Each week, Frontstretch Staff Writer Becca Gladden looks at the prior weekend’s NEXTEL Cup race from a reporter’s point of view, covering the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of the race, the drivers, the TV coverage, even the commercials.Â Check back every Wednesday for Becca’s fun and thought-provoking commentary.
Who … gets my shoutout of the race? This week, a tip of the hat goes to Mark Martin, who for much of last season was planning on retiring from Cup racing. But Martin’s plans changed, and Sunday’s race marked his 600th consecutive Nextel Cup start. In the words of car owner Jack Roush, “He's brought intensity, enthusiasm, great driving ability, and integrity to the driver's seat.” Indeed.
What … racing event was selected as the Bank of America “Higher Standards Moment” on this week’s prerace show? It was Jeff Burton’s four previous victories at NHIS. Only trouble is, Burton hasn’t won at Loudon since 2000. Nothing against Jeff – he’s having a great season so far – but couldn’t the powers that be have chosen a slightly more current “moment?”
When … is the right time to take a stand on the way someone has been racing you for the past few years? Not when you’re leading a race and trying to make the Chase for the Championship. After the Ryan Newman/Tony Stewart wreck, Stewart explained that he was tired of Newman’s lack of give-and-take on the track. “We’re starting to learn to race him like he races us, and he doesn’t give anybody a break, so I wasn’t about to give him a break,” said Stewart. Newman, on fresher tires, was trying to get his lap back and ran up the track into Stewart. Tony’s point may have been valid, but holding his line resulted in a 37th-place finish, a loss of four spots in the points, and Stewart falling out of the top 10. Newman was involved in a subsequent crash and finished the race in 39th.
Where … are last year’s Chase drivers in the standings with just seven races left before this year’s cutoff? Four of them are in the Top 10 – Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Greg Biffle. That means five – Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Jeremy Mayfield – are currently out. Rusty Wallace, the other Chase contender last year, is retired. But with just 154 points separating 3rd place from 12th, chances are the Chase field won’t be set until the final laps at Richmond.
Why … didn’t Wally Dallenbach have a passenger with him on Wally’s World this week? No explanation was offered, but note to Wally: Anytime you need a volunteer for one of your hot lap segments, call me. I promise not to close my eyes and scream like a little girl (unless you want me to).
How … can you tell if one driver meant to wreck another driver or just move him out of the way? This was hotly debated after last week’s Chicago race, when 2nd-place Jeff Gordon spun leader Matt Kenseth with four laps to go. According to Elliott Sadler, it’s pretty simple: “This is not amateur night here. We are professionals and we’ve been driving our whole lives … us drivers know when we hit somebody what the outcome is gonna be.” Case closed.
Becca Gladden is a freelance writer covering NASCAR’s Nextel Cup series for two of the internet’s most popular racing websites. You can visit Becca’s website at www.RebeccaGladden.com for a complete listing of her articles, polls, unique NASCAR news, and more!
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