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NASCAR Martinsville postscript

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, November 02, 2011

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Martinsville had its usual share of wrecks
Getty Images for NASCAR
There was the pressure that comes with 43 cars taking the green flag on a half mile track. There was the pressure of roughly half of the 2011 Chase contenders trying to fortify their championship hopes. There was the pressure on some drivers looking for a great run in order to shore up sponsorship programs for next year. There was also pressure on some drivers looking for a good run because they're looking for rides next year. How could there not be mayhem at Martinsville?

THUMBS-UP to Tony Stewart for pulling off a very surprising outside pass on Jimmie Johnson, following a final restart with only three laps left in the Tums Fast Relief 500. It marked Stewart's 42nd career win and third win of the season with all of them coming during the Chase schedule. Remember several weeks ago when Stewart said his team didn't deserve to be in the Chase? I don't think he believes that anymore. He's now second in the Chase standings and only eight points behind Carl Edwards.

THUMBS-UP to the race winner for giving the custom winner's trophy, a magnificent grandfather clock, to his crew chief Darian Grubb. It marked the first time in his career that Stewart has ever given away a winner's trophy.

THUMBS-UP for the post Martinsville trash talking regarding the Chase. With a big grin on his face, Stewart commented on the final three races remaining in the Chase and said "he, (Carl Edwards), better be worried, he's not going to have an easy three weeks. He better not even take a nap over the next three weeks." Stay tuned race fans, this is going to be fun.

WHAT'S-UP with Red Bull Racing's Brian Vickers? His performance at Martinsville may have set an all time WHAT'S-UP record. There were 18 caution flags during this race and Vickers managed to get directly involved with five of them. At least his sponsor logo received plenty of television exposure during this driver's very long day.

WHAT'S-UP with Vickers launching the final caution flag of the race with eight laps remaining? That last yellow flag wiped out Jimmie Johnson's huge lead and a sure fire race win. It was the catalyst that set up the final restart and Stewart stealing the trip to victory lane.

WHAT'S-UP with Vickers parking the rear of Jamie McMurray's car into the wall following a lap 88 hit? When the field came around again, under caution, McMurray attempted to crash Vickers but couldn't quite pull it off. It's what the broadcasters from Major League Baseball would call "swing and a miss."

WHAT'S-UP with McMurray coming over his radio to announce that the car has no power. That was because the impact of the crash caused the two batteries to come flying out of their compartment, located in front of the left rear tire, and land on the track.

WHAT'S-UP with Vickers deciding to take on Matt Kenseth during this race? During some short track road rage, on lap 459, Kenseth decided he had endured enough rear end pounding from that Red Bull car and the championship contender retaliated. I've often wondered what it takes to totally piss off Matt Kenseth.

WHAT'S-UP with more trouble for Chase contender Matt Kenseth following a lap 465 crash with Kyle Busch? That incident led to a 31st place finish and a drop of three positions in the Chase standings. He's now fifth and 36 points away from first.

WHAT'S-UP with Kyle Busch's hard luck run that led to a 27th place finish and a drop to seventh in the Chase standings? After leading a race high 126 laps, it appeared that Busch might break that so called jinx and win his first Chase race in 47 starts. Busch came to pit road for repairs and, in an effort avoid going a lap down, roared out of his pit box only to discover that there were missing lug nuts on the left front tire. The result was the tire rolled down the backstretch all by itself while Busch limped back to pit road.

The THUMBS-UP for making chicken salad out of chicken do do goes to Carl Edwards. After losing a ton of track position due to a wayward lug nut, Edwards found himself dealing with an ill handling car that had him losing a lap to the leaders on two different occasions. He was fortunate to receive the lucky dog free pass two times and that allowed him to recover to a ninth place finish. It also allowed to keep his points lead over Tony Stewart. Edwards will be the first to tell you that he got lucky at Martinsville.

But WHAT'S-UP with the Edwards team's magic set up pumpkin? Apparently there was a pumpkin that was supposed to bring some good mojo to the race car. Written on it, with a Sharpie pen, was the magic set up pumpkin's sage advice which read: "keep it free." I've got a feeling that, after the Martinsville race, that pumpkin was transported to someone's kitchen to be turned into a pie. 

Another chicken salad THUMBS-UP goes to Jeff Gordon who was caught up in a lap nine melee launched by this team mate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Despite the early race setback, Gordon charged his way to the front to a third place finish after leading 113 laps of the race.   

THUMBS-UP to Dale Earnhardt Jr for growing some fangs, the day before Halloween, and putting on an aggressive driving display that led to a seventh place finish much to the delight of his fan club, the Junior Nation. Earnhardt appeared to be having fun at Martinsville and it was good to see that style of driving from him again.

During the race Earnhardt said "I think if we raced at more short tracks, I might be considered a dirty driver." "Please, build some more short tracks," he said after the race adding "we need some more short tracks. At all of this mile and a half (tracks), I know you can get more seats at them or whatever but they just don't really turn everybody on."

THUMBS-UP for some post race comments that came from ESPN's "NASCAR Now" round table last Monday. Program host Alan Bestwick observed that the Martinsville race was good for the economy adding "there were so many wrecked cars that a lot of people are going to get paid to fix them" He also said the estimates for all of those damaged cars came to approximately $1,680,000.

Show analysts Ken Schrader quipped "I've been in demolition derbys that didn't have that many deliberate hits."

THUMBS-UP to the Martinsville Speedway for painting their six inch curbs, at the bottom of the turns, bright pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

THUMBS-UP to ESPN's television ratings for the Tums Fast Relief 500 broadcast. According to the Nielsen ratings, the race broadcast recorded a 3.6 household average rating, up from last year's 2.8, which equates to 4,923,000 viewers.

THUMBS-UP to the Martinsville Speedway race for reminding us why we loved short track racing to begin with.

In some final thoughts, a GOD BLESS goes out to the racing Wallace family who sadly lost their father, Russ Wallace October 30th at the age of 77. Mr. Wallace was a well known dirt track driver, and a winner of 200 feature races, in cars that he prepared himself with the help of his sons. Mr. Wallace proudly watched his racing sons: Rusty, Mike and Kenny follow in his footsteps while launching their own successful NASCAR careers. He also watched his grandchildren take up the family business as well. Our deepest condolences goes out to the Wallace family.

Next we have a THANK GOD for the circumstances that allowed NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick, his wife Linda and two pilots, to escape serious injury following a plane crash at an airport in Key West Florida, October 31st. According to reports the G150 Gulfstream private plane, registered to Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie Johnson Racing II, had a brake failure that caused it slide off of the runway. Rick Hendrick sustained a reported broken rib and clavicle while Linda Hendrick was treated for minor cuts and bruises. The two pilots were uninjured. Again THANK GOD, this accident could have been a lot worse.

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