Matt McLaughlin · Monday October 11, 2010
The Key Moment – Tony Stewart got enough of a push from Clint Bowyer to solidify his lead on the final restart, coasting to victory over Jimmie Johnson in a green-white-checkered finish.
In a Nutshell – It wasn’t a bad race, and it wasn’t a bad crowd either. It’s just too bad it took Fontana twenty races to stage a race that was at least mildly interesting.
Dramatic Moment – When you restart a race with two laps to go on a track that wide, there’s bound to be some racing.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
Is Bowyer going to get a secret $50,000 penalty (on top of his NHMS penalties) for pointing out there was no need for the final “debris” caution? Said debris had been there for most of the final run, which was well documented by ESPN footage.
You have to wonder if Clint Bowyer’s second-place car will be dragged back to NASCAR’s R & D center (especially in light of the comments Bowyer made noted above) and if it will pass this time.
It certainly was inspiring to listen to Kyle Busch’s motivational speech to his team after he lost an engine late in the race. Knute Rockne he’s not. In all seriousness, though, I’ve never liked watching drivers remove their helmets prior to parking the car. I’ve seen a lot of incidents on pit road and in the garage area that occurred outside the field of play and left local drivers badly hurt.
ESPN has a major quandary on their hands. How can it be that the first three races of the Chase have drawn some of the worst ratings the network has ever seen for stock car racing? It’s gotta be the economy, right? Hmmm. NFL ratings are through the roof. I guess football fans have found a way to pay the cable bill in tough times while us dumbass stock car fans are spending all our money on firearms, beer, and beef jerky. It’s interesting; in recent polls I’ve seen, somewhere between 75 and 88 percent of fans say they don’t like the Chase. Could that have anything to do with declining ratings? No, ESPN is pretty sure that it’s the earlier 1 PM start time for races (which fans asked for and which every fan I know of delights in.) Yep, move the start time of races to 3 PM ET and the ratings will fix themselves overnight. If they start races at 3 PM, I think we all know within a couple years the NFL will be eating NASCAR’s dust, as stock car racing attempts to reel in the Big Kahuna of television ratings, Timber-sports!
In somewhat related news, the ISC has announced a belt-tightening austerity program to increase profits that involves laying off twenty percent of the staff at their corporate headquarters, which conveniently enough shares office space with NASCAR corporate headquarters. I think perhaps one layoff alone would do enough to return both firms to firm financial footing… give Brian France the ax. (Not literally… he’s not allowed to play with sharp objects.)
Speaking of ESPN, enough is enough. It’s time to let the pre-race crew get it out of their system by tossing ‘em an inflatable Jimmie Johnson love-doll (with realistic kia-beard) and letting them consummate their man-love for the reigning four-time champion. It’s not going to be pretty, particularly with Darrell Waltrip beating and screaming at the door of the booth to gain entrance, but if one more pre-race show becomes a love sonnet to the No. 48 team and its driver, there might have to be special warnings issued that the following program might put diabetics into shock.
RCR and Bowyer’s team lost their second appeal of the penalty they were charged with after the New Hampshire race. Anyone who is surprised should be told not to leave milk and cookies out for Santa this year; he isn’t coming.
They’re poorly drawn, they’re foul-mouthed and offensive as hell, but South Park’s recent season-opening episode devoted to NASCAR was more entertaining than most of this year’s Cup races… even if the damn No. 48 car did win again.
Out of work and running out of hope in this economy? Looking for a drastic career change, a huge paycheck, and a chance to work for an organization that was once highly respected? ESPN has an immediate need for a full-time Danica Patrick apologist to explain away her latest miserable race finish as “absolutely not her fault.” It wasn’t Alabama’s fault they lost Saturday night, either. The NCAA just puts too much emphasis on the team that scores the most points rather than concentrating on fine plays made earlier in the game and which one has more overall enthusiasm to score a win.
Sorry, Danica. This is stock car racing. This is a cruel game. Your results define you…
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
It wasn’t a good afternoon for the Jack Roush organization, the standard bearers of Ford’s title hopes. Greg Biffle lost an engine early in the race while running eighth. Carl Edwards had mechanical issues and wound up 34th in the final rundown. Matt Kenseth’s engine was preparing to puke its innards over the final laps of the race and he wound up thirtieth. David Ragan tangled with Kurt Busch late in the race to end his day.
