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NASCAR Dover postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, October 03, 2011

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Kurt Busch
Getty Images for NASCAR
During the previous NASCAR weekend we watched Miles The Monster, the official concrete mascot of the Dover International Raceway, smile on some Sprint Cup Chase contenders and we watched him growl at some other Chase hopes. We watched "Concrete Carl" dominate the Nationwide Series and then come perilously close to a crash landing after the race. We also watched a hard earned milestone from one of NASCAR's best truck drivers. With all of this in mind, let's begin this week with:

THUMBS-UP to Kurt Busch and his Penske Dodge Team for winning the AAA 400 at Dover. It marked Busch's second win of the season and 24th Sprint Cup career win. The #22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge led a total of 90 laps in the race including using a pair of great restarts to lead the final 42. More importantly, the win rekindles the driver's status as a Chase contender. He's now fourth in the standings only nine points from the leader.

THUMBS-UP to Jimmie Johnson who also rekindled his plans to win a sixth, consecutive, title during the Dover race. Johnson drove to a second place finish, led a race high 157 laps and moved from tenth to fifth, 13 points out, in the Chase standings. Last week, after a very bad day in New Hampshire, there was a lot of speculation that said this driver's championship string was broken and the dynasty was over. After watching his performance at Dover, it appears that quest for "Jimmie 5 Time" to become "Jimmie 6 Pack" is very much alive and well.

The THUMBS-UP for making chicken salad out of chicken do do goes to Carl Edwards. On lap 246 Edwards was caught speeding on pit road and fell a lap down after serving a drive through penalty. He had to endure the frustration of the penalty all the way to the eighth yellow flag of the race, lap 301, before he could get the Lucky Dog pass and return to the lead lap. Edwards had a very fast Ford at Dover and he used it to charge his way back to the front of the field. He was driving his car so hard the feathers from the AFLAC duck, on the hood of his car, literally flew through the air. Edwards finished third in the final rundown and, more importantly, left Dover tied for the lead in the points standing with Kevin Harvick.

A second chicken salad from chicken do do THUMBS-UP goes to driver A J Allmendinger. On lap six he spun his Ford and did an outstanding job of getting it back under control and avoiding what resembled a sure fire wreck. He restarted the race in 43d and drove the car to a 7th place finish.

WHAT'S-UP with bad luck for Chase contender Dale Earnhardt Jr which he later referred to as being 'snake bit?" Having to come down pit road due to a loose wheel is bad enough. But the big blow came under some bizarre circumstances; a broken sway bar. That led to a 24th place finish two laps down. He's now tenth in the Chase standings and 34 points out. The math potential says he has not been eliminated from winning the championship. The reality of the situation indicates otherwise. Sorry about that Junior Nation.

WHAT'S-UP with Dale Earnhardt Jr calling in over his radio to request football scores? You would think he would have been a little too busy out on the race track for something like that. Earnhardt was interested in his favorite team: the Washington Redskins. He was delighted to hear that they won their game. It was probably the best part of his long afternoon in Dover.

WHAT'S-UP with the bizarre circumstances surrounding Brad Keselowski's Dodge. He somehow managed to break a power steering belt, something that you rarely see, which led to a 20th place finish. He's still in Chase contention despite this unusual problem. He left Dover sixth in the standings 14 points away.

WHAT'S-UP with Jeff Gordon's crew making a bad situation worse by accidentally turning the adjustment wrench the wrong way during a pit stop? Gordon was experiencing some handling problems prior to this pit stop and this was the last thing he needed. He finished 12th in the race and has now dropped from fifth to ninth in the standings 19 points away.

WHAT'S-UP with Tony Stewart being completely ineffective in any category you could name during the Dover weekend? After winning the first two Chase events, Stewart just couldn't catch a break. During the pre race practice sessions he was ranked 41st and 25th on the speed charts. He qualified 28th and then spent the race plowing around the track while screaming at his crew over the radio. He finished 25th two laps down in a car that was just terrible all day long. The truth be known, I'm sure there were farm tractors plowing fields that had better handling than Stewart's Chevrolet.

