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NASCAR Dover postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

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The No. 48 team celebrates in Dover
Jim Garrahan/AR1.com
Over the previous weekend we saw the #48 team return to Chase form. We watched the Richard Childress Racing soap opera develop another bizarre plot twist. We watched the continuous transformation of NASCAR's Nationwide Series becoming the "Busch" Series again and we watched the future of a famous family race team develop in the truck series. With all those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Jimmie Johnson, and the entire #48 Hendrick Motorsports team, for clearly returning to expected Chase form after winning the AAA 400 at the Dover International Raceway. It was Johnson's sixth win of the season, series high sixth win at Dover and his 53d career win in 319 starts. Johnson led the race five times for a total of 191 laps. The win also another one of Johnson's max points effort and it elevates him to second in the Chase standings only 35 points behind Denny Hamlin.

THUMBS-UP to Genevieve Marie Johnson, the beautiful infant daughter of Jimmie and Shandra Johnson. This little cutie made her first ever public appearance in victory lane with mom and dad last Sunday.

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Okay, let's get to it: the story every NASCAR fan on the planet is talking about.

WHAT'S-UP with all of those interviews with Sprint Cup drivers, outside of Richard Childress Racing-RCR, who were asked for opinions regarding the penalty handed down to Clint Bowyer's team last week? Did we really need that? The only opinion that matters here should come from NASCAR and RCR officials. To their credit, most of these drivers were diplomatic and chose their words very carefully. THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch who, during a television interview, made it perfectly clear that "it's not my problem."

But WHAT'S-UP with Denny Hamlin for taking the bait by making comments on the Bowyer situation that were way past the line? Hamlin's inference that the RCR Chevrolets have been in violation of NASCAR's tolerance levels for a lot longer than anyone realizes simply wasn't necessary. Nothing but trouble could possibly come from the comments Hamlin made last Friday during that press conference.


That's exactly what happened the following day. THUMBS-UP to driver Kevin Harvick for wanting to stand up for his RCR team mates. But, WHAT'S-UP with the method he chose prior to the start of the Saturday morning practice session? Ramming the Hamlin car on pit road, followed by multiple hits on the track, really wasn't the way to handle the situation. Instead of using the practice time to prep the race trim of their cars, these teams spent much of the allotted time making repairs in the garage area.

The fact that these two teams were parked next to each other in the garage made this situation even more interesting. The inevitable confrontation, complete with four letter words and chest thumping, was captured for posterity on live television. THUMBS-UP to Kevin Harvick was keeping his helmet on during that confrontation. Those hard helmets can seriously do some damage to a hand if you hit one.

THUMBS-UP to team owner Richard Childress for taking both a sensible and comedic approach when asked about the garage confrontation. Childress smiled and said "we're a very tight knit bunch."

THUMBS-UP to Clint Bowyer who also took the sensible and comedic approach to his team mate's defense of their race team. During a Sunday morning television interview, Bowyer smiled and said "I didn't see what you're talking about, I was in my car."

THUMBS-UP to Hamlin's crew chief Mike Ford who was clearly upset with his driver for placing the team in an uncomfortable public relations situation. Ford referred to the entire incident as "nonsense" and said the situation with RCR was none of their business. He reportedly admonished Hamlin for "putting the team in a hole" with his comments and reminded him they needed to stay focused on the Chase. Following the conclusion of Sunday's race, Ford reportedly came over the radio to remind Hamlin to be careful what he said after he got out of the car.

Having said that, WHAT'S-UP with Mike Ford echoing those very same sentiments to an ESPN television reporter? Ford's comments to his driver were aired on live television faster than you can say WHAT'S-UP.

WHAT'S-UP with literally anyone who truly believed there would be on track retaliation between Harvick and Hamlin during Sunday's race? Perhaps driver Tony Stewart was correct when he recently observed that sometimes the NASCAR media has a tendency to create soap operas that just aren't there. Yes, I'll accept my fair share of the responsibility in this matter.