Kurt Busch had an evil-handling car most of the event but had scratched, clawed, and fought his way back up to the top 10 until David Ragan cut across his bow. The two-car wreck and resulting damage knocked Busch down to 21st.
I suppose the kindest way to describe Marcos Ambrose’s day is “eventful.”
Mark Martin appeared to have the fastest car on the long runs but a plethora (nay, a virtual cornucopia) of cautions at the end of the race doomed his chances. He wound up sixth.
The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
Jimmie Johnson made hard contact with Paul Menard late in the race and got his car sideways, but not only managed to gather it back in, he did so without losing any positions on the track en route to a third-place finish.
Denny Hamlin had to start shotgun on the field after a transmission change, but he worked his way determinedly forward to finish eighth after too many close calls to enumerate.
Kevin Harvick overcame a pit road speeding penalty to finish seventh. Speeding has been an issue for Harvick this season, but a non-issue for his pit crew.
A late race pit road speeding penalty seemed to doom Jeff Gordon to a finish somewhere in the twenties, but a late-race call for two tires helped reassert himself all the way to ninth.
- There are just two tracks left on the current Cup schedule where Tony Stewart hasn’t won: Las Vegas and Darlington.
- Stewart’s win seals up this year’s manufacturer’s championship for Chevrolet. And I don’t think they used any federal bailout money to pull off the feat…
- Jimmie Johnson has finished first, second, and third in the last three Cup races.
- Kasey Kahne’s fourth-place finish returns him to the top 5 after a five-race absence. He’d been averaging a 26th-place finish in those previous five races. I’m thinking double chicken money this week at RPM.
- Ryan Newman (fifth) is averaging about a seventh-place finish in the four Chase races to date.
- Mark Martin’s sixth-place finish was his best since Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte.
- Regan Smith’s twelfth-place finish was his best of the season and matches his best ever career Cup result. Smith also finished twelfth in last year’s Firecracker 400.
- Elliott Sadler’s thirteenth-place finish was his second best result of the 2010 Cup season.
- The top 10 finishers at Fontana all drove cars that looked the same to me and didn’t in any way resemble anything the Big Four are trying to sell on their lots. Seven of those cars bore Chevy bowties on the nose, two of them Toyota decals, and one of them a Ford blue oval. The top finishing driver who had a Dodge emblem sewed to his clown suit was Sam Hornish in fifteenth. And they call this sport “stock car racing” because… ?
What’s the Points?
The top three in the points hold serve, with Jimmie Johnson now leading Denny Hamlin by 36 points and third-place Kevin Harvick by 54.
Jeff Gordon advanced a spot to fourth in the standings. Somehow, this guy has mastered the magic of taking horse apples and turning them into applesauce and ponies.
His win, coupled with other driver’s miserable days, propelled Tony Stewart forward five spots in the standings to fifth position.
Kurt Busch maintains sixth in the standings and is the last driver within one race’s worth of points of Johnson. Realistically, everyone from seventh place on back is left to race for pride, not a title.
Carl Edwards’ ignition woes dropped him three spots to seventh, with Jeff Burton moving up a spot to eighth. Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle each fell two spots; they are now ninth and tenth in the standings, respectively. Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer round out the 12-man field with six races left.
Who needs some newfangled elimination system to parse drivers from the Chase? They seem to be able to do it all by themselves, thank you very much.
Side note: if Ryan Newman had made the Chase, he’d be fourth in the standings and not thirteenth. But if Heather Locklear had married me, I’d be driving a Ferrari not a GMC…
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — We’ll give Fontana’s final Fall foray four cans of adequately cooled Colorado Kool-Aid.
Next Up – The Cup circuit heads off to Charlotte, presuming the giant sinkhole hasn’t swallowed the place up entirely by then. I’m sure they’ll get it fixed. Anyone else been around long enough to remember the ruptured sewage line at Charlotte that spilled onto the track, causing the infamous “Wall of Doo-doo” red flag? I think Bruton Smith still owes me a new pair of boots for that one.
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