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NASCAR Watkins Glen postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

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Montoya gave the rest of the NASCAR field a driving lesson on Sunday
Adriano Manocchia/AR1.com
Over the previous weekend we watched a highly regarded NASCAR Sprint Cup competitor return to victory lane at the Watkins Glen International Raceway . We watched champagne in victory lane accelerate the healing process between the winning driver and crew chief and we watched the winning team owner collect another trifecta this time during the same weekend. We watched our favorite "Aussie" tame a road course for the third year in a row and we discovered that "the Onion" now needs guitar lessons. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Juan Pablo Montoya for an outstanding driving performance that led to him winning the Heluva Good Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. Montoya's hard charging effort helped him snap a 113 race win less streak and garnered him his second career Sprint Cup win.

THUMBS-UP to Brian Pattie who scored his first win as a Sprint Cup crew chief after calling a very good race that matched the performance of his driver. It now appears that the divorce papers for this pairing, that everyone thought may be coming, has been thrown into the round file. Extreme frustrations from the previous two races clearly indicated that Montoya and Pattie weren't exactly reading from the same page. However, there was an important team meeting held early last week along with a pre race pep talk from team owner Chip Ganassi on Sunday morning.

After crossing under the checkers Montoya keyed his radio and said "sorry about last week again guys, a great job today by everybody. We've been working really hard for this." Brian Pattie responded by saying "way to go big boy. You drove the race of your career buddy. Zero mistakes, that was tremendous." Again, flying champagne in victory lane can soothe even the most tense moments.

THUMBS-UP to Chip Ganassi for scoring yet another highly impressive trifecta. We all know that Ganassi became the first owner to win NASCAR's Daytona 500, the Brickyard 500 and the Indy Racing League's Indianapolis 500. The fact that this was accomplished in the same year made the feat simply amazing.

Ganassi drivers and teams garnered another amazing trifecta last weekend that only took approximately 24 hours to accomplish. It started on Saturday afternoon when drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race at Watkins Glen. Then of course Montoya put his Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, presented by Felix Sabates, Chevrolet in the Watkins Glen victory lane following his Sprint Cup win. At the approximate same time Dario Franchitti, Ganassi's Indy Racing League driver, won the IRL race at the Mid Ohio road course. Is it just me, or is 2010 starting to look like the year of Ganassi?

Related to this motorsports milestone is another THUMBS-UP for the SPEED Channel's IRL analyst Robin Miller who, commenting on Ganassi's weekend trifecta, said "I think Chip has made a deal with the devil."

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WHAT'S-UP with Hendricks Motorsports and their overall performance during the Watkins Glen weekend? All four of the HMS teams were in a bad way the moment they rolled their cars out of the haulers. Jeff Gordon, a five time Watkins Glen winner and a pre race favorite to win last Sunday, led the team with a tenth place finish after qualifying 16th. Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson began Sunday's race with a flat tire and finished it with a 28th place finish following a crash. Dale Earnhardt Jr could only muster a 26th place finish.

The lone HMS bright spot of the weekend was Mark Martin. His 19th place finish moved him to 12th in the Sprint Cup championship standings which of course determines the line up for the 2010 Chase For The Championship. That, however, happened following harsh racing luck suffered by Clint Bowyer who fell out of the top 12.

Another WHAT'S-UP goes to Earnhardt's #88 HMS team for yet another frustrating race that is starting to resemble a long running soap opera much to the dismay of the popular driver's fan base known as the "Junior Nation". This latest round began during practice with a car set up that simply wouldn't produce the speed everyone on the team was hoping for. It was followed by a very embarrassing qualifying attempt that saw Earnhardt starting 40th in the race. The Sunday race effort wasn't much better. During the course of the race Earnhardt came over the radio and said "this is the worst car I've ever driven."

