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NASCAR Michigan postscript (F words means Finally)

by Dave Grayson
Monday, June 18, 2012

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Earnhardt is all smiles in victory lane
Getty Images for NASCAR
So, the long draught is over. All is well in the world of the Junior Nation tonight. NASCAR's most popular driver has found victory lane again.

THUMBS-UP to Dale Earnhardt Jr for winning the Quicken Loans 400 at the Michigan International Raceway and finally getting rid of the way too often discussed win less streak that dates back to 2008 and 143 races ago. Ironically, his last win came at Michigan.

THUMBS-UP to Earnhardt for a dominating performance in this race. On the way to his 19th series win, he led a race high 95 laps and came under the checkers with a whopping 5.3 seconds margin of victory over runner up Tony Stewart. Of equal importance, Earnhardt moved to second in the championship standings and is now only four points away from first.

THUMBS-UP for the irony that had Earnhardt's Chevrolet painted black to promote the new movie: "Batman-The Dark Knight Rises." Everybody is well aware of the famous black Chevy the race winner's famous father drove. THUMBS-UP to the irony that Junior won this race on Father's Day. NASCAR Hall Of Famer Darrell Waltrip probably put it best when he sent a "Twitter" message that read; "there are a lot of fathers proud of their sons today. I know one that is looking down and smiling."

THUMBS-UP to team owner Rick Hendrick who has been enjoying an amazing run that dates back to May 12th when driver Jimmie Johnson gave the organization its 200th win at Darlington. Following that win Hendrick threw a celebration party and hired country music superstar Brad Paisley to play. Wouldn't it be cool if Hendrick threw the party, for the Michigan win, at Whiskey River, the Charlotte based night club owned by Earnhardt? That way Earnhardt could be the guest of honor at a party in his own club and make yet another pile of money.

THUMBS-UP to Rick Hendrick never losing his faith in Dale Earnhardt Jr's capabilities as a driver during those long four years. Hendrick was at home watching the race and said he literally did laps around his living room couch because he was so nervous over the prospect of a late race yellow flag. "That was the longest 15 laps ever," he said.

THUMBS-UP to that Rick Hendrick bobble head doll that was placed next to the Quicken Loans trophy in victory lane. 

The same THUMBS-UP goes for the Junior Nation who also never stopped believing. WHAT'S-UP with that eerie silence during the last five laps of the race? It was almost like the 80,000 plus in the grandstands were holding their breath to see if Earnhardt was going to win.

THUMBS-UP for Hollywood. Jimmie Johnson won the Dover race while promoting the movie "Madagascar" on the hood of his car. Earnhardt won at Michigan while promoting the new movie "Batman-The Dark Knight Rises." Do we see a trend coming here?

WHAT'S-UP with all of those comic books telling us for decades that millionaire Bruce Wayne is Batman? Crew Chief Steve Letarte is Batman. THUMBS-UP to Earnhardt's crew chief for an outstanding job on top of the pit box. When the #88 Chevrolet was running tight at the beginning of the race, Letarte called for the placement of a spring rubber. All of a sudden his car became faster than the bat mobile. THUMBS-UP to Earnhardt's team for a flawless final pit stop that helped set up the winning run late in the race.

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THUMBS-UP for some terrific one liners that followed Earnhardt's win. During a live SPEED Channel broadcast, the always fun Kenny Wallace said: "invest in the stock market tomorrow, Junior wins, stocks are going to be up." Later, during a live interview, Wallace asked Earnhardt "when are you going to win again?" Earnhardt quickly replied "next week!"

In a "Twitter" message, Indy Racing League driver Ryan Briscoe congratulated Earnhardt and wrote: "America's national nightmare is over."

During the final moments of the Michigan race, motorsports writer Sal Sigala Jr posted an observation on "Facebook" that said "the Internet is about to crash, and Elvis will come back from the dead at the end of this race." In a second comment, Sigala wrote: "the Mayans were right when they predicted the world would come to an end, or Earnhardt would win a race." Great Stuff !

WHAT'S-UP with that endless ringing in my left ear? When Earnhardt's car crossed under the checkers the in house girlfriend, now always and forever the card carrying-T shirt wearing member of the Junior Nation, let out an ear shattering squeal. After hearing that extremely high pitched sound, every dog in the neighborhood showed up at our front door. I spent the next hour walking them home. That's okay, I'm just grateful that the high pitched sound didn't crack the windshields of the parked cars.

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THUMBS-UP to Jimmie Johnson for scoring a fifth place finish at Michigan. This is significant because the team had to give up a tenth place starting berth, and start at the rear of the field, due to engine problems discovered the day before. His charge back to the front moves him to fourth in the championship standings.

THUMBS-UP to Jeff Gordon's badly needed sixth place finish. The hard luck driver's top ten moves him to 20th in the standings. If he can remain in the top 20, and score two wins along the way, he could be in a position for a wild card berth for the final Chase for the Championship line up. One of those wins could be coming his way next Sunday at the road course in Sonoma-California. We all know how good Gordon is at that track.

WHAT'S-UP with the hard luck suffered by all three of the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas at Michigan? It started on lap 127 when Joey Logano, last week's winner at Pocono, was involved in a three car wreck on the backstretch. Logano's car was severely damaged and that led to a 35th place finish.

Moments later, on lap 134, Denny Hamlin got caught up in a two car incident on turn four and went down on pit road with a massive engine fire. His 34th place finish dropped him to fifth in the championship standings.

The one JGR incident that really raised some eyebrows was Kyle Busch's engine woes that sent him behind the wall on lap 157. He finished 32nd in the final rundown. This marks the third race in a row where Busch has suffered engines problems. The JGR motors are built by Toyota Racing Development in Los Angles and you can bet TRD was all over this situation the first thing Monday morning.

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THUMBS-UP to the sheer note of irony that saw two high profile NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr, end high profile win less streaks on tracks that had brand new pavement. This note of irony occurred within seven days of each other.

WHAT'S-UP with the new pavement at Michigan creating blisters on the race tires? The heat index of the new pavement and the 200 MPH speeds that came with it, combined with the humidity of temperatures in the high 80's, raised some serious tire concerns.

THUMBS-UP to Goodyear Tires for a last minute shipment of left side tires, with a harder compound, to help alleviate the situation. There were still some issues regarding tire blisters, during Sunday's race, but the situation was no where near the concern level it was on Friday.

THUMBS-UP to NASCAR for scheduling an extra practice session on Saturday along with two competition yellows, early in Sunday's race, in the name of driver safety.

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