The Frontstretch: Busch Breakdown: AT&T 250 by Mike Neff -- Saturday June 23, 2007

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Busch Breakdown: AT&T 250

Mike Neff · Saturday June 23, 2007

 

In a Nutshell: Aric Almirola put the No. 20 car on the pole and started the race because Denny Hamlin could not get his helicopter landed at the track to take over the car. Hamlin ended up losing a lap while getting into the car, battled back to get on the lead lap, and went on to win the race with an incredible three wide pass of Jason Leffler and Scott Wimmer who were able to get ahead of him with pit strategy near the end of the race. Carl Edwards had the race won when a botched pit stop relegated him back into the pack and ultimately gets a flat tire that costs him a lap. He was able to get back on the lead lap, but used up his tires getting to the lucky dog and was not able to do much when he got his shot to catch the leaders.

Who Should Have Won: Aric Almirola...oh no, wait, he did. Carl Edwards was the only other driver who had any claim to having the car to beat, but a pit road miscue and some worn out tires resulted in him not being able to get back to the front of the pack late in the race. Edwards was running pretty well and looking like he was going to run away with another concrete track race, but his rear tire changer fell down on his last pit stop for tires, and putting Edwards back in the pack. Forced to fight his way through traffic, Edwards almost immediately cut down a right rear tire and lost a lap under green to fix the problem. By the time he got the Lucky Dog, his tires were pretty worn and with less than 30 laps in the race, he had simply ran out of time.

Three questions you should be asking after the race this weekend.

1) How in the Wide World of Sports do cars drive into the landing zone for a helicopter?

Denny Hamlin was over the speedway in Milwaukee 15 minutes prior to the time that he was told the cut off would be for him to land at the race track. But when the helicopter attempted to land, there were cars in the landing zone, causing high drama to ensue. Hamlin's helicopter was forced to hover until the cars could be moved, but when permission was finally granted to Hamlin's pilot, more cars pulled into the landing zone, delaying his arrival even further. If Milwaukee is using Andy Frains to park cars in the infield, they might want to reconsider that contract.

2) Did Aric Almirola get yanked out of the seat by Rockwell Automation?

While Hamlin was fluttering around the Speedway, Aric Almirola was sitting in the No. 20 car, waiting for the race to go green. Almirola had both practiced and qualified the car, putting it on the pole for the event. When Hamlin was redirected to the local airport, Almirola was given the green light to start the race, a move that supposedly meant he would do the full 250 laps regardless of when Hamlin got here. Indeed, once Hamlin made it to the race track, there were comments from the No. 20 crew and from Hamlin himself verifying that they were not going to take Almirola out of the car. Then, on lap 59, with little warning Almirola was called down pit road and yanked out of the car in favor of Hamlin. The curious have to be wondering if it was Rockwell Automation who made the call…and with Hamlin claiming in Victory Lane it wasn’t his choice to replace Almirola, it very much seems like they had a say in the driver change.

3) Is this a Buschwhacker win?

Almirola started the race in the car, so he is given credit, in the record books, for winning the race. He is also given credit for the points, so according to the record book, Hamlin was not in the race. So, although it seems like one, this is definitely not a Buschwhacker win.

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Almirola gets credit for the win and the points associated with it. Behind the dominance of both Almirola and Edwards, solid runs were clocked in by Wisconsin native Scott Wimmer (2nd) and Toyota’s Jason Leffler (3rd). Both gave Hamlin all he could handle in the closing laps after running in the Top 5 all night long; taking two tires on their final stops, they hoped to outrun the No. 20 by getting ahead under yellow but in the end, they fell just short. Meanwhile, in the battle of the “young guns” Brad Coleman came through with shining colors, finishing an outstanding fourth on the evening in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Chevrolet.

As far as points are concerned, Edwards continues to dominate the landscape of the Busch Series, now up by 776 over new second place man David Reutimann. David Ragan moves to third, a whopping 846 behind, while idle Dave Blaney falls to fourth. Kevin Harvick rounds out the Top 5 of full-time Nextel Cup regulars.

Ironically, even though Hamlin visited Victory Lane, he lost three spots in the point standings while Almirola gained a spot; however, neither of them are anywhere near the Top 10 in points. Some other Nextel Cup regulars are threatening to fall into that category, too; Regan Smith and Greg Biffle joined Blaney in losing several spots in the standings by not making the trek from California to Wisconsin.

Buschwhacker watch:

Buschwhackers in the race: 3*
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 3010 of 684*
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10: 2*
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10 YTD: 123 of 170*
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 15 of 17*
Buschwhackers ranked in the top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 5

*-These numbers do not include Denny Hamlin because he did not take the green flag in the car that he drove to the win.

Quotable:

"I don't need to see a replay. When you're heading down the frontstretch and your rear tires are off of the ground spinning, its obvious what happened. I was just riding around, my spotter told me he was coming, I moved up a lane, and there's just no explanation for it." Scott Lagasse Jr. on being dumped out of the race by Todd Bodine

"It was a group decision, it was a tough decision, but this is Rockwell's global headquarters, and they had a lot of people in the stands who came to watch Denny win, so we had to make the switch" Dave Rogers, crew chief for the No. 20

Next Up:

The Busch series joins back together with Nextel Cup after three weeks apart as both series head to New Hampshire next week. The Camping World 200 presented by RVs.com will take place next Saturday, June 30th at 2:30 and will be available on ABC and MRN.

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M. B. Voelker
06/24/2007 06:55 AM
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Lets have a resounding Boooo! for Rockwell Automation.

Aric Almirola might have won legitimately or he might not. But pulling a perfectly competant, upcomming driver out of the car mid-race for no reason other than your desire to see a Cup driver on the track is simply unacceptable.

The company deserves serious condemnation for being such jerks as to first give a young driver his chance and then to yank it out of his hands when he was running 3rd.

David Lamphron
06/24/2007 07:28 AM
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JGR-Rockwells poor choice to remove Aric just shows the arrogance of what is going on in the sport. Whereare we going to get new young drivers? I have one more reason not to watch this any more.

Kyle
06/24/2007 09:38 AM
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it’s almost becoming painful to watch the Busch series anymore. fortunately, i didn’t see the race or Aric getting pulled out, but this is ridiculous! yes, they might have been in the corporate’s “backyard”, but wouldn’t they have been just as pleased to see the car cross first, regardless of its driver?! hey, Aric practiced it, qualified on the pole, led most of the beginning of the race, but NOOOOOOOOO ... must not have been good enough. must not have been such a high-profile name as “Hamlin”. take no credit from Denny … take all the credit from his sponsors, though. they should have let him finish what he started!!!

Travis Rassat
06/24/2007 02:39 PM
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I also felt that taking Aric out of that car wasn’t right – he did a great job all weekend and deserved to ride it to the end.

I did see the interview with Denny Hamlin when he wasn’t in the car yet – he seemed mad he wasn’t driving and said something to the effect of “they spent a lot of money to get me here.” I guess that pretty much summed up the reason behind it, but I still think it was unfair to Aric. What an odd feeling – he has his first win next to his name, but never got to experience the feeling. He must be pretty disappointed.

rob fischer
06/24/2007 08:07 PM
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joe gibbs and rockwell automation really should be ashamed of themselves. mr.“no budwiser on my car” gibbs and his high moral values just destroyed Aric and his dreams of winning an actual race. mr. joe gibbs, you sir are no class act!

 

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