Key Moment – 109 laps into the race, the skies opened up and the race went under a red flag. Had the weather held off for another 25 laps, the race would have been called official and no one would have had to stay up until midnight to see the finish.
In a Nutshell – The first 109 laps of the race were about as boring of a parade as they could be. After the extensive rain delay, cautions were running rampant which led to numerous restarts. Engines were blowing more frequently in the last half of the event than they had in a race since Toyota was losing engines like a seven year-old losing baby teeth. In the end, Kyle Busch was the dominant car of the post-rain delay, but Matt Kenseth got a push on the final restart and led the last segment to win. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon overcame some difficulties to post strong finishes but, in the end, it was Kenseth who scored the win ahead of Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Johnson and Gordon.
Dramatic Moment – On the final restart of the race, Kevin Harvick pushed Matt Kenseth to the lead ahead of Kyle Busch. Once the cars were nose to tail, there was no passing for the lead and Kenseth ran off and won the race.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
Five hours and 10 minutes of rain delay coverage. Sure, those fans at the track would like to see the race and many of them can’t come back on Monday but sheesh, taking the green at 10 PM was a bit much. Fortunately, with the excitement of the Chase having everyone on the edge of their seats, it certainly had to be easy for all of the fans to stick it out.
By the way, NASCAR, starting the race at 10 is the same as starting it Monday. Anyone who had to take vacation to attend the race or had a long drive to get there did not stick around to see the end of it. If you don’t believe that, check the tape of the race because there were a couple thousand people in the seats when the race restarted.
Danica Patrick is often accused of believing the sport revolves around her. While that is inaccurate, there is one word of advice that she might want to listen to. When there has been a very long red flag and NASCAR calls you back to the car, it is a good idea to get there as quickly as you can. David Hoots came on the radio to ask if all of the drivers were in their cars and ready to race when he was informed the driver of the No. 10 was not in their car. He responded by saying, “We can start without her.”
Which rule change, penalty, NASCAR decision should we start with?
Since I was last with you, Michael Waltrip Racing was fined and penalized for manipulating the outcome of the race at Richmond. The move to have Brian Vickers pit and ultimately allow Joey Logano to make the Chase on points was considered a violation of the infamous 12-4, actions detrimental to stock car racing. Somehow, having your driver pit when the pits are open is an action detrimental to the sport. There was no rule against it, at least at the time, and the MWR folks, specifically Ty Norris, figured it out better than everyone else on the track. While NASCAR most likely wanted to do nothing, as they routinely do, their hand was forced because the hoard of casual fans who apparently were paying attention to the race lost their collective minds and demanded something be done. The fact is that, since NASCAR started there have been people making decisions that ultimately effect the outcome of races against the wishes of others. But past history didn’t matter, present outrage did and the biggest fine in the history of the sport was handed out. Whether you agree with the decision or not, once thing is for sure, NASCAR has opened an enormous can of worms that is going to bite them in the ass for the next 60 years of the sports’ life, assuming it lasts that long.
As part of the fines and penalties that hit MWR, Martin Truex Jr. lost points which knocked him out of the Chase. While Clint Bowyer was accused of spinning on purpose, although it wasn’t proven, and Vickers pitted to let Joey Logano around, Truex did nothing but race his heart out. In the end, he was the only driver who was really penalized by the entire fiasco that developed at the end of Richmond.
While that seemed to be enough of a mess already, things were just beginning to get silly. Some intrepid scanner geeks dug up some radio chatter between the spotter for the No. 38 and his driver that insinuated Penske Racing would like to have David Gilliland slow down in the closing laps. As a result, that would allow Logano to drive past him and gain another spot to ensure he would make the Chase. In the end, Gilliland slowed down enough to let Logano catch him from a straightaway behind and pass him for a spot that helped him make the Chase on points. Amazingly, Penske Racing was chastised and given a firm pat on the wrist along with the entire racing organization being placed on probation for the remainder of the calendar year. Somehow, even though Penske did the same thing MWR did, manipulating the outcome of the race to the benefit of some and the detriment of others, they didn’t get anything near the $300,000 fine that MWR received. Whatever the load of bunk is that NASCAR will try and feed you, the reason is simple: Michael Waltrip is a spineless shill when it comes to NASCAR and they know he won’t fight them over the decision. Roger Penske is a man who will fight tooth and nail if he feels that he’s being accused of something that can’t be proven. If they tried to fine Penske, he’d have sued them and drug this thing out for months, just like the 1981 Indianapolis 500, which wasn’t official until October 9th.
