The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Samsung 500 Edition by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday April 6, 2009

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Five Points to Ponder: Samsung 500 Edition

Mike Lovecchio · Monday April 6, 2009


The streak is over

How fitting is it that Jeff Gordon’s 47-race winless streak comes to an end at a track where he’s been winless for his entire career? Gordon was strong for much of the race, but it was a combination of a good pit stop by the No. 24 bunch and yet another poor stop by the No. 99 team that led to the coveted clean air needed for Gordon to pull away for the victory. The win may have been a long time coming, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise with the way the No. 24 team has been running this season.

Jeff Gordon cuts loose with his crew in Victory Lane on Sunday after scoring his first win at Texas Motor Speedway.

And how cool was it to see Gordon genuinely happy in Victory Lane? This is a guy that’s been there 81 previous times and has had several half-hearted, almost fake celebrations throughout his career. But this was nothing like one of those celebrations, and I for one was happy to see Gordon forgetting sponsors and that excited to talk to Rick Hendrick on the phone.

Logano continues to struggle

While Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin continue to run strong, the third Joe Gibbs Racing entry isn’t. Joey Logano had yet another poor outing this weekend in the No. 20 car, this time dropping from a decent 10th place starting position to do so. He struggled from the time they waved the green, and at one point “Loganoed” the wall on his way to ultimately finishing 30th. I’m more than willing to give Logano time to grow and develop, but I’m growing concerned that he was indeed brought up too soon.

Logano’s last four starts have resulted in finishes of 30th or worse and he doesn’t look comfortable on the track, to say the least. In comparison, let’s look at Brad Keselowski’s race on Sunday. This is a guy with much more Nationwide experience than Logano, and this weekend he took a fifth Hendrick Motorsports car that was not handling too well and still finished 23rd. Keselowski may also be a rookie, but this a perfect example of what another year of Nationwide racing can do for a young driver.

Has Kurt Busch really grown up?

The general consensus believed Kurt Busch had matured at Penske Racing since his time at Roush Fenway. But after radio chatter between he and car owner Roger Penske was released this week, it’s become apparent that he has not. For those of you who have not heard the exchange, it can be found here. The blatant disrespect for one of the most respected men not just in NASCAR, but in all of motorsports is downright appalling. Busch has been out of the spotlight for a few years now while it’s been his younger brother who’s made an ass out of himself, but it seems as if the man who once needed a punch in the face by Jimmy Spencer and a release from a championship team to wake up simply never did.

Harvick, Stewart give a helping hand

Fans have noticed Morgan Shepherd running in the top 20 more often this year than in previous years in the Nationwide Series, and there’s a reason for it – better equipment. The Dallas Morning News reported this week that a couple of years ago after a crash at Kentucky, Shepherd radioed to his crew and said, “This puts us out of business.” Since then, Kevin Harvick has offered cars, parts, and technical support while Tony Stewart has offered assistance in the way of buying three engines for Shepherd at the beginning of the year — while paying for tires for the entire season.

Harvick and Stewart may get a lot of bad publicity for their occasional temper tantrums, but this is quite simply a kindhearted gesture that does not get enough attention. The media drools from the mouth waiting for Stewart or Harvick to slip and get in a shoving match with another driver or call out Goodyear for a tire malfunction, but when one of these drivers does something selfless such as this, the media hardly says a word.

Speed says no

Right here on his Driver Diary, Scott Speed stated the rumors of him considering the U.S. F-1 ride are simply not true. This leaves A.J. Allmendinger as the lone remaining NASCAR driver being considered, but as Richard Petty Motorsports is having success finding sponsorship for the No. 44 car and Allmendinger is quickly becoming a fan favorite, it does not seem likely he will take the ride if offered, either. Of the two drivers, Speed seems like a better fit since he’s currently outside the top 35 in owner points and has F-1 experience. Speed may have said no for this ride, but I would not rule a future F-1 seat out of the question if this NASCAR thing doesn’t work out.

Notes to ponder:

NASCAR pro-radio: Despite the Kurt Busch/Roger Penske altercation, NASCAR says it will still leave radio chatter open to all fans and media.

Kyle Busch vs. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: What is it about Busch always getting into Junior when he is leading late in the race? The latest contact lost the No. 88 four spots after pit strategy to take the lead.

Montoya = Chase?: Has anyone else noticed Juan Pablo Montoya sits 13th in points with five top 15s in seven starts?

Carl’s crew: The No. 99 crew continues to struggle. After costing Edwards numerous spots last week at Martinsville, this week the team may have cost him the win.

Reutimann sticking around: Some fans may have seen David Reutimann’s hot start as a fluke, but a pole and an 11th place run this weekend keeps him in the top 12 in points.

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04/06/2009 06:53 AM

You managed to pinpoint the exact reason that the fans don’t like Gordon . And for that matter Johnson . Their phoney “ celebrations “ are legendary . The supposedly spontaneous radio communications between these two and their crew chiefs are usually nothing more than mini speeches . They are both perceived , and rightly so , as getting away as fast as possible from the track and the fans after the races , and not being heard from again until the next race . They really don’t like the interaction .
Contrast that to Robby Gordon riding his 4 wheeler among the fans at the track and stopping to talk . Or Stewart , Kahne , Schrader , Edwards , Harvick and others going to race at a short track somewhere . Or riding a motorcycle across country for charity . Or helping out a driver like Shepherd . The perception of Gordon and Johnson has always been one of distancing themselves from the sport . They show up at the track , stay there only as long as absolutely neccessary , and then disapear back to New York City .

04/06/2009 10:19 AM

Ryan has hit it on the head when it comes to the 24 and the 48 drivers.

These are “metro-sexuals” who are the direct opposite of the more classic stock car drivers we grew up with. They appeal on the average to fans who have entered the sport more recently.

However, before we bash these two for their Nascar shallowness, be advised that there are several others who want the paycheck but not the peripheral hassles that come with it.

When you have more money than you will ever need many times over, it becomes awful convenient to “distance” yourself from those perceived as nuisances.

Bill B
04/06/2009 02:38 PM

Ryan and Max,
That may be YOUR percecption but I have to wonder if you are close enough to really know one way or the other. My guess is you read what is out there on the internet like the rest of us which does not qualify you as “in the know” enough to make such a judgment call. It may be your opinion but opinions are like… well we all know the rest of that saying.

Lunar Tunes
04/06/2009 03:35 PM

I’ve said many times and I will again….

They way the Busch brothers conduct themselves shows that they were handed everything in life and were never properly brought up by their parents to show one ounce of respect to anyone.

Kurt may have changed his spots for awhile, but the upbringing will always come shining through at some point in time.

04/06/2009 10:58 PM

Hey, Ol Kurt will be driving the HOF wagon before long. Penske and Miller will not put up with that crap.

04/07/2009 03:54 PM

Bill B. I have to agree with you. Ryan and Max, dudes, you may not like either or any of the Hendrick’s driver’s but shall we compare just how much each of Rick’s driver’s contribute their own time and money to non-profit organizations, how much time and effort they put towards charity events? It’s been my experience that both Jeff and Jimmie do the majority of their fan related interactions prior to the race; which is generally best for the driver and the fan alike. Especially if you had a bad, or a long, or a physically exhausting race. Heck, I’d want nothing more than find the nearest couch to take a nap on after the race was over. Well, then again, as boring as most of the races have been this season, I nap a little myself on my own couch during the race!!

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