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NASCAR Sonoma postscript

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, June 26, 2013

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Truex Spin in practice
So, I turned on the television this weekend knowing full well that NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series was racing on a gigantic road course. I'm a little more partial to oval tracks, someone who thought all of that left turn-right turn racing was something for those funny looking sports cars. However, by the time the checkers fell on the NASCAR road racing weekend at the Sonoma Raceway, I must admit I was pretty impressed with the dramatic finish and the feel good story that came with the winner.

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It seems that Michael Waltrip Racing loaded up a Toyota, with NAPA on the hood, and trucked it all the way across the country to the Napa wine country in northern California, the home of the Sonoma Raceway. That alone had to be an omen that said they were going to win the Toyota-Sav Mart 350k.

The major feel good factor here was watching Martin Truex Jr return to victory lane while wiping out a 218 race winless streak which dates back to June of 2007. It was also great to see the emotion of Chad Johnson, who has been a Sprint Cup crew chief for only two years, win his first race.

Truex and his team deserved a major party after pulling off that win. They received a party gift from reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski who personally delivered a case of Miller Lite Beer to the winning team's car hauler.

The road to the Sonoma victory lane was not easy. During group qualifying, Truex experienced a one in a million situation. There was an electrical shortage in the driver's in car cooling system that forced him to abort the qualifying run because his car was filled with smoke. Despite that he earned a 14th place starting berth and worked his way to the race lead by lap 41.

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Then there were drivers and teams who figured out how to make chicken salad out of chicken do do. Topping that list was Kurt Busch who received a speeding penalty while entering pit road and then, in the process of returning to pit road to serve the penalty,  got caught speeding again. The loss of track position was huge but, despite that, Busch climbed up on the wheel and gave his team  a fourth place finish. He later said " the car was fast all day, even on pit road."

Jeff Gordon also deserves a chicken salad sandwich. In the process of making a scheduled green flag pit stop, the caution flag came out and the red light, signaling that pit road was closed, came out. Gordon was just a mere feet away from the pit road entry line when that light came on. The track position factor was huge but, despite that, Gordon charged his way back to the front and to a second place finish.

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Then there were other drivers who only collected chicken do do at Sonoma: enough of it to fertilize a large vegetable garden.

Certainly one of them was Juan Pablo Montoya who, despite being assured that he was good to go on fuel, ran out of gas on the white flag lap. The result was: a sure fire second place finish became a 34th place finish. I always found it rather humorous the way Montoya pronounced the word "sucks," with his Columbia-South American accent, when he had a bad day on the track. However, Montoya said "what can I say it's a heart breaker." It was a far cry from his traditional "what can I say it sooks."

It wasn't exactly a banner day for pre race favorite Kyle Busch either. Between getting punted by Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, during two separate incidents, a single car spin and a pit road speeding penalty, Busch left California with a 25th place finish.

Denny Hamlin's Chase hopes took another hit and that situation is getting very bleak. Having getting collected by Tony Stewart, Hamlin spun into the turn 7 guard rail and managed to catch a strip of grass on fire. His final finish was 23d.

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Hands down, the most bizarre moment of this race occurred on pit road before the cars even made it out to the race track. After receiving the command to start their engines, the field slowly moved down pit road. David Reutimann suddenly slowed and stopped. Rookie Alex Kennedy saw what happened and stopped. Somehow Paulie Harraka, another rookie making his Sprint Cup debut, failed to notice the two stopped cars. He ran into the back of Kennedy's car causing a considerable amount to damage to both vehicles.

Harraka's Sprint Cup debut woes wasn't quite over yet. After spending a great deal of time on pit road for repairs, Harraka had the misfortune of bringing out the first yellow flag of the race, on lap 7, when he lost control of his car, between turns one and two, and created even more front end damage. Believe it or not, the good news is: he finished the race. He placed 39th, 21 laps down, but he finished. Live and learn young man. Hopefully you'll get another Cup opportunity and your luck will be better.

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Just prior to the Sonoma Raceway weekend, reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski made a guest appearance on Jimmie Kimmel's late night talk show. He told Kimmel that he always wanted to be a race driver ever since he was a young boy. Kimmel brought up the subject of high school. Keselowski said he struggled through it especially with the subject of geometry, a subject he really had no use for. Kimmel reminded him that he really didn't need geometry to be a race driver. Keselowski laughed and said "that's right." Then looking at the camera, the champ said: "hey kids, geometry is crap, you really don't need it."

On another topic, that would be the cell phone photo taken during a red flag condition last July at Daytona, Keselowski told Kimmel that NASCAR was less than thrilled about him taking photos from inside of the car. He then referred to NASCAR officials as "the Fun Police." One can only imagine what team owner Roger Penske must have thought when he heard about his champion driver's latest round of candid conversations. It's easy to imagine that both Penske and NASCAR wishes that Keselowski would just shut up drive. However, the rest of us love it when he starts talking trash.

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Item last this week concerns the first lady of NASCAR: Danica Patrick. It seems that during the Sonoma weekend, Patrick was seen, in the driver's private parking area, exiting a rental car that happened to be a Ford Fusion. Is this really a news worthy story? No, it's not. Did it become a news worthy story? Of course it did. That's because someone took a picture of her next to the Ford and it went viral in a matter of minutes.

It raised a lot of important questions: why is the driver of the Go Daddy/Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet driving a Ford rental car? Did the rental car agency screw up and not realize who she was? Was she just borrowing her Ford driving boyfriend's rental car? How concerned was General Motors officials over this news? Why didn't they provide her with a Chevrolet to use? It goes on and on. So did the comments on "Twitter". One of those "Tweets" came from Kurt Busch who called Danica Patrick driving a Ford rental car a "rookie mistake."

The larger question should have been: why are you guys looking at the car in that photo when you could be, and should be, looking at the lovely Danica Patrick? 

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