Matt McLaughlin · Sunday June 17, 2007
The Key Moment - Martin Truex, Jr. was closing fast on Carl Edwards in the waning stages of the race but slapped the wall in his charge towards the front. Edwards drove on to an uncontested victory.
In a Nutshell - What it lacked in drama, the race made up for in brevity.
Dramatic Moment - When Jeff Green and Ryan Newman had their little run in while laps down shortly after a restart, it ruined the day for some fast cars and almost ruined the day for others.
As is typical at Michigan, there was some good racing for a few laps after the restarts, but the racing soon petered out all together to a parade with cars separated by several second intervals.
What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
What's everyone going to be talking about? The Earnhardt / Hendrick deal, of course: the whys, the ifs, the whens, the whats, and everything else right down to the most minute detail. Make no bones about it, this is Dale Junior's world…the rest of us just live here.
Things we can all do without immediately: any more grave analysis on the potential economic impact of souvenir sales of Dale Junior changing his car number, in-car interviews with drivers on pace laps, and that weird new Wendy's commercial with folks kicking trees in the woods being cajoled by a schizophrenic in a red wig.
Well, things have heated up another notch in the great war between AT&T and NASCAR. NASCAR is now suing the phone folks for one hundred million (100,000,000!) dollars claiming that AT&T's defiance of their wishes has undermined their control of stock car racing. Looks like NASCAR is trying to build a war chest to pay off the folks in Kentucky when they lose that suit next year or buy the track if they win. You know what? The exorbitant amount of the lawsuit may be bigger news on Wall Street Monday than last Wednesday's announcement that Junior is going to drive for Rick Hendrick.
What was Chad Knaus thinking? There was no way Jimmie Johnson and the 48 car was going to make 51 laps on a tank of gas. All I can think is that Knaus was gambling there'd be a quick caution period after that final stop and everyone would pit again.
Did it seem every time there was an on-track pass for the lead TNT was away in commercial?
A race run on a Sunday afternoon without rain and ending around five? What a concept! Of course, you've heard the jokes about dear old dad receiving yet another lame tie for Father's Day rather than a quad, power tools, or a Beermeister. Michigan offered race fans a tie on Sunday afternoon.
OK, Newman, you're running up front again. It's time to start acting like you belong there.
When Stephen Leicht won at Kentucky Saturday night, it was the first Busch series victory for a regular in that season since either Paul Menard at Milwaukee last year or David Gilliland at Kentucky last year. (Menard ran just seven Cup races in 2006.) That doesn't speak well to the future health of the series, which has becomeâ€¦.wellâ€¦Cup Leicht.
You've got to imagine Bud execs were dismayed to hear Dale Junior say "he could care less" who his sponsor is next year on the pre-race program. That's the thing about having to talk constantly. Eventually, you'll say something that you wish you could take back.
Are there any current NASCAR team owners whose operations aren't up for sale to outside partners right now? Both Robert Yates and Ray Evernham are said to be close to sales agreements.
Hopefully, young drivers coming up through the ranks are keeping a close eye on the trials and tribulations of 22-year-old Kyle Busch. It should be instructive to them that even if they possess unquestionable talent and win a few races, if they make a pain in the ass of themselves long enough they're going to get sent packing.
F1 rookie phenom Lewis Hamilton scored his second straight victory at Indianapolis on Sunday, which turns up the heat on NASCAR as far as diversity goes, says none less an expert than Humpy Wheeler. Look for rumors that Hamilton will replace Casey Mears in the No. 25 car or at least try to qualify a Dodge at the Brickyard to surface soon. Meanwhile, I think the diversity challenge will truly be met when fans and media alike comment only on a talented young driver's incredible success without taking note of the hue of his skin. Right now, there’s some snidely note going around that anyone could win a McLaren-Mercedes. I'm sure F1 fans would point out the same appears to be the case for drivers in Hendrick Chevys. The downhill spiral of stock car racing towards F1 levels of excitement (or lack thereof) continues at an alarming pace. Oddly enough, the FIA is ready to implement dramatic and controversial changes to their cars to spice up the action next year too. Do they call it the Car of MaÃ±ana?
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
Once again the (newly remanned) No. 11 team pit crew threw away a potential victory for their driver Denny Hamlin. Of course, Hamlin's ill-tempered battle with an equally enraged Clint Bowyer on track didn't help his day any, either.
J.J. Yeley clearly had high hopes after winning the pole on Friday. But on the first lap of the race he fell from first to sixth, and it was all downhill from there. Yeley finished 28th.
Ryan Newman was running third when he cut down a tire. The tire's carcass wrapped itself around the rear end housing and Newman lost three laps in the pits to get it fixed.
Greg Biffle's car was just flat awful all weekend.
Matt Kenseth got caught up in a wreck not of his own making well before he started his regular late race surge to the Top 10.
Brian Vickers has trouble qualifying for races, but once he makes the show, he does pretty well. He seemed poised to score another Top 10 finish when he got caught up in the ugliness that that precipitated the day's third caution flag.
