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NASCAR Charlotte All-Star race postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, May 23, 2011

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Jack Roush
THUMBS-UP to Jack "The Cat In The Hat" Roush. We have never seen the usually stoic team owner of Roush Fenway Racing smile that much. However, last weekend was a major exception. Roush celebrated in victory lane twice Saturday night at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The first time was for winning the Sprint Showdown race, the second time was for winning the Sprint All Star race where all four of his teams finished in the top eight. Then, on Sunday morning, he flew to Iowa where he celebrated in victory lane with his NASCAR Nationwide Series teams who finished one-two at the Iowa Speedway.

By the way the total prize money for this 24 hours of superior performance came to a whopping $1,684,918. That's enough to make anyone smile for a week.

THUMBS-UP to Carl Edwards for winning the 2011 NASCAR Sprint All Star Race Saturday night and the one million paycheck that came with it. Edwards led a total of 29 laps in the event including the final 14 and that big white duck on the hood of his Ford screamed "AFLAC" all the way to the checkers.

On the topic of ducks, WHAT'S-UP with this annual no holds barred race turning into a lame duck race? While there were some moments of hard racing during this event, it did not even come close to living up to its annual no holds barred, "have at it boys", reputation. In fact, there was more action from the video highlights of past races presented during the pre race show. There are of course times when a major sporting event doesn't quite live up to the advertising hype, but the Sprint All Star Race didn't even come close.

Driver Tony Stewart, who gave himself a 40th birthday present with his fourth place finish, probably put it best when he diplomatically said "it was a pretty tame night in terms of the All Star Race perspective."

THUMBS-UP to Carl Edwards for bump drafting on the rear of the official pace car prior to restarts. There were moments when this was pretty much the only car contact that we expected to see during this race.

WHAT'S-UP with Carl Edwards wrecking his race car after winning the race? When Edwards decided to do some victory donuts in the infield grass he hit a manhole cover and, for a moment there, it appeared that the car was going to roll over. The end result was massive damage to the front end of the car. A surprised, and somewhat sheepish, Edwards soldiered on with the celebration and did his traditional back flip from the wadded up race car. That was followed by a wrecker towing the car to victory lane.

However Edwards deserves another THUMBS-UP for his sense of humor regarding the post race embarrassment. In the process of thanking his sponsors, he said he was pretty sure he could get some grass seed from Scotts to repair the damage on the speedway infield.

Another THUMBS-UP goes to Jack Roush and his sense of humor. When asked about the post race damage to his car, he replied "we didn't have the splitter adjusted for the grass." He also told Edwards to consider himself invited to drop by the shop next week to help fix the car.

THUMBS-UP to Dale Earnhardt Jr for winning the annual Sprint fan vote competition which placed him in the line up for the All Star Race where he finished 14th. NASCAR's most popular driver received the lion's share of the record setting 2.4 million plus votes cast.

WHAT'S-UP with any NASCAR fan who actually considered that any other Sprint Cup driver could have possibility won this contest?

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THUMBS-UP to Roush Fenway Racing driver David Ragan for winning the Sprint Showdown event Saturday night. The win allowed him to join the Sprint All Star Race line up at the rear of the field. Ragan drove hard in his second event of the night and worked his way to a very credible eighth place finish.

WHAT'S-UP with a select few who have already pointed a critical finger at Ragan by suggesting that he only won a 40 lap B main that sent two transfers to the big money race? That's not fair. The fact remains that Ragan won his first ever race while driving a NASCAR Sprint Cup car and he did a fine job doing it. When the series returns to the Charlotte Motor Speedway next Sunday, for the Coca Cola 600, this young driver is going to be loaded with self confidence and momentum because of this win last Saturday night.

THUMBS-UP for the mandated safety equipment in NASCAR's modern day race cars. During the opening laps of the Sprint Showdown, Landon Cassill spun his Chevrolet directly in the path of Derrike Cope's Ford. The result was a savage hit into the driver's door of the Cassill car. Bear in mind that it wasn't that many years ago when this would have been a very serious accident. But the modern day mandated safety equipment, especially those energy absorbing foam pads in the driver door, prevented the possibility of serious injury.

