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 â€¦ even the commercials. Check back every Wednesday for Becca's fun and thought-provoking commentary.
Who â€¦ gets my shout-out of the race?
I couldn’t narrow it down to just one person this week, so a tip of the hat goes to:
- Denny Hamlin for finishing second on seven cylinders, and for generally driving well beyond his years, week in and week out;
- To Ward Burton, for coming home 26th in his first Nextel Cup race since November 2004;
- And to Bobby Labonte, Kyle Petty, and everyone at Petty Enterprises for placing two cars in the Top 10 at race’s end for the first time in seven years.
What â€¦ does Dale, Jr. do more often than most other drivers at this level?
He’s quicker than most of his peers to fall on his sword when he makes a driver error. Running seventh with 22 laps to go, Earnhardt locked up his brakes and spun trying to pass Kasey Kahne, resulting in a 22nd-place finish and a loss of one spot in the standings. Said Junior, “That was my mistake. I was trying too hard … It got down to the end of the race and I got greedy. I can’t blame it on nobody but myself.”
When â€¦ is it time to get over the Martinsville plane crash?
Two years ago this week, Johnson won the Martinsville race, but instead of heading to Victory Lane, he was whisked away to the NASCAR hauler where he was told of the tragic plane crash that killed ten people en route to the track – including several relatives and employees of team owner Rick Hendrick. Hendrick was not at the track this year, understandably staying home with his family. But Johnson wiped tears from his eyes after talking by cell phone with Mr. Hendrick from Victory Lane. I’m dismayed when I hear fans suggest that it’s time to get over the plane crash. People go on with their lives, but they never “get over” something like this.
Where â€¦ was Ken Schrader headed with that car part in his hands?
By all appearances, and despite claims to the contrary, Schrader – who reached a Cup milestone with his 700th career start on Sunday – was contemplating hurling the part at rookie David Ragan’s car. Ragan had just sent Schrader hard into the turn one fence on Lap 311; the rookie became involved in two additional wrecks during the race, as well. The carnage Ragan created prompted Tony Stewart to describe his driving as a “dart without feathers.” Schrader’s experience and maturity is the only thing that allowed a cooler head to prevail; not surprisingly, Ragan was not cleared by Nextel Cup officials to race at Atlanta this weekend.
Why â€¦ don’t most track owners “get it” when it comes to the National Anthem?
Whether it’s performed by a high school marching band like the one at Martinsville, the children from Motor Racing Outreach at Bristol, or a singer or band from the police or armed forces, the anthem always sounds better than when it’s done by a celebrity. I don’t know how the whole star-singer precedent got started, but as far as I’m concerned, they should just pipe the music over the PA system each week and everyone at the track should sing along una voce.
How â€¦ hard will it be for Jeff Gordon to make up ground at this point in the Chase?
Consider this…there are only three race tracks at which Gordon has never won a Cup race: Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead. What are the locations of the last three Chase races? Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead. Then again, perhaps a little reverse psychology will come into play, and Gordon will run better than expected, since he’s struggled this year at many of the venues where he traditionally runs well. As long as Jeff Gordon remains Jeff Gordon, he should never be written off…but history does not appear to be on his side.
Question for Readers: With four races to go, do you think Jeff Gordon or any other driver is realistically out of Chase contention?
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