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?
None other than the driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet. “We’ll take it,” said Dale Earnhardt, Jr. of his fifth-place finish at Martinsville. Junior, who had led just one lap in the season’s first five races, was out in front at Martinsville for 137 laps. More notable is his steady climb in the point standings, from as low as 40th after California to 11th after Sunday’s event. The Bud team has been surprisingly strong in the first two Car of Tomorrow races, with a seventh last week at Bristol to go along with today’s Top 5. After an off-week for Easter, the Cup series heads to two tracks where Junior usually runs well, Texas and Phoenix, great opportunities to continue his recent momentum. Despite the many off-track stresses he’s been faced with, Junior is maintaining a good pace for the 2007 Chase.
What â€¦ is really going on with the No. 25 car?
Week in and week out, three of Hendrick Motorsports four Cup cars seem to be strong while one, the No. 25, seems to struggle. Currently Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch are first, third and fifth in points, while Casey Mears languishes in 33rd. Hendrick drivers have won four of the first six races this season while Mears’ average finish is 28.5. This is not a new situation for the No. 25 car, however, and was one of the main reasons Brian Vickers jumped ship to Toyota after three mediocre seasons at HMS. Both Vickers and Mears have talent, and rumors about the No. 25 car being unlucky go way back … what say you, race fans?
Where â€¦ will the CoT race next?
The next appearance of the Car of Tomorrow will be Phoenix on April 21st, the first night race of the 2007 season. Hopefully by then, NASCAR will have solved the serious problem with the exhaust system that has manifested at both Bristol and Martinsville, injuring or sickening several drivers with burns and inhalation of carbon monoxide and other noxious fumes. The danger of this situation cannot be overstated and must be addressed immediately.
When â€¦ does Jimmie Johnson really get emotional?
Johnson has been criticized for seeming robotic at times, but there was real emotion in his tear-filled eyes when he talked about this week’s Grand Opening of the new bowling alley at the Victory Junction Gang Camp, aptly named “Victory Lanes.” The Jimmie Johnson Foundation committed $600,000 to fund construction of the bowling alley, and to date has raised $425,000. Visit www.JimmieJohnsonFoundation.org for more information.
Why â€¦ are rain delays fun for the fans?
They’re not a lot of fun at the track, but for viewers at home it’s a real treat to enjoy driver interviews in the middle of a race, especially when they’re not rushed like they usually are during the pre-race show. There was a good bit of humor from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. today as he reminisced with Darrell Waltrip about one of Junior’s first races at Martinsville. After admitting that he wrecked a number of cars that day, including his own, Junior added, “We damaged about everything but the hot dog stand. ‘Cause I really like that hot dog stand.”
How â€¦ much fun would it be to see a real Jeff Gordon – Jimmie Johnson rivalry?
Gordon hinted at his displeasure with teammate and protege Johnson after finishing second to Johnson Sunday, stating, “It’s gonna be some interesting racing going forward, because he blocked me really bad. I thought I had a chance at him a couple times, but he shut the door on me pretty good.” Although Gordon later offered the perfunctory “I’m happy for Jimmie” sentiment, you have to believe that his initial reaction was the honest one. It must have been tough to be in Johnson’s position during those closing laps, but he was going for the win as much as Gordon was. Gordon has a long memory, though, and as hungry as he is for a win and a fifth championship, there could be some interesting racing between these two in the near future. At least, I hope so!
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