If that wasn’t enough, when the teams got to Chicago the heads of the sanctioning body had a meeting with all of the Cup teams to discuss some new rules and policies going forward. The highlight of the meeting was a new rule that basically says all of the drivers have to compete at 100% of the ability of the driver and car throughout the entire event. NASCAR President Mike Helton did make clear that it does not apply to start and park drivers, so Michael McDowell’s job is safe for now. Umm… what? How in the world are the people calling the races, who don’t even consistently enforce minimum speeds or “out of bounds” are going to be able to tell that people are giving 100% is beyond even the most brilliant of minds.
With the sport already in a complete tizzy over a week of jurisdictional muscle flexing, the NASCAR folks decided to make one more announcement on Sunday morning. The restart rules were tweaked in an effort to make the calls less subjective for race officials. While the true effect remains to be seen, it most likely has just moved the subjectivity from one spot to another on the restarts. The leader will still start the race in the restart box but that is the end of when they will have an advantage. If the leader fires, then the second-place driver beats the leader to the start/finish line that is now OK. If the leader doesn’t start in the box, then it is up to the flagman. The subjectivity will now be all about how fast the leader is bringing the field to green and whether the second-place driver fires at the same time or before the leader. Just another worm in the can…
I would love to be a fly on the wall at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates on Monday morning to hear the explanation of why Juan Pablo Montoya’s rear fender wasn’t cleared from the tire before the race restarted. The result, a flat was highly embarrassing, since it was knocked in on the rear tire right before the red flag flew to start the five-hour rain delay.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Joey Logano, after all of the attention this week, was the first Chase contender to be bitten by a mechanical failure. Coming to the pits with smoke puffing from his exhaust pipe was more than evidence enough that he had a bad engine issue. In an effort to give 100%, though, Logano continued to circulate under the caution with smoke and lord knows whatever fluids spewing from the exhaust pipe. It took awhile, but eventually his motor did give up the ghost and he ended up as the lowest-finishing Chase contender.
Not that anyone thought Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was going to win the title but his engine detonation once again has signed his season’s death certificate. He may rebound and pull off the improbable, but the odds are stacked very strongly against him.
Cole Whitt had a rough first Cup Series race of the year on Sunday. First, he was the driver that brought everyone’s attention to the rain in Turn 4 when he spun to the infield to ultimately bring out the red. He then went back to racing after the red was lifted, only to completely detonate his engine. His No. 30 ride blew up so violently, the car became engulfed in flames.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Jimmie Johnson had a pit stop penalty called in error by a NASCAR official which cost him quite a bit of track position early in the race. The official thought lugnuts were loose when, in fact, they were all tight on the car.
Kurt Busch was hit with a speeding penalty during some green flag pit stops. He took a wave around to try and get back into contention and made up the ground when Joey Logano’s engine first started smoking. It ended up Busch was able to put the No. 78 in a top-5 finishing position.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has been consistently improving his best career Cup finish. Last week was his first career top 10 result with a 10th place at Richmond. This week, he scored an eighth-place finish at Chicago. Stenhouse was the second-highest finishing Ford driver, one spot behind defending champion Brad Keselowski.
- The six wins by Kenseth in the No. 20 equals the total wins for the car from 2007-‘12. Tony Stewart had four and Logano scored two.
- Six wins for the No. 20 also ties the best season ever in terms of wins for the number. Tony Stewart scored six wins in 2000 behind the wheel of the No. 20.
- This race win was Kenseth’s 30th of his career. Kenseth is the 22nd driver in the history of the sport to reach that plateau. Sunday was Kenseth’s 500th Cup series start.
- Kenseth has run 14 races at Chicago and this is his first victory at the track. The win is his third top 5 and fifth top 10 at Chicago.
- There were 25 lead changes among 16 drivers. Both of those numbers are records at Chicago. Three of them actually took place on the track.
What’s the Points
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – What is to be said about the 24 hours of Chicago? The first half of the race was a mind numbing snoozefest of a parade. The second half was an engine blowing display of starts and stops that never really had a flow but still showed that track position means more than tires or strategy. The aero dependency of these cars is still ruining the sport, even more than the decision makers in Daytona trying to overlegislate their way into a racing series where everyone is equally identical. We’ll give this one two beers simply for the excitement that happened at the end of the race.
Next Up — The Cup Series moves to Loudon, New Hampshire for the Sylvania 300. It will be available on ESPN and PRN at 2:00 on Sunday.
Connect with Mike!
Contact Mike Neff
©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!