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NASCAR Watkins Glen postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

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Marcos Ambrose
Adriano Manocchia/AR1.com
Over the previous weekend we observed mother nature wreak havoc with NASCAR's best laid plans and schedules at the Watkins Glen International Raceway. There was simply no way the Heluva Good Sour Cream Dips At The Glen was going to see a green flag start on Sunday afternoon. What we saw instead was one Heluva Good Sprint Cup race on Monday morning. We witnessed the joy of our favorite "Aussie" after winning his first ever Cup race, we witnessed a hair raising green-white checker finish and we got treated to some rather entertaining comments from a pair of angry drivers after the race. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Marcos Ambrose for scoring that long sought first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Watkins Glen. He led a total of 21 laps including a three wide move at the end of the race that allowed him to lead the most important lap of all. That famous grin was wider than ever in victory lane where Ambrose announced that he was going to "crack a few tinnies and enjoy this victory."

WHAT'S-UP with the naysayers who are already claiming that this driver is expected to win a Cup race on a road course and to prove his mettle he needs to win on an oval? Yes, it's certainly true that he's won a lot or road racing events and titles in his native Australia. There's no question that his road racing skills are superior to many. He certainly proved that at Watkins Glen. But, why do we need to go there in middle of this driver's first Cup victory? Can Ambrose win on an oval? If you look at his marked improvement on ovals over the last year alone the answer is yes he can.

THUMBS-UP to Richard Petty Motorsports for an outstanding day at the Glen where their two car team finished in the top ten. A J Allmendinger also had a good run and brought his car home to an eighth place finish. This is a well deserved turn around for RPM especially when you consider that, less than a year ago, we were all wondering if they were going to have to lock the doors to their shop for good.

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THUMBS-UP to Brad Keselowski for his second place finish at Watkins Glen. Despite the pain from an ankle and back injury, he found a way to overcome medical issues and drive a very strong race. On an equally important note, that finish moves him to 11th in the championship standings and he's now the leader in the wild card competition. It's extremely possible that this injured driver could drive himself into the Chase line up.

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Okay, let's get to it. WHAT'S-UP with that Boris Said versus Greg Biffle confrontation after the race? On the final lap of the Watkins Glen Cup race, Said got into the back of David Ragan's Ford who in turn collected David Reutimann's Toyota. The result was a horrendous accident that concluded the green-white-checker finish with a yellow flag. Reutimann's car hit the retaining wall so hard it barrel rolled and was approximately four feet shorter than its original length. Both Reutimann and Ragan were clearly shaken up from the hard hits and exited their cars very slowly. Boris Said referred to the incident as a close quarter road course racing deal but did say he was glad to hear the two drivers were okay.

Apparently Biffle took a great deal of exception to his team mate, Ragan, being treated that way. It was alleged that Biffle presented Said with a series of one finger salutes before they left the track after the race. Once in the garage area, Said probably made the situation worse by parking his race car behind Biffle’s hauler. Biffle was observed reaching into Said's window and threw a punch at him. By the time Said was able to get out of his car to continue the confrontation, Biffle was already surrounded by members of  his team. It prompted Said to announce that Biffle was the "most unprofessional scaredy cat he's ever seen" and further complained that Biffle wouldn't even "fight me like a man. Said also announced that he needed someone to text him Biffle's address so he could go to his house and "show him what he really needs." Biffle later responded, via "Twitter", that Said shouldn't have parked his car behind his team hauler and that his first concern should have been to check on the condition of Reutimann and Ragan. Biffle referred to that lack of concern for the drivers as being both "unprofessional and disrespectful."

WHAT'S-UP with that curious comment from NASCAR that followed this incident? NASCAR Spokesperson Kristi King said "we're evaluating the situation, any potential penalties likely would be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday." Wait a minute, why isn't this covered under the "have at it boys policy"? The race cars were parked, there was no chance of innocent victims getting caught up in a two driver confrontation and you really couldn't even call that a fight. Compared to other "have at it boys" incidents from the past, this was probably the safest, maybe even the lamest, one we've seen. Both drivers reportedly had already left the track before NASCAR officials could even speak to them about the incident. Why would there be penalties?

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A combined THUMBS-UP and WHAT'S-UP goes to the Busch Brothers for their up and down weekend at Watkins Glen. Subbing for the injured Brad Keselowski in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Kurt Busch started on the pole and won the race. In fact, the Busch brothers were a tower of strength in this event and combined to lead all 85 laps. However older brother's win came at little brother's expense. In the waning laps Kyle Busch had serious fuel mileage issues and had to come to pit road for a splash of gas. He eventually charged his way back through the field to finish fourth.

However, Kyle Busch gets a WHAT'S-UP for refusing to do a network television interview after the Nationwide Series race. Okay I get that the passion of a race driver had him upset over giving away a win that would placed him on top of the series' all time winner's list. The truth be known, he probably wasn't too thrilled about giving away a race to his big brother. I also get that losing a race due to fuel mileage is enough to make a preacher cuss. But once again Kyle Busch needed to be reminded that a small army of people worked above and beyond the call of duty to provide him with the best race car on the track. He needed a reminder that a corporate group put up the resources so he could drive a car that good. The interview would have been an excellent time to thank them. The bottom line is: you always do the interviews, to promote your sponsors and your race team, no matter how lousy your day was.

On the Cup side of the Glen weekend, Kurt Busch had no luck at all. He found himself standing in a hole following an early race spin and then left the race, at lap 50, following a hard crash in turn five. Meanwhile Kyle Busch started the Cup event from the pole position, and led a race high 49 laps, before giving another race away this time due to sliding high in a turn on the final lap. At least this time he did the post race television interview.

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In some final thoughts, THUMBS-UP to the die hard NASCAR fans who returned to Watkins Glen International Raceway on a Monday morning determined not to miss the Sprint Cup race. NASCAR figures indicated the crowd was estimated at approximately 85,000. But it does make one wonder how many of them called in sick to work that day.

THUMBS-UP to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series whose 2011 season has turned up 15 winners in 22 races with five of them being first time Cup winners. Now that's a level playing field.

Sadly, the final WHAT'S-UP of the week goes to the Watkins Glen International Raceway because it appears there are still some sections of the track's retaining walls that are not covered with an energy absorbing SAFER barrier. We saw first hand the driver safety issues, as well as the sheet metal carnage, this situation caused. Driver David Ragan, who took a hard hit in a late race accident, probably put it best when he said "I've been on dirt tracks that has better walls than here."  This is an area that needs to be addressed immediately.

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