After his win at New Hampshire the week prior, Stewart made that elusive comment about "shedding some dead weight" which helped towards the race win. After watching his car at Dover, I'm beginning to wonder if some devious person placed that "dead weight" in the car's trunk prior to the race.

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The NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Dover also contained several interesting moments. THUMBS-UP to "Concrete" Carl Edwards for his dominant performance during this race. Edwards, and his Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang, led 179 laps of the One Main Financial 200. The event marked his seventh series win of the season, his 36th series career win and his ninth win on a concrete oval, a racing format he seems to excel on.

WHAT'S-UP with that moment of uncertainty while the winning driver launched his signature back flip in front of the grandstands? The right side tires of his car were resting on the frontstretch banking which added to the degree of difficulty of the victory jump. For a brief moment there, we all thought that "Concrete" Carl was going to land horizontally on the concrete. I still believe that the back flip tradition is a source of major stress for team owner Jack Roush because no one wants to watch their superstar driver get injured after the race.

WHAT'S-UP with that bizarre pit road wreck involving driver Brian Scott? On lap 160 Scott and Ricky Stenhouse Jr nearly collided while attempting to enter pit road. This was despite the fact that Scott's crew chief came over the radio to remind his driver to take it easy on the entry because they were located at the very first pit stall on pit road. Somehow that didn't happen. Scott drove across the pit road commitment line and then slammed into some sand filled plastic safety barrels located at the edge of the pit wall. Despite all of that flying sand from the ruptured containers, the damage to Scott's car was surprisingly light and he was able to continue. He turned an embarrassing negative into a positive 11th place finish. It could have been worse. It wasn't that many years ago when those plastic barrels were filled with water and that would have inflicted some serious damage to Scott's car.

WHAT'S-UP with the lack of communication involving driver Reed Sorenson's final pit stop? During a caution flag Sorenson's car was extremely low on fuel to the point that the engine was sputtering. He came down pit road for gas despite the fact that pit road was still closed. That's normally an automatic penalty. Sorenson returned to the track but there were no instructions from NASCAR Race Control advising him of a penalty. He was told by his spotter to line up fourth for the upcoming restart until NASCAR told him to do otherwise. The race resumed and Sorenson eventually finished seventh despite the fact that everyone was wondering when, or even if, NASCAR was going to impose a penalty.

That leads to a THUMBS-UP to NASCAR Race Control for admitting their failure to advise Sorenson's team of their status in a timely manner. No penalty was imposed and the driver was allowed to keep his top ten finish.

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THUMBS-UP to iconic veteran Ron Hornaday Jr for winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Kentucky Speedway. The four time series champion's latest win was his 50th in a career that dates back to the beginning of the series back in 1995.

Despite this amazing accomplishment, Hornaday is looking for a ride for the 2012 season following the announcement that his team owner, Kevin Harvick Inc, will not be competing in the series next year. At age 53, Hornaday still has a lot of fire and racing inside him. There's already rumors that says team owners are calling him about securing his services.

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In some final thoughts, THUMBS-UP to the teams and their sponsors who placed the color pink on their cars and uniforms in honor of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is especially true of Team Chevy who had their teams use pink numbers on the doors and roofs of their cars. The Chevy bow tie logo and the word Impala were also adorned in pink.

It was part of the auto maker's "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" campaign that resulted in a $29,800 donation to this very important cause. During the Sprint Cup's events at Atlanta and Richmond the field was led by a pink 2011Chevrolet Camaro SS pace car. Chevrolet donated $200 for every lap that was led by the pace car during the yellow caution flags of these two races. The Atlanta and Richmond events had a lucrative total of 149 caution laps.

Finally we have a GOD BLESS for Pattie Petty. The wife of Sprint Cup driver, turned television analyst, Kyle Petty was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. The diagnosis came from a hospital in Kansas. Pattie Petty was there handling the massive details of opening a camp for kids with chronic illnesses. The camp, known as Victory Junction Midwest, is a sister facility to the famed Victory Junction Camp created by the Petty family in Randleman-North Carolina. Pattie Petty has made it clear that she will not allow her illness to deter her efforts to build the new camp in Kansas. Send her some good thoughts and prayers. This is a very classy lady who is an inspirational to us all.

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