This of course is nothing we haven't seen way too many times over the past year and a half. There was a crew chief change that saw Lance McGraw taking over the reins of the team. But it appears that Earnhardt and McGrew are not reading from the same page. Forgive me for pointing this out Junior Nation but, quite frankly, I'm beginning to think the problem may be the driver due to an overall lack of good communication.

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THUMBS-UP to Marcos Ambrose for a most impressive performance that led him to winning the Zippo 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen for the third consecutive year. The Australian fan favorite joins some impressive company. He's only the second driver, along with Terry Labonte, who has won three consecutive races at the Glen.

THUMBS-UP to the Nationwide Series for implementing the European qualifying format for this race. It was efficient and considerably raised the interest level.

WHAT'S-UP with Jason Leffler's post wreck comments obviously made before he saw the video replay? Leffler slid off the track and, in an effort to get back to the racing surface, contact was made with Colin Braun which in turn triggered a ten car road course "big one" followed by a red flag.

Leffler does deserve a THUMBS-UP for accepting responsibility for the wreck after he went off track, but his comments regarding the #16, Braun, were a little puzzling. He said that drivers needed to give more room when these moments occur. "They've got to let people back in," he said adding "the #16 has wrecked a lot this year and we seem to get caught up in them." What's really interesting here is the fact that both the video replay, as well as the commentary from the ESPN broadcast team, told a slightly different story.

WHAT'S-UP with that bizarre problem on Paul Menard's Ford during the Zippo 200 that brought out a debris caution flag? The weight box, which holds bars of lead inside of it, came loose and fell off of the car. The result was a giant block of lead lying on the track. It was one of those one in a million moments.

THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch from one of the better in car radio comments during this race. Busch's Toyota developed an extreme loose condition early in the race and he was not quite the major player in the event that was expected. After loosing track position to his competitors, Busch came over the radio and said "I'm just going to take the rest of the day off." Busch did manage to rally to a fifth place finish.

THUMBS-UP to Kevin Harvick for his third place finish despite having to overcome racing obstacles that ranged from the normal to the bizarre. On the very first lap of the Zippo 200 Harvick made contact with Carl Edwards and crumpled a fender. Then he had to observe a drive through penalty after getting caught speeding on pit road. But the bizarre moment came when the lace from Harvick's racing shoe actually got hung up on the throttle. You can bet he'll make sure that doesn't happen again.

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THUMBS-UP to Todd "The Onion" Bodine for winning Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Nashville Super Speedway. The win was Bodine's second of the season as well as his 19th career win. Making the evening sweeter was the fact that Bodine won the race from the pole position. He also increased his series' points lead to 174 over Aric Almirola who finished second.

He was also awarded the beautiful Gibson Les Paul Guitar, custom painted by renown NASCAR artist Sam Bass. Bodine said he was going to need guitar lessons and wondered if his good friend, recording artist Bo Bice, might help him learn how to play his new racing trophy. It was also pointed during the race broadcast that the Germain family, the team owner's of Bodine's Toyota Tundra, are good friends with Eric Clapton. Now there's someone qualified to give guitar lessons.

WHAT'S-UP with the discovery that clearly indicated a flying brake hose has zero aerodynamics? During this race there was contact between the trucks driven by Mario Gosselin and Joe Aramendia. The result of that contact was Gosselin's Chevrolet Truck sustaining massive damage after slamming hard into the front stretch wall.

Aramendia's Chevrolet was able to continue and when he came back around the track, at caution speed, he was met by a waiting Gosselin who threw a brake hose at him. That's when we found out that a large rubber hose has zero aerodynamics. Gosselin missed the Aramendia truck by a mile. After the wreck NASCAR officials notified Aramendia, his crew chief and team owner that they wanted to see them in the "oval office" after the race.

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Finally this week a GOD BLESS goes out to Ingrid and Jeff Gordon who welcomed a baby boy to their family early Monday morning. Leo Benjamin Gordon arrived weighing seven pounds, two ounces and measure 19 inches. Mom, son and dad are reported to be happy and healthy.

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