 2004. He later admitted that he's often wondered if he was ever going to find victory lane again. How touching was it that he was able to celebrate the win with his infant son Wyatt?

The Pocono Mountains 125 needed double green-white-checker attempts to finish the race. That leads to a WHAT'S-UP with Ron Hornaday Jr losing a sure top five finish in the second Kevin Harvick Inc truck? In the waning laps of the race, Hornaday received a tap from Johnny Sauter and went spinning into the inside wall. He also went spinning to a 29th place finish.

Another WHAT'S-UP goes to the cause of the final yellow flag of the race that created the second green-white-checker attempt. That came with ten laps left in the race when series points leader Todd Bodine was sent spinning after contact from Austin Dillon. However, Bodine gets a THUMBS-UP for his hard charging effort during the final laps. He started from the tail end of the lead lap line and worked his way back to a 12th place finish. That extra effort allowed him to leave Pocono with a 149 point lead over Aric Almirola.

THUMBS-UP to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for an outstanding debut at the Pocono Raceway. The new multi truck qualifying session was very well received and the sight of those trucks racing three wide around Pocono's 2.5 mile triangle was simply awesome.
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THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch for a very impressive, not to mention dominating, performance during Saturday's U.S. Cellular 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the Iowa Speedway. Busch led this race four times for a whopping 209 laps. It was his second consecutive series win and his ninth of the year. I've said it many times before, and I'll say it again, even his harshest critics cannot deny how good of a driver Busch is.
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THUMBS-UP to driver Trevor Bayne for winning the Coors Light Pole award for the third race in a row. That feat places him in a tie for a series record and also puts him in some very impressive company. The legendary Sam Ard along with a young Jeff Gordon and Michael Waltrip shares that record. Bayne also gets another THUMBS-UP for a rock solid performance, and a fifth place finish, in his Diamond Ridge-Waltrip Racing Toyota. Mark my words, this 19 year old driver is on the verge of really showing us something spectacular and it's probably going to happen sooner than later.
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WHAT'S-UP with the extreme case of bad luck suffered by the Roush Fenway Fords during the Iowa race? It was a very expensive day in Iowa for the team's two young development drivers who managed to tear up four race cars in a matter of hours.
It started with Ricky Stenhouse Jr who crashed his primary car during Saturday morning practice. After the team prepped the backup car, Stenhouse managed to crash that car as well during qualifying. The team borrowed a backup car belonging to their team mate Carl Edwards to make the race and finished 14th.

The second half of the Roush Fenway Racing carnage came from driver Colin Braun who crashed his primary car during qualifying. Braun, in his back up car, unfortunately got caught up in a late race crash and left Iowa with a 32nd finish
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THUMBS-UP to the beautiful Iowa Speedway for the latest in a growing list of outstanding races. The speedway has permanent seating for 25,000. During this special weekend they brought in additional bleachers that raised the seating to approximately 55,000. They sold everyone one of those seats. Here's hoping that someday the speedway will get awarded a NASCAR Sprint Cup. They certainly deserve one.

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