The Frontstretch: The Big Six: Lenox Industrial Tools 301 by Amy Henderson -- Monday July 18, 2011

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The Big Six: Lenox Industrial Tools 301

Amy Henderson · Monday July 18, 2011

 

Who…gets my shoutout of the race?

It was a particularly tough choice this week as drivers battled back from spins and mechanical issues to pull down top finishes, but one driver avoided the drama altogether to simply be there at the end. As he has done so often in his career, Bobby Labonte used patience, skill, and experience, to finish seventh, his second top 10 of the year and first since finishing fourth in the Daytona 500. Today’s run was vintage Labonte as the driver flew under the radar to steal a top spot when it counted.

What… was THAT?

This might come as a surprise (or maybe not), but this week’s WTF comes straight from NASCAR. While there is a fine line between racing hard and racing dirty, the sanctioning body seems to have forgotten that distinction. By warning Kevin Harvick that if the touches the No. 18, he will be parked, NASCAR is not policing the sport. Harvick said this week that he feels “handcuffed” every time he races Kyle Busch, who received no such warning despite being involved in prior incidents with the No. 29. I’ll be the first to say that a dirty driver isn’t someone who belongs on the racetrack because he’s a danger, but there is a difference between driving dirty and incidental contact. If a driver fears penalty for the latter, he can’t do his job effectively, especially at a track like New Hampshire where contact is part of the game and often occurs unintentionally. If you saw the contact between Carl Edwards and Brian Vickers on lap 168, there was a perfect example of incidental contact. This kind of warning also eliminates the use of the bumper to make a pass, which is not a particularly dirty move if the other car suffers no damage. The correct thing for NASCAR to do is mete out an appropriate punishment if he does intentionally wreck Busch, especially if other cars are involved, but to “handcuff” the driver to the point where he fears a penalty for simply racing? Not cool. In short, the sanctioning body has no business making a driver feel that he can’t even attempt a pass without penalty if there’s contact. In the “boys have at it” era, nobody should ever feel like he can’t race.

Where…did the polesitter wind up?

It was a banner weekend for Ryan Newman. With the spotlight on Kyle Busch or possibly Brad Keselowski to bring home a weekend double, Ryan Newman was busy winning from the pole twice at New Hampshire. Newman started out on Thursday, taking the pole for the F.W. Webb 100 Whelen Modified Tour race. On Friday, Newman broke the track record on his way to his second pole of the weekend. Saturday was more of the same; Newman won the Modified race and then trounced the field, leading 119 laps and heading the charge to Stewart Hass Racing’s first-ever 1-2 finish as teammate and car owner Tony Stewart came home second. The win is Newman’s third at New Hampshire, good for a tie with Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, and Jeff Gordon for second on the wins list at the track

When…will I be loved?

It’s a given that 42 drivers will leave unhappy any given week. This week, several drivers will leave unhappy with the No. 42. Juan Pablo Montoya set several drivers’ teeth on edge on Sunday, culminating in an incident with AJ Allmendinger, Denny Hamlin, and Andy Lally which Hamlin and Lally took the brunt of and a later incident with Jimmie Johnson which ended with Johnson going around. Montoya’s driving style spawned comments on the radio and online with several wondering whether he’d be on the receiving end before the checkers flew. Instead, it’s possible that karma stepped in as Montoya ran out of fuel with just a couple of laps remaining.

Why…won’t the No. 48 claim a sixth title this year

It’s a little ironic that in a year where Jimmie Johnson has driven harder than ever that a championship is unlikely. The reason for that is simple, yet difficult to understand. The simple reason is that Johnson’s pit crew is substandard. Or, as Johnson’s brother Jarit put it on his Twitter account, “This pit crew blows.” What makes that hard to fathom is that it’s been allowed to go on this long. Johnson’s crew has very likely cost their driver at least two wins earlier this year, and possibly a third at Loudon, where Johnson was tearing through the field late only to have to make a second pit stop during a caution cycle when a lugnut was left off the left front wheel. After the stop Johnson got spun-a result of being back in the pack. Then, Johnson did what he has had to do all year-drive the wheels off his racecar, not for the win, but simply to gain back what his pit crew cost him. Johnson finished fifth, wondering what might have been if he’d had the closing laps to race for the win instead of to recover. After the race Johnson expressed his disappointment on the radio and crew chief Chad Knaus had nothing to do but agree, saying, “the pit crew ****ing sucked.” The bottom line is that Johnson can’t win the Chase on his own, and he doesn’t have the team behind him to help him.

How…much money can a fan walk away with at Atlanta this fall?

For the first time since taking over the title sponsorship of NASCAR’s premier series, Sprint announced a bonus program that could see a driver, the driver’s charity, and a fan walk away with a cool million dollars. Beginning at Indianapolis, drivers will have five races to qualify for the bonus. The winners of Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan and Bristol will square off at Atlanta, where if one of them wins, they will capture the bonus. Fans can enter at Sprint’s website by predicting the five qualifying winners. A random fan with the correct answer will be chosen to meet that driver in Atlanta and cheer him on for the bonus. If a driver wins more than one of the five qualifiers, a fan will still be selected from each race and split the million dollar prize if their driver also wins at Atlanta.

Is this a good thing for the series? Absolutely. While it’s nowhere near the challenge that the Winston Million presented (think more along the lones of the old No Bull Five promotion), it will give the drivers a little extra incentive to win, especially if they feel secure in a Chase berth or are racing for a wild card spot. Carl Edwards summed up how hard some might race for the cash. When asked if he would be willing to spin someone out for a million dollars, Edwards grinned and said, “I wouldn’t be spinning them out for me. I’d be spinning them out for the kids.” Unlike the Chase, this is exactly the kind of manufactured excitement the series could use.

Contact Amy Henderson

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wcfan
07/18/2011 04:20 PM
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Amy
Kyle says its over, no hard feeling and offers handshake.
Kevin says I’m going to get him, It ain’t over.

This is the reason, if nascar actually said anything to Harvick, That they warned Him.

One wants to races, the other wants to wreck. If this was Martin instead of Busch you would wonder why Harvick had not been parked.

Wingcars6970
07/18/2011 08:11 PM
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I do not remember seeing JPM cause all that consternation you speak of. I know Johnson spun without any contact.

Doug in Washington (State)
07/18/2011 08:51 PM
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I have no problems with Harvick getting that warning. He’s the 2nd most Dirty driver in Cup, behind Montoya. He shows no sign of letting bygones be. Of course, Busch is around 3rd or 4th, just with more raw talent than anyone else. Why 3rd or 4th? Because I’ve seen Michael McDowell become a one-man demolition derby twice this year in Cup (both times he had an opportunity to run full races). Ugh. But he doesn’t have Montoya, Harvick, or Busch’s history of driving rough.

My #1 dirty driver in NASCAR isn’t any of those, though- it’s Todd Bodine.

There were days when Stewart would have made that list… Punting Vickers at Sonoma for a BS reason shows he still can be. His reaction to getting paid back though shows how much he has mellowed.

FS_Amy
07/18/2011 09:13 PM
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Let me be clear re: Harvick. If he spins Kyle Busch out or puts him in the wall, he should be penalized for that. But no way do I believe that he, or anyone else, should be punished, or fear being punished, for incidental contact made during racing for position. If Harvick plays dirty and turns Busch, that’s no longer just racing, but as long as it IS just racing, NASCAR should elave it alone.

 

Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
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Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.