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NASCAR New Hampshire postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, September 27, 2011

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A healthy crowd was on-hand
Getty Images for NASCAR
During the previous NASCAR weekend at New Hampshire we witnessed yet another race that was impacted by fuel mileage. We pondered the theory of how losing "dead weight" could lead to two, consecutive, Chase wins. We were surprised to learn that a championship crew chief is actually a lousy cheerleader and we learned the importance of punctuality on race day morning. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Tony Stewart, and everyone from Stewart-Haas Racing, for winning the Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The event marked Stewart's second, consecutive, win in six days. Of equal importance is the fact that Stewart is now on top of the Chase standings with a seven point lead over Kevin Harvick.

WHAT'S-UP with the Sylvania 300 becoming another NASCAR fuel mileage race? Stewart claimed the win after race leader Clint Bowyer ran out of gas with two laps remaining. The ending of this race was a simple case of reversal of fortune. Last year it was Stewart who ran out of gas at the end the race and handed the win to Bowyer.

THUMBS-UP to Bowyer for meeting Stewart, at the entry road to victory lane, to shake his hand and congratulate him. It was a very classy thing to do.

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WHAT'S-UP with that odd comment the race winner made but refused to explain? In a post race television interview Stewart announced that he had managed to recently 'get rid of some dead weight" and that was a factor in his New Hampshire win. Later, during the post race press conference in the media center, Stewart refused to explain what the comment meant and made it clear he had nothing further to say on the issue. Afterwards there was some speculation that he may have been referring to a personal matter. If that's the case then the media should drop it and move on. However, if it's indeed a personal matter then WHAT'S-UP with those personal comments being made on live television? Stewart surely must have known that a comment like that was going to raise the curiosity of the media.

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On the topic of curious comments, WHAT'S-UP with that in car radio comment by Jimmie Johnson when he told crew chief Chad Knaus that his efforts at cheer leading were "terrible" and "annoying"? Despite being heavily favored to win this race, Johnson and company had a less than stellar day with a car that just wouldn't handle properly. A late race fender collision with Kyle Busch's car didn't help the matter either. The team finished 18th and dropped to tenth in the Chase standings.

WHAT'S-UP with all of that post race speculation that claims Chase tension has now created a riff between the dynamic duo of Johnson and Knaus? WHAT'S-UP with speculation that claims their drive for a sixth, consecutive, championship has been derailed? Does anyone really believe that at this early point in time? I don't.

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WHAT'S-UP with that eyebrow raising pre race inspection scenario involving Kurt Busch's Penske Racing Dodge? During a final pre race inspection, NASCAR tech officials determined that the rear end housing was out of line and required an adjustment. This was a relatively quick fix but, much to the amazement of the team, NASCAR held the car at the tech center until approximately ten minutes prior to the time to start the engines for the race.

THUMBS-UP to NASCAR for making that call. It seems that the Penske #22 team recently has developed a bad habit of showing up late for inspections with a car that sometimes requires time consuming adjustments. NASCAR decided it was time to teach this team a lesson. There will be no penalties regarding this matter according to NASCAR officials. The embarrassment of the incident was plenty and team owner Roger Penske has already said it won't happen again.

WHAT'S-UP with the #22 team literally having to push their car to the pit road starting grid at a full running gallop? Talk about speeding on pit road.

WHAT'S-UP with the frequently tempestuous Kurt Busch, lighting up his famous short fuse, while waiting for his car to arrive? When approached by a pit road ESPN camera crew and reporter for a comment, Busch waved them off and followed that up with a rude tirade that found its way to a live television microphone. Busch's tirade reportedly contained a certain word that begins with the letter F. That led to a public apology, rendered by Alan Bestwick from the ESPN broadcast booth, for offensive language that went out over the air. But, WHAT'S-UP with the strange timing of that apology? From the time the words were said to the time of the apology a full three hours had gone by.

WHAT'S-UP with a still angry Busch performing his usual live on the air show, via his in car radio system, where once again he began verbally abusing his team about the state of his car? He finished 22nd and dropped to ninth in the Chase standings. I can't imagine what it must be like at times working for this driver.

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On a much brighter note for Penske Racing, THUMBS-UP to Brad Keselowski, and his Paul Wolfe led Miller Lite team, for their second place finish at New Hampshire. The combination of good calls from the pit box, good pit stops and even better fuel mileage led to that finish. A team that was never expected to make the Chase line up at all is now third in the standings and only 11 points from the top. Do you think that Keselowski's hot summer streak is perhaps sticking in team mate Kurt Busch's craw just a little? Yeah, I do too.

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THUMBS-UP to Chase contender Jeff Gordon for a fourth place finish that came following trying circumstances. At lap 70 Gordon came down pit road rolling silent and completely out of gas. The lengthy pit stop cost him a ton of track position. With 35 laps remaining, Gordon was told he had to conserve fuel reportedly because the exchange of the team's gas cans didn't quite fill the car's gas tank during the previous pit stop. Despite those distractions, Gordon still managed to finish fourth and elevate himself to fifth in the Chase standings. It appears that the four time Sprint Cup champion's drive for five is still strong.

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WHAT'S-UP with the performances of the two Chase contenders from Joe Gibbs Racing? Both Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were considered to be pre race favorites to take the win at New Hampshire. Busch's Toyota was never really a factor and finished 11th without so much as leading a single lap. In the two Chase races, Busch has now dropped from first to sixth in the standings. The speculation regarding this team's tendency to choke during the Chase has already begun.

After a devastating finish last week in Chicago, Hamlin seriously needed a good run in New Hampshire to reaffirm his Chase hopes. He had one in the making and was running in the top ten when he had to come to pit road out of gas with only five laps in the race. He remains last in the 12 man Chase standings and any hopes for a championship are virtually gone.

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THUMBS-UP to Kyle Busch for a stunning win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at New Hampshire. Busch led 165 laps, of the F W Webb 175, in a dominant performance that literally stunk up the live SPEED Channel broadcast. The win was his sixth of the season and 30th in his truck career.

THUMBS-UP to Austin Dillon whose second place finish in this race allowed him to take over the lead in the series' point standings. Dillon holds a very slim three point advantage over James Buescher in a championship run that is expected to go down to the final race of the season.

WHAT'S-UP with the pit road woes of Joey Coulter during the New Hampshire truck race? The young development driver, for Richard Childress Racing, was running third when he came down pit road for his final stop. Unfortunately he was caught speeding on pit road and had to come back to serve a penalty. Then he was penalized again for, you guessed it, speeding while exiting pit road. You live and learn.
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In some final thoughts, THUMBS-UP to Mother Nature for allowing us to return to NASCAR Sprint Cup racing on Sundays again. We were beginning to wonder if we were ever going to see that again.

THUMBS-UP to NASCAR's Whelen Modified Racing Series for an outstanding race on Saturday morning which was won by Ronnie Silk. This event was, hands down, the class act of the entire New Hampshire racing weekend. I'd really like to see more of this series on national television.

The final WHAT'S-UP goes the stressed out Sprint Cup crew chiefs who found themselves, once again, having to deal with the massive tension that comes with a fuel mileage race. Judging from the video shots of them sitting on their pit boxes, it appeared that they were suffering from the pain of constipation. That's yet another reason why fuel mileage races are a bad situation.

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