The Frontstretch: Becca's Big Six : Talladega Edition by Becca Gladden -- Sunday April 29, 2007

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Becca's Big Six : Talladega Edition

Becca Gladden · Sunday April 29, 2007


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 … gets my shout-out of the race?

It might seem like an unlikely choice, but hats off to Jeremy Mayfield and the No. 36 team at Bill Davis Racing. Mayfield’s 23rd-place finish was the highest among Toyotas on Sunday and his best so far this year, a much needed boost for the program. The result was made possible in part by Mayfield’s strong qualifying run (18th) on Friday, beating out several other drivers who also needed to time in to the race. Mayfield’s fall from grace last year after making the Chase the two previous seasons was an ugly and unexpected turn of events for the Cup veteran, and Mayfield has been playing catch-up ever since. “I was just glad to be here racing today,” he observed after the event.

What … is wrong with some people?

That’s all I can ask after that disgraceful display by “fans” who pelted the track with beer cans and other debris following Jeff Gordon’s win at Talladega – his 77th overall, moving him past Dale Earnhardt, Sr. on the all-time win list. Everyone knows what Earnhardt meant to Talladega and what he meant to NASCAR, but throwing full beer cans is crazy dangerous and completely inexcusable. Aside from the obvious safety concerns, it hurts people other than the intended (though innocent) target: “It was real disappointing at the end to see how some of the fans were acting,” said 14th-place finisher Matt Kenseth. “It’s disappointing to have your $150,000 race car being pelted by full beer cans at the end of the race.” And that’s just one example – there were plenty more. I guess drunk idiots don’t have very good aim.

Where … is Kurt Busch in the point standings?

Don’t look now, but Busch, who was 41st in points after the Daytona 500, has made a steady march up through the standings over the past several weeks. Today’s third-place finish was Kurt’s first Top 5 of the year, giving him a three spot jump in the points a and allowing him to quietly slip into the Top 10 overall. It looks like Busch is at least providing a glimmer of hope for both the Penske drivers and Dodge, which have been underperforming mightily in 2007.

When … is Tony Stewart going to grow up?

I like Smoke, I really do, and I disagree with Jeff Gordon, who called Tony Stewart “the Rosie O’Donnell of NASCAR.” But Tony is 100% right when he calls himself his own worst enemy. Stewart claimed that he avoided last weekend’s post-race press conference because he was upset about debris cautions during the race and was afraid he was going to “bash” NASCAR if he spoke in the heat of the moment. Instead, he stewed privately for three days, then went on his satellite radio program and bashed them anyway, perhaps even worse than he would have otherwise. Stewart is nearly 10 years older than teammate Denny Hamlin and is the senior driver at Joe Gibbs racing – but Hamlin, who was just as upset as Stewart after the race if not more so, managed to attend the press conference and express his frustrations without losing control. It’s past time for Stewart, a two-time Cup champ and one of the most visible personalities in NASCAR, to learn to do the same.

Why … are some sponsor slogans better left unsaid?

Sometimes the Madison Avenue types try a little to hard to be cute or clever with their taglines and end up falling flat. Such was the case in Saturday’s Busch race when Ward Burton’s car, sponsored by the toilet-paper brand Cottonelle, carried a slogan which read, “Cottonelle – Soft on My Rear End.” Although this was supposed to be a play on words since it appeared on the “rear end” of the car, it falls under the heading (as the announcers said in today’s race regarding another topic) of “TMI” – too much information.

How … hard was it for Kyle Busch to get back in a race car today?

You can’t really answer that question unless you saw Busch’s horrific wreck in Saturday’s Busch race, with forces violent enough to crack his HANS device after flipping several times over on the backstretch. Busch, who appeared shook up but otherwise okay on Saturday, admitted that it would be hard to put the wreck out of his mind and climb into a Cup car less than 24 hours later. Unfortunately, he sustained another brutal hit in today’s race and left the track without speaking to reporters after getting medical clearance. Race car drivers get paid a lot of money, but don’t be fooled; it still takes guts to do what they do week in and week out.

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Becca Gladden is no longer a contributor to the Frontstretch, but you can see all her past articles on herbiography and archive page.