Each week, Frontstretch Senior Staff Writer Becca Gladden looks at the 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. Check back every Monday for Becca's fun and thought-provoking commentary.
Who â€¦ gets my shout-out of the race?
Jamie McMurray and the No. 26 team, snagging their first Top 10 finish of the year at Vegas, and, in fact, his first since August of last year. After a DNF at Daytona and a 37th-place finish in Fontana, this week’s tenth place run will provide a much needed boost in confidence for the struggling Roush Racing team.
What â€¦ is the funniest commercial so far this season?
I don’t know about you, but I get a big kick out of the Nextel commercial with Elliott Sadler and Jimmie Johnson — you know, the one where Elliott is giving Jimmie pointers about getting through a corner, but Jimmie interrupts him and calls for his Nextel Cup trophy? You have to give them both credit for being such good sports.
Where â€¦ was Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s mind on that last pit stop?
Junior predicted a “long, long, long race,” but he made a big, big, big mistake when he followed the 31 down a closed pit road. Junior said he “didn’t even think if it was closed or open,” but apparently no one on his team radio thought to tell him either. The resulting penalty turned a likely Top 5 finish into an 11th, and on the heels of two consecutive DNFs, the 8 team can’t afford that kind of preventable mental mistake.
When â€¦ can you guarantee a race sellout?
When a track only has one date a year. One of the main reasons that Vegas was sold out is that fans in the region know it is their only chance to see a Cup race for the year. When tracks have two dates, many fans choose to attend one or the other, but not both. Tracks who are concerned about empty seats ought to keep this concept in mind: Sometimes less is more.
Why â€¦ did Jimmie Johnson win this race?
The No. 48 team won for the same reason they won the championship last year — their proven ability to overcome adversity. Johnson had trouble on pit stops several times and didn’t lead the most laps, but he was in front on the only lap that counted – the final lap.
How â€¦ cool was the Las Vegas flyover?
I love all the flyovers, but the Thunderbirds were an extra special treat. I was also impressed to hear that Kyle Busch, who flew with the Thunderbirds earlier this week, pulled over 9 G’s and didn’t get sick or pass out, although he did admit to a brief white-out. The Las Vegas track always puts on a good show, and the Thunderbirds are the cream of the crop. Not only was the race a sellout, but it attracted more than twice as many fans as the Super Bowl.
Final Thought: There was nothing but concern this weekend about Las Vegas’ new track surface and Goodyear’s harder tire. Although there weren’t as many serious incidents as predicted, the drivers still justifiably complained about the scary black ice conditions. Jeff Gordon, who led a race-high 111 laps said, “There is no reason for us to show up at racetracks and be at a white-knuckle experience for an entire weekend.” The irony is that Goodyear brought the harder tire to slow speeds down for safety’s sake, but instead created a 1.5-mile Slip ‘N’ Slide. While the race may have been okay for fans, it was frustrating for most of the drivers, even winner Jimmie Johnson: “When we go to new surfaces, we need to be on the conservative side and we need to be able to test it,” Johnson said. “To show up and not test what you are going to race is where all of the frustration comes from.” Hello, NASCAR? Are you listening?
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