The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune
Carl Edwards‘ chances at a win seemed torpedoed below the water line when he got caught speeding exiting pit road and sent to the end of the longest line. Somehow, Edwards fought his way back to the lead and a long overdue win.
Martin Truex's team decided to go with two tires on the first stop and it was clearly a mistake. Thus, he was mired in the pack after the next stop and got caught up in the Newman / Green incident, a wreck that could easily have ended his day. But in a bravado performance, the No. 1 team came all the way back, and he still escaped Michigan with a second place finish.
Tony Stewart had to overcome a lot of adversity this weekend. He qualified poorly. He wrecked in the final moments of practice and tweaked up his Chevy. He made little forward progress early in the race. Yet, he leaves Michigan with a third place finish.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. may be the Charlie Brown of equalized tires this season, but Sunday, a cut down tire may have saved his race. Earnhardt was dropping rapidly through the field and running at a greatly reduced pace with a flat right rear when the big wreck erupted ahead of him.
The way his season has gone, a Top 10 finish had to feel like a victory for Michael Waltrip. How far has Waltrip fallen from grace? The perennial most interviewed driver in the sport didn't even get a post-race interview despite a notable achievement.
While it wasn't commented upon, either, Bill Elliott drove the Wood Brothers' Ford to a solid eleventh place finish. Of course, both Elliott and the Woods have won a ton of races at Michigan, but a strong run was still a shot to the arm for this struggling team.
Carl Edwards coach driver Tom Giacchi finally gets to shave off the beard he swore he would wear until Edwards won a Cup race again. Some folks look good in beards; take Jerry Garcia and Bruce Springsteen, for example. Tom wasn't one of them. Some sites report that Giacchi has even had problems with parasites in his beard. More information than I needed, thanks.
Ford scored their second victory in fifteen races. Chevy’s drivers have won the other thirteen victories, while Dodge and Toyota are still trying to put points on the board.
Two Roush Fenway Fords managed Top 10 finishes, joined by seven Chevys and a lone Toyota. The top finishing Dodge was Reed Sorenson in 23rd.
As widely reported, the win was Carl Edward's first in 52 races. But it was his third Top 5 in the last six races, which accounts for his entire output in 2007.
Martin Truex has finished first, second, and third in the last three races. You have to imagine the folks at DEI are giving out huge sighs of relief.
Tony Stewart enjoyed his best finish since Phoenix.
Casey Mears scored his third Top 5 finish in the last four races. Winning a race does tremendous things for a young driver's confidence and a team's morale…as does not getting replaced by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Kyle Busch had his best finish since Richmond, back when he had a job for next year lined up.
Kevin Harvick scored his first Top 10 since Richmond, while Jamie McMurray scored his first Top 10 since Talladega.
Michael Waltrip managed his first Top 10 finish since Michigan in June of 2005. Bill Elliott had his best finish since Michigan in August of 2005. Paul Menard had his best finish since Atlanta early last year.
Denny Hamlin failed to finish on the lead lap for the first time since Atlanta.
David Reutimann had easily the best finish of his young Cup career with a 15th place run. Oddly enough, his second best finish came in his very first Cup start.
Paul Menard in twelfth was the top finishing rookie, although Reutimann (mentioned above) wasn't far behind.
Matt Kenseth failed to finish a Cup race for the first time since Martinsville last spring, ending a streak that saw him complete every lap of every race this season entering Sunday’s race.
What's the Points?
Jeff Gordon maintains the points lead and is now 264 points ahead of second place Denny Hamlin. Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson each advance a spot to second and third, while Matt Kenseth falls two spots to fourth. Jeff Burton maintains fifth.
Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart swap back sixth and seventh with Edwards having the advantage this week. Harvick and Bowyer swap eighth and ninth with Harvick now ahead of Bowyer. Martin Truex moves up a spot to gain a coveted seat in the Top 10 while Kyle Busch drops a spot to eleventh. Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has already overcome his 100 point penalty to regain the twelfth place position that currently has him in the Chase. Mark Martin falls to thirteenth, which is still pretty good considering he sat out three races.
Other notable drivers making strides forward include Casey Mears (up four spots to nineteenth), Michael Waltrip (up five spots to a still miserable 51st), and Robby Gordon, up a pair of spots to 29th and heading to his best track on the circuit after a credible run at Michigan.
Drivers losing sight of the head of the pack include Ryan Newman (down two spots to fifteenth), Juan Pablo Montoya (down another two spots to 23rd), and Tony Raines (down two spots to 27th.)
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 this one two cans of lukewarm generic stuff with an extra half can thrown in for the fact Mother Nature finally didn't rain on our parade and our Pops.
Next Up - Prepare yourself for the unseemly site of stock cars slithering around a road course, many with hired guns at the wheel. After that, it's on to New Hampshire, the restrictor plate madness at Daytona, then Chicagolandâ€¦.I mean, wow. I sure hope TNT didn't pay too much for one of the most tedious stretches of the season.
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