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THUMBS-UP to Roush Fenway Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr for scoring his first ever NASCAR Nationwide Series win last Sunday at the Iowa Speedway. The occasion marked the first time a Nationwide Series only driver won a series race since March of last year. To many series observers that fact alone might actually be a WHAT'S-UP.

This first series win is quite a step forward for the 23 year old driver when you recall what happened this time last year at Iowa. That was when Stenhouse crashed his primary car in practice, crashed the back up car during qualifying and then crashed a third car during the race.

THUMBS-UP to Carl Edwards for finishing second in the Iowa race to give Roush Fenway Racing the one-two finish after winning the Sprint Cup All Star Race the night before, Edwards was in Iowa on Saturday morning for qualifying earning the fourth starting berth. He flew back to North Carolina for the All Star race and returned to Iowa Sunday morning, with Jack Roush, for the Nationwide event These elaborate travel arrangements were courtesy of Roush Air, the fleet of planes owned by Jack Roush.

THUMBS-UP to driver Kenny Wallace for making his official 500th Nationwide series start in the Iowa race. THUMBS-UP to NASCAR for commemorating this special occasion with a plaque presented by NASCAR President Mike Helton.

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THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch for winning Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Series race at Charlotte while, at the same time, enhancing his NASCAR national stats. The win was Busch's fourth of the year and 28th overall which now ties him for second on the series win list with Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague. It was also Busch's 97th win in a NASCAR National Series which ties him for third on that win list with Dale Earnhardt Sr and Darrell Waltrip.

THUMBS-UP to Kimi Raikkonen’s official NASCAR debut during the Charlotte truck race. Driving a team Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Raikkonen made quick work of addressing the NASCAR learning curve. The 2007 Formula One champion impressed a lot of observers with his 15th place finish.

THUMBS-UP to Red Bull Racing driver Cole Whitt whose third place finish allowed him to leave Charlotte as the new series points leader. He's now the first ever series rookie, as well as the youngest driver, to lead the championship standings.

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THUMBS-UP to Kasey Kahne for winning last Saturday's annual Pennzoil Ultra Victory Challenge burn out contest last Saturday. Kahne received the first place prize of a $10,000 donation to his favorite charity and, in turn, announced the money would be donated to his very own Kasey Kahne Foundation.

THUMBS-UP to Denny Hamlin's Fed Ex crew, from Joe Gibbs Racing, for winning Thursday night's NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge for the second, consecutive, year. The #11 crew edged Jimmie Johnson's team by a narrow margin for the win after changing four tires, putting gas in the car and then pushing it 40 yards across the finish line in 22.298 seconds. The team earned $70, 675 for their effort.

THUMBS-UP to NASCAR for sponsoring this annual competition. These guys train and work hard and their efforts are often the major contributor to their team winning a race. Giving them an opportunity to shine in the NASCAR spotlight is a great idea.

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In some final thoughts, the number on Jimmie Johnson's car was changed from its traditional #48 to #5 for the All Star Race. This move was a tie in with a promotion from team sponsor Lowes who was offering its customers a 5% discount for purchases paid with a Lowes' credit card. That leads to a THUMBS-UP to ESPN/ABC Sports' broadcaster Mike Joy who quipped "they changed the car number to 5 because Lowes couldn't afford to give customers 48% off."

THUMBS-UP to the "Day Of The Rapture" for failing to materialize last Saturday to disrupt the race and literally everything else you could name. Predicted and heavily promoted by an 89 year old Oakland-California based minister, the May 21st end of the world deadline passed quietly while we all moved along taking care of our business.

What's this got to do with NASCAR racing? Prior to the start of the All Star evening, someone in the Charlotte Motor Speedway's sound booth thought it would be both clever and funny to play the song "It's The End Of The World" by the 1980's rock band REM. They were right, it was clever and funny.

The same sound booth personnel gets another THUMBS-UP for playing the theme song from the 1960's era television show "Flipper" after the All Star Race. Those of us who are old school fans, age 50 plus, will easily recall the popular television series about the famed dolphin and his adopted human family. The younger race fans probably have no idea what I'm talking about.

What's this got to do with NASCAR racing? The song was played just prior to race winner Carl Edwards' famous victory back flip and was perfectly timed. Edwards launched his signature move just as the crowd heard "they call him flipper, flipper, flipper." These sound booth people were clearly having a lot of fun last Saturday.

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