The NASCAR Appeals Board will be conducting a hearing on Wednesday to consider the appeal by RCR and a review of the harsh penalties handed down by NASCAR. Hopefully by then this particular soap opera will reach a diminished state.

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THUMBS-UP to the Dinger. A J Allmendinger ran the race of his still short Sprint Cup career in his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford at Dover. After starting the AAA 400 on the front row, Allmendinger led 143 laps of the race. He had only led a total of 43 laps during all of his prior Sprint Cup starts. The team endured some bad luck during the race when a piece of sheet metal cut his right rear tire and forced an unscheduled pit stop. But the strength of his car allowed him to race his way back to a tenth place finish.

During the race Allmendinger came over his radio and said "this is kind of fun, we should try it more often." After leading all of those laps he later said "it's no wonder Jimmie Johnson smiles so much."

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WHAT'S-UP with some of the Sprint Cup teams who were snake bit on pit road during the Dover race?

Let's start with Tony Stewart who was caught speeding on pit road. Unfortunately he couldn't seem to recover from the pass through penalty and finished the race in 21st two laps down. A pre Chase championship contender now finds himself tenth in the standings and 162 points out of first.

Matt Kenseth missed the commitment line while trying to enter Dover's treacherous pit road and locked up his brakes. He continued around the track only to blow a left front tire that shattered the sheet metal on his fender. He finished 18th one lap down. Kenseth is now 11th in the Chase standings 165 points out. His Chase effort is also now treading water.

Clint Bowyer also had a tough Sunday at Dover on top of a very tough week. He was penalized for speeding on pit road two times and wound up 25th three laps down. He's now 12th in the Chase 235 points out.

The THUMBS-UP for making chicken salad out of chicken do do belongs to Kurt Busch. After completing a penalty, also for speeding down pit road, Busch got up on the wheel of his Penske Racing Dodge and was able to drive his way back to a fourth place finish. He later said "I felt like a kid playing with matches and I got burned." He left Dover fourth in the Chase standings and only 59 points from the top.

The Oh No He Didn't WHAT'S-UP award goes to Regan Smith, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet. After being caught for speeding on pit road, Smith came back to serve his drive through penalty and, you guessed it, was nailed for speeding on pit road again. He wound up with a frustrating 26th place finish three laps down.

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THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch for winning Saturday's Dover 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Busch led 192 of the 200 laps for his 11th win of the season in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He also rewrote another page of the series' history. He broke the all time series' win record for a single season held for many years by series' icon Sam Ard. Joey Logano, Busch's Gibbs Racing team mate, finished second and marked the 11th time Gibbs Racing has finished one-two in a Nationwide Series event.

For many years NASCAR's second tier racing series was known as the Busch Series because of long time sponsorship from Busch Beer. In recent years the name was changed to the Nationwide Series when the well known insurance company became the title sponsor. With the numbers and records Kyle Busch has established in such a short amount of time, one has to think the name should be changed to Busch's Nationwide Series.

I totally get that many NASCAR fans simply doesn't like this driver. To be honest, I really don't see myself joining his fan club anytime soon. But I have to be completely honest here when I say that Kyle Busch is simply one of the best things that has joined NASCAR in quite a few years. The numbers he's compiled certainly supports that theory.

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THUMBS-UP to young Austin Dillon for winning Saturday's Smith's 350 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The rookie sensation started the race from the pole and led 93 of the 146 laps on the way to his second win of the year. During the dominant performance Dillon finished a whopping six seconds over runner up Johnny Sauter.

This Las Vegas win was some good medicine for his team owner and grandfather Richard Childress who had a very tough week due to aforementioned problems with one of his Sprint Cup teams. In addition to making grandpa proud, Austin Dillon has clearly proved that he is the future of the family business.

THUMBS-UP to Todd Bodine whose fourth place finish padded his series points lead. It also moves him closer to his second series championship.

Bodine gets another THUMBS-UP for a great line from a post race interview. Bodine said "this is Las Vegas and my wife, Janet, bet on Austin Dillon so now we get to go collect her winnings."

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