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NASCAR Michigan postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, June 20, 2011

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Hamlin holds off Edwards in the run to the flag
Getty Images for NASCAR
Over the previous weekend we watched a heavily favored championship contender finally locate victory lane again not to mention finally finding the top ten in the points standings. Oh yeah, there may also be a temporary, but highly significant, rise in the cost of oil pans for Toyota Camrys in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Denny Hamlin for parking his FED EX/Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the victory lane of Michigan International Raceway following the Heluva Good Sour Cream Dips 400. After winning eight races last year, Hamlin and this team was heavily favored to be a major contender for this year's Chase For The Championship. But the team got off to a horrible start and last Sunday finally found their first win of the year.

However, the team was showing some signs of regaining their strength and clawed their way back to 12th in the points. That Fed Ex special delivery to victory lane allowed Hamlin to elevate the team to ninth in the standings and it appears that this pre season favorite may be back on track again.

Hamlin led the final eight laps of the race and collected $202,200 in prize money. That's a good thing because team owner Joe Gibbs may need some of that money to pay the anticipated cost increase of three oil pans confiscated by NASCAR last Friday.

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WHAT'S-UP with those heavy weight oil pans confiscated from all three of the Joe Gibbs Racing cars last Friday? This situation began during a pre practice NASCAR tech inspection when it was determined that the oil pans were unapproved parts. Basically what that means is: all parts on a Sprint Cup car has to be on an official list maintained by the NASCAR technical officials. The Gibbs teams replaced the oil pans with the approved models and were allowed to go out onto the track for practice. While the possibility of some sort of penalty might be coming towards the Gibbs organization, NASCAR officials honestly didn't anticipate that penalty might include the loss of driver and owner points.

However, by Friday afternoon the plot to this story developed a very interesting twist. The standard size oil pan for a Sprint Cup car weighs approximately four pounds. The weight of the three pans removed from the Gibbs cars weighed between 20 to 30 pounds. It was theorized by many that these unusually heavy pans could allow the Gibbs teams to remove or relocate the standard weights on the car thereby creating an unfair handling advantage.

It's likely that a decision regarding penalties will be handed down by NASCAR on Tuesday. It's also likely there will be a highly significant rise in the cost of oil pans.

THUMBS-UP to a great question raised relative this issue during a media press conference last Friday. JGR driver Denny Hamlin was asked if he thought "Fed Ex delivered the wrong pans to the race shop." Hamlin just replied "Nope."

THUMBS-UP for the fact that this latest round of embarrassment for Joe Gibbs Racing can't, in no way, be blamed on the behavior of Kyle Busch.

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WHAT'S-UP with the disappointing finishes from all four of the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets? This is especially true of Jimmie Johnson and his #48 team. "Jimmie Five Time" has never won a race at Michigan. He still hasn't. Early on, after only nine laps into the race, Johnson suffered an uncharacteristic, and unassisted, spin out. He left the pits a lap down but with a broken sway bar. The next caution flag, and the lucky dog pass, put him back on the lead lap at least for a moment. But that broken sway bar had to be replaced on pit road and Johnson now found himself at the back of the pack two laps down. He had to settle for a 27th place finish and fell from second to fifth in the points

WHAT'S-UP with the eerie darkness in the eyes of crew chief Chad Knaus when these things happen to his team? Sometimes he resembles some evil character in a modern day horror movie. I've often wondered if you can turn into a pillar of salt just by looking into those dark pupils.

Hendrick driver Jeff Gordon was basically not a factor at all in the race and finished 17th. The lone Hendrick bright spot was Mark Martin's ninth.

But WHAT'S-UP with the Hendrick Motorsports bright spot becoming somewhat involved with robbing team mate Dale Earnhardt Jr of another top ten finish? The unintentional incident saw Martin's car sailing up high on the backstretch directly in front of Earnhardt who scraped the wall to avoid rear end contact. Unfortunately that wall contact involved some right front tire damage. The tire eventually blew and Earnhardt found himself scraping the wall again. Earnhardt was the class of the Hendrick field of cars but had to watch a sure fire top ten turn into a 21st place finish. He still remains third in the standings but, had this incident not have happened, he would have taken over second due to Johnson's problem.

After the race Earnhardt raised more than a few eyebrows when he commented on being "pissed off" due to a careless act. Fear not Junior Nation fans, Mark Martin will make quick work of smoothing over the waters at Hendrick because that's what a class act like Martin does.
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THUMBS-UP to Roush Fenway Racing for their one-two finish in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Michigan. Carl Edwards passed team mate Ricky Stenhouse Jr in the waning laps for his 33d career win in the series.

THUMBS-UP to Stenhouse for another strong Nationwide Series performance. How good is this kid getting? Remember last year when we all thought Jack Roush was going to fire him for wadding up too many race cars? What a difference a year makes.
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In some final thoughts this week THUMBS-UP to team owner Jack Roush for a great observation regarding NASCAR's "have at it boys" policy and his fellow team owner Richard Childress.

During a post race interview on Saturday, after his Fords finished one-two in the Nationwide Series race, Roush was asked about the altercation between Kyle Busch and Richard Childress, following the NASCAR Truck race at Kansas, and was specifically asked if he felt the Childress $150,000 fine was too high.

"It was pretty high," Roush said adding "I guess that pretty much puts the nail in the coffin on the have at it boys." Roush further suggested that maybe the big difference here was the fact that the Childress vs. Busch incident wasn't so much of a case of have at it boys but was more of a " boy and a man" situation. "I am not sure, maybe that is different than the boys having at it. Kyle has been pretty rough on my cars over a period of time and for Richard to stand up for himself is OK," he said.

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THUMBS-UP to the country music group Emerson Drive and the Acapella Chorus Team from the U.S. Army for outstanding redentions of "The National Anthem." I've always admired acapella performances because I have a keen sense of how important perfect pitch and timing are to these performances. These guys were right on the mark last weekend.

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THUMBS-UP for this week's "Twitter" moments provided by Toyota driver Denny Hamlin. Participating in a fan chat fest Friday night, Hamlin was asked: "prior to becoming a full time race driver, what was the worst job you've ever had?" Hamlin replied: "I worked at a Subway( sandwich shop)." There has been no noted rebuttal comments from either fellow driver Carl Edwards, a Subway spokesman, or Jared the ultimate company representative.

During that same "Twitter" session a fan asked Hamlin: " what's the first thing you do in the morning after you wake up?" Hamlin replied: " Pee ! " This question came from a female fan and, surprisingly, there was an absence of the traditional question: boxer, briefs or commando?

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WHAT'S-UP with the "Now Hiring" logo on the rear quarter panels of Carl Edwards' AFLAC Ford? Okay, I know this is a promo for the team sponsor but you have to consider the coincidence of that logo being on the car at a time when Edwards is in contract negotiations with his team, is considered to be the number free agent from the 2011 silly season and is rumored to being courted by Joe Gibbs Racing.

I assume that AFLAC is "now hiring" insurance agents and not personal assistants for the duck.

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