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NASCAR Texas Postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, April 11, 2011

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Matt Kenseth celebrates
Getty Images for NASCAR
During the night prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup at the Texas Motor Speedway I was standing on a stage at an American Legion Post, in Ridgecrest-CA,  doing my other job: co-owner of a mobile DJ and Karaoke business. When it came time for the obligatory announcements of upcoming events I reminded the audience that the Legion's NASCAR Club will be gathering on Saturday night to enjoy the Texas race.

I also told them that I felt a Roush Fenway Ford was going to win the race. While Carl Edwards was the obvious choice, I officially went on record as saying Matt Kenseth was going to win the Samsung Mobile 500.

THUMBS-UP to yours truly for being able to claim an extremely rare moment in time when I was in position to say "I told you so."

Now to the really important business.

THUMBS-UP to Matt Kenseth for a dominating performance, including leading a race high 169 laps, that allowed him to wear the ceremonial cowboy hat, and fire the six shooters, in the Texas victory lane. Anytime you win a Sprint Cup event with a margin of victory in excess of eight seconds, you are indeed "the man." Kenseth scored his 19th series win but, even more important, he snapped a 76 race win less streak that dates back all the way to California in February of 2009.

THUMBS-UP to crew chief Jimmy Fennig and his team for right on the money adjustment calls and superior pit stops that helped get their car to victory lane. After the race Kenseth came over the radio and told Fennig "I need you to show me where to park this thing."

WHAT'S-UP with that pit road collision that severely hampered the race efforts of Joey Logano and David Reutimann? Logano, whom everyone predicted was going to enjoy a break out season, had to endure another disappointment that found him finishing 24th, three laps down. Reutimann, mentioned as a possible pre season Chase contender, also felt  another sting from harsh racing luck and finished 29th, five laps down.

WHAT'S-UP with Logano's team, as well as Bobby Labonte's squad, getting penalized for having too many men over the pit wall? Now there's the subject of a Monday morning team meeting.

WHAT'S-UP with Martin Truex Jr finding himself dealing with another serious crash? The worst incident of the race occurred on lap 216 when a bottle neck in the back turned into a major crash involving the cars of Truex, Mark Martin and Regan Smith. For the second time in six days, Truex found himself slamming into a retaining wall, nose first, and sustaining an extremely hard hit. THUMBS-UP for the mandated safety equipment that allowed the driver to quickly exit his wrecked car uninjured.

However, a major WHAT'S-UP goes out to the fact that the portion of the backstretch wall, where the crash occurred, was not fully equipped with a modern day SAFER barrier designed to absorb the energy of such a hard hit. This is an area that needs to be addressed right away.

Meanwhile on the opposite side of the speedway, the metal posts, that secures the spectator crash fence on the front stretch, were glowing bright yellow to let the fans know that the race was now under the yellow caution flag. I suppose a reluctant THUMBS-UP goes to the modern day, awe struck wonder, technology that came with that idea. However, the money would have been far better spent on SAFER barriers that completely encompasses the racing surface.

WHAT'S-UP with Tony Stewart's frustrating finish at Texas? After spending much of the race running mid pack, and even a lap down, Stewart and company decided to employ the use of fuel mileage. They had already learned they could stretch a tank of Sunoco 58 green flag laps. Pitting out of sequence, from the other lead lap cars, Stewart came in on lap 276 for his final stop. That was exactly 58 laps from the end of the race while secure in the knowledge that the teams running up front had to make at least one more stop before the end. That's when NASCAR caught Stewart speeding on pit road. The ensuing drive though penalty sent him to the tail end of the lead lap line. Instead of conserving fuel to steal the win, Stewart had to ride the gas pedal hard to get back to the front. The car ran out of fuel on the white flag lap and Stewart helplessly watched a third place finish slide backwards to 12th.

THUMBS-UP to Carl Edwards for a rock solid driving performance that led to a third place finish as well as placed him on top of the Sprint Cup points standings. This was accomplished despite having to drive with a severe upset stomach.

