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NASCAR Michigan weekend postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, August 16, 2010

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Kevin Harvick celebrates
Getty Images for NASCAR
Over the previous weekend we watched a driver announce it was vacation time after clinching his berth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship following the Michigan race. We also watched a Nationwide Series driver defend his home turf. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, "The Onion" tamed the lady in black and, oh yeah, Danica paid us a visit and, more importantly, so did "The Cat In The Hat". With those thoughts in mind, let's begin this week with:

THUMBS-UP to Kevin Harvick for a very impressive win at the Michigan International Raceway following Sunday's Carfax 400. The driver of the #29 Shell-Pennzoil, Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet scored his third win of the season, his 14th career win and his 16th top ten finish of the season. But, more importantly, the series points leader mathematically locked in his position for the 2010 Chase.

There are only three more races before the 12 man Chase line is officially locked in. After the Michigan race there were a lot of jokes about regarding three more weeks of vacation for Harvick and his team. In fact SPEED Channel's Kenny Wallace quipped "Kevin Harvick can go home and sleep, he doesn't even have to run the next three races."

Of course all of that is just good natured fun. You better believe that we'll be seeing a very aggressive Harvick during the course of those three races. He'll be looking for those ten Chase bonus points that comes with winning.

WHAT'S-UP with Harvick needing directions to victory lane after winning Sunday's race. In all fairness the last time he visited the Michigan winner's circle was seven years ago following a NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Apparently the raceway has made some changes since then.

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WHAT'S-UP with that post race confrontation between Joey Logano and Ryan Newman? During the race the pair of drivers were racing side by side. Logano's Toyota got loose and lightly tapped Newman's left rear quarter panel. The result was Newman going into a long spin out not to mention an unscheduled trip down pit road.

After the race Newman made it a point to locate Logano for some angry in your face time. This was followed by a few seconds of chest shoving before an official stepped in between them. This was, of course, a racing deal and certainly nothing intentional on Logano's part. It's safe to assume that by now Newman has had multiple opportunity to look at the video replays and will talk it out with Logano.

But you also have to understand his frustration after being regulated to a 23d place finish at Michigan. He's started the race just outside of the top 12 in the points standings and was hoping for a strong finish that would elevate him to being a Chase contender. Instead he now finds himself 14th in the standings, 103 points away from the top 12, and time running out. The fact that Logano rallied to a tenth place finish probably did nothing for Newman's post race disposition.

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WHAT'S-UP with the engine blowing in Kurt Busch's Miller Lite Dodge so early in the race? The incident came on lap 30. The engine grenaded with such force that it blew a large hole in the block. Busch had to settle for a 40th place finish that led to a major hit in the points for the team. They fell from 4th to 10th in the Chase standings.

However Busch deserves a THUMBS-UP for taking the matter in stride while remaining upbeat. He honestly feels the team will be fine with their Chase standings over the course of the next three races. The often outspoken volatile driver displayed a great deal of diplomacy during his live television interview.

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On the subject of taking a hit in the points, WHAT'S-UP with Mark Martin's frustrating day at Michigan? His disappointing 28th place finish dropped him out of the coveted top 12 in the standings. He now finds himself 13th in the ranking and 35 points out of the Chase.

A very reluctant WHAT'S-UP also goes to Martin for his apology made to the media before the race regarding his outburst at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We all know the source of that frustration. His team owner, Rick Hendrick, was having problems locating a ride for Kasey Kahne for 2011. As we're all aware, Kahne takes over Martin's #5 Hendrick ride in 2012. As the find Kasey a ride drama continued over the last several weeks, the media repeatedly kept asking Martin if he was sure he was going to be in his ride next year. In a case of a question being asked and answered way too many times, a weary Martin lashed out and said he felt disrespected. We know now that Kahne will be on a one year loan to Red Bull Racing and Martin's schedule with Hendrick will continue as originally planned.

In the Michigan garage said "I reflect back on how I reacted at Indy and I regret what I said there. That came from the heart and not the head. It was grinding on me and I apologize for what I said and wish I hadn't said what I said. I should have continued to just hold onto the high road just a little bit longer and it would have been okay. Anyway, we're moving forward now."

The fact that Martin even felt that apology was necessary at all earns him a THUMBS-UP. This gentleman is truly one class act.

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THUMBS-UP to Michigan's own Brad Keselowski for defending his home court advantage and winning Saturday's Carfax 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. The Penske Racing Dodge driver used the final double file restart of the race to overtake Carl Edwards who finished second. The event marked Keselowski's fourth win of the season and his tenth career win. The win was especially impressive in light of the fact that Keselowski had to overcome a clutch problem that frequently caused him to lose track position during pit stops. Keselowski now holds a 347 point lead over Edwards in the series' championship standings

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Danica Patrick made a return to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and her #7 J R Motorsports Chevrolet, for the first time in five weeks to continue her NASCAR transition. It was Patrick's first race in the series' new Car Of Tomorrow.

Unfortunately her team, led by crew chief Tony Eury Jr, gets a WHAT'S-UP for a poor pre race set up and their overall failure to correct a race car that was so loose their driver was honestly concerned about crashing. Patrick came over the radio and said her car's handling was "painful, really painful out here." She went a lap down to the race leader by lap 21. She lost two additional laps during a green flag pit stop for adjustments. Back on the track again, Patrick came over her radio and told Eury if he had a suggestion "I'm happy to try it." The situation never improved and Patrick's COT debut resulted in a disappointing 27th four laps down.

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THUMBS-UP to Todd "The Onion" Bodine for being the guy to tame the lady in black aka Darlington Raceway. Saturday's Too Tough To Tame 200 marked a triumphant return to Darlington for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The race also marked Bodine's second series win in a row and his third of the season. More and more Bodine is beginning to look like a strong candidate to win his second series championship.

THUMBS-UP to the fans who strongly supported this race. It was further proof that the series deserves more stand alone events on its schedule.

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Jack is back at the track. A very special THUMBS-UP goes to Jack "The Cat In The Hat" Roush for his return to the race track in Michigan after being released from the Minnesota based Mayo Clinic last week. The co owner of Roush Fenway Racing was being treated for multiple injuries stemming from his recent private plane crash in Wisconsin. Those injuries included a broken jaw, a compression fracture in his back, an injury to his left cheek and a ruptured left eye that has sadly resulted in a permanent loss of vision.

Early Sunday morning Roush was observing his usual pre race routine as if nothing had ever happened. That included the inspection of spark plugs and the tuning of carburetors for Roush Fenway Racing's quartet of Ford Fusions.

In case you didn't hear it, the answer to the one question asked the most was a resounding yes: Roush fully intends to fly his fleet of planes again.

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