But, WHAT'S-UP with Edwards ratting out his mom after the race? When asked how he did 500 miles with that much stomach pain, Edwards laughed and said "I was hopped up on Pepto Bismol." Then he added "I hate to throw my Mom under the bus, but she cooked something last night I don't think was right."

THUMBS-UP to second place finishing Clint Bowyer who, during the post race press conference, offered to cook dinner for Edwards next week at Talladega.

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THUMBS-UP to Carl Edwards for another fine performance behind the wheel that led to winning the O'Reilly 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Texas. Edwards led a race high 169 laps. In addition to winning his first race of season, Edwards also presented the Ford Mustang their first Nationwide win.

THUMBS-UP to Brad Keselowski who crossed under the checkers in second just .482 seconds behind the race winner. That effort made for an exciting finish that had many of us wondering if we might be seeing the resolution of some unfinished business between the two drivers. Anyone who denies thinking that probably denies having any evil thoughts whatsoever.

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On a far more serious note, WHAT'S-UP with that mysterious illness that placed Sprint Cup/Nationwide Series driver Trevor Bayne in the hospital the morning following the Texas race? Earlier in the week the 20 year old driver admitted he was not feeling well. By the end of the week he was escorted to the Texas Speedway's infield medical unit where he was administered antibiotics. By the time the Roush Fenway Racing airplane landed in North Carolina, early Sunday morning, the situation had digressed to the point where Bayne was admitted to the Carolinas Medical Center-University in Charlotte. There was no immediate public comment regarding his precise diagnosis, but a strong clue came via a "Twitter" message the driver sent that read: "not sure if it's a spider bite or tick bite. But either way I'm in a hospital bed with a needle in my arm. No bueno!" Keep a good thought in hopes Bayne makes a speedy recovery.

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In some final thoughts this week, THUMBS-UP to Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch for taking some time from his very busy schedule to visit the Marine Corp Base Quantico, the home of the major USMC Training Facility, in Triangle-Virginia. Busch did a meet and greet with the troops, visited the wounded at the base hospital and even got to observe a training exercise at the facility's mortar pit. "It was a sincere honor to be able to make this visit and show our support," he said. I've said time and again in these columns: there's just not enough ways to say thank you to the men and women serving in our Armed Forces.

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THUMBS-UP to driver Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing and Fed Ex for their annual effort to raise awareness for the important programs presented by the March Of Dimes. Hamlin's #11 Fed Ex Toyota had an eye popping special paint scheme that was created by Josh and Jake Aron, two seven year old twins, from Dallas-Texas, who were born premature. The boys got to travel to the Gibbs shop in North Carolina to meet Hamlin and his team where they laid out their plan for the special paint scheme. On Thursday prior to the race, the Aron brothers, along with their dad, were standing in the speedway's garage area to witness their art work as the car was rolled out of the trailer.

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THUMBS-UP to the Texas Motor Speedway for presenting one of their track flags to NASA Astronaut Doug Hurley during the NASCAR weekend. Hurley will have the flag with him when he boards the space shuttle Atlantis later this summer for the final flight that will officially close out the 30 year shuttle program. Hurley, a long time race fan and Texas Motor Speedway annual ticket holder, plans to re present the flag back to the speedway when he returns there for their November race.

This is one of the many reasons why I admire speedway President Eddie Gossage. The man never fails to miss an opportunity to promote his race track in a Texas sized manner.

By the way, THUMBS-UP to the Texas Motor Speedway for packing in 168,000 plus fans for their NASCAR Sprint Cup race. In a time when our country is still plagued with economic down turns, those are very impressive numbers.

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The absolute final THUMBS-UP goes to the SPEED Channel for the debut of their new on air segment, "R V There Yet?" hosted by the very funny, and often crazy, Kyle Petty and Rutledge Wood. Their first guest was driver A J Allmendinger and the hosts refused to get his name right calling him C M, A M, M J and everything except A J. The entire segment was well prepared and timed comedy that even included a Chinese fire drill in the middle of the interview.

Directly related to this is a THUMBS-UP to SPEED's Kenny Wallace. After watching "R V There Yet?", Wallace quipped "hey, I thought his name was pull my finger Allmendinger."

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