The Frontstretch: Busch Series Breakdown : NAPA Auto Parts 200 by Thomas Bowles -- Saturday August 4, 2007

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Busch Series Breakdown : NAPA Auto Parts 200

Thomas Bowles · Saturday August 4, 2007

 

In A Nutshell: Challenging. Compelling. Controversial. Through a wild and wacky 75 laps, Canada's inaugural race for NASCAR's Busch Series clearly didn't disappoint. In the end, it took the smoke of not one, but two burnouts to clear to figure out the actual race winner.

But in the end, all the action on the track couldn't stop the momentum of another Nextel Cup familiar face - and Buschwhacker extraordinaire – pulling into Victory Lane for the fourth time this year.

Kevin Harvick benefited from a late-race crash he started - and then a late-race crash he watched unfold - to take the checkered flag in the NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Montreal. Running outside the Top 10 for much of the race, Harvick used the pit strategy of a fuel-only stop to put himself in position for a Top 5 finish. While running 4th on lap 71, Harvick dove to the inside to make a pass on Scott Pruett entering Turn 1 - and when Pruett cut off the move, Harvick responded by hitting him in the right rear quarterpanel. A multicar accident ensued, courtesy of Harvick's front bumper, eliminating several contenders but leaving his No. 21 Chevrolet remarkably unscathed.

In the meantime, the No. 59 driven by Marcos Ambrose had his hands full with Robby Gordon's No. 55 as the caution came out - and while battling for the lead, the two made contact, spinning Gordon. In the aftermath, NASCAR ruled Gordon would need to fall to 12th place for the restart, claiming he had fallen out of line by spinning under the yellow; however, Gordon ignored NASCAR's directive, and began a green-white-checkered finish positioned directly behind Ambrose. That didn’t work well at all, of course – it didn't take more than one turn for Gordon to spin Ambrose in retaliation - but was unexpected was that he actually didn't get the lead back. Instead, Gordon found himself disqualified for failing to follow orders from NASCAR - and it was Harvick who got handed the top spot, forced to fend off late charges by Patrick Carpentier and Max Papis behind him to hold on for an "upset" win. Carpentier, the highest finishing Canadian, wound up short of the win by just a few car lengths, with Papis 3rd, Ron Fellows 4th, and Stephen Leicht 5th. After the late-race spin, Ambrose wound up 7th, while Gordon fell back to 18th after NASCAR stopped scoring him heading into the race's final lap.

Who Should Have Won: Marcos Ambrose. The one man who seems to lose the most in this wild late-race melee was Ambrose. The Australian rookie that's become both media darling and rising star in the Series, Ambrose seemed primed and ready to come home with his first race win, leading a race-high 37 laps. But after making accidental contact with Gordon as the field was showing the yellow flag - Ambrose simply drove it into the corner too hard entering turn 4, slamming into the No. 55's rear bumper - everyone who knew anything about this sport knew that Ambrose was a sitting duck. Sure enough, it didn't take but one corner for Gordon to pay back the favor - and Ambrose fell from a shot at the win to a less-than-satisfying 7th. At least Ambrose handled the post-race fallout with both dignity and class, exclaiming that in racing, you "can't win ‘em all." No doubt, though, this loss will sting for awhile yet.

Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend

1) Was Robby Gordon justified in his actions at the end of Saturday's race? What happens to him now?

First off, Gordon’s refusal to fall in line correctly and subsequent penalties for failing to do so will likely result in a suspension from NASCAR officials – at press time, discussion was ongoing as to whether he would sit out the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono this Sunday.

As to whether the call was right – it could go either way. Ambrose’s spin of Gordon occurred after the yellow flag had waved for the other crash – so technically, the second Gordon started his car again, he should have been allowed to fall back in line. But I can see how NASCAR felt that until Gordon had his car pointed in the right direction, he was failing to maintain race speed and, thus, had to let all cars who passed him continue to stay ahead. Bottom line, though, whether you agree or disagree with NASCAR’s call, failing to adhere to the sanctioning body’s ruling is always going to get you in trouble; and the fact that Gordon stayed there merely to spin Ambrose out of revenge on the restart makes it even worse. Since Gordon may have had the fastest car on the track in the closing laps, it’s truly a shame; a little more patience and a lot more tact would have given him a solid finish. But in Gordon’s world, apparently it’s boom or bust…and he very clearly “busted” on Saturday.

2) Should Kevin Harvick have been penalized for his accident with Scott Pruett?

With all the fanfare surrounding the Robby Gordon incident, it's easy to forget that Harvick started the accident with Pruett that caused this whole mess to begin with. And it wasn't just an innocent tap, either; Harvick appeared to intentionally accelerate in the turn to hit the side of Pruett's car and cause what was inevitably an eight-car wreck. With half the lead lap cars wiped out, it seemed like NASCAR should have done something to curb the overaggressive Harvick's driving tactics - but instead, they got caught up disciplining Robby Gordon, and that kept Harvick in position to win. Ironically, Harvick's on-track contact came just days after he chided Tony Stewart for not racing people clean - but just like Stewart, aggressive driving was just what it took to land Harvick in the winner's circle.

3) How did the Canadian drivers fare?

With several Canadians making their first career Busch Series starts this weekend, hopes were high from the hometown crowd the trophy would stay north of the border. But while those drivers ultimately came up short of the win, a few of them still did a great job of gaining respect among the Busch regulars. Carpentier came so close to pulling the big upset - he wound up a few car lengths short in second, while fellow countryman Ron Fellows finished 4th to make it two Canadians in the Top 5. Others weren’t so lucky – John Graham finished a disappointing 23rd, three laps off the pace, while Michael Valiante, driving Juan Pablo Montoya’s No. 42, lost a clutch just 24 laps into the race. D.J. Kennington and J. R. Fitzpatrick were just some of the other famous Canadians who failed to complete the race due to mechanical failure.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:

  • Harvick's win marks his fourth victory in his sixteenth Busch Series start of ‘07 - keeping up his average pace of a win every four starts this season.
  • Max Papis’ third place run in the No. 1 was his best career finish – and the first Top 5 for the James Finch Racing team this year (Finch owns both the No. 1 and No. 7, normally driven by J.J. Yeley and Mike Wallace).
  • Kyle Krisiloff’s sixth place finish was his best since Talladega in April.
  • After breaking a track mount, Carl Edwards spent ten laps in the garage for repairs and finished a disappointing 27th.
  • In the point standings, Edwards' lead took one of its biggest hits of the season due to his mechanical failure - but still remains all but insurmountable. The margin now stands at 787 between him and second-place David Reutimann; Harvick's win brings him back up to third, but he remains 919 behind and is scheduled to run just a handful more races this season. Jason Leffler fell to fourth in the standings, while both Busch and Cup rookie David Ragan held his own to round out the Top 5 in the standings.

Busch Series regular Bobby Hamilton, Jr. held his ground in sixth place in the standings, with Stephen Leicht and Marcos Ambrose both moving up a spot to seventh and eighth. Dave Blaney, who didn't race at Montreal, fell to ninth in points, and Mike Wallace finished 28th to round out the Top 10 in this week's standings.

Buschwhacker Watch:
Buschwhackers in this race: 7
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 392 of 942
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 3
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 162 of 230
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 20 of 23
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 5

Quotable:
"You always go back to your position, if you get spun out. And Marcos spun me under the caution, or whatever his name is. They originally told me to go back to second place, and I went back to second place. Then they said to go back to 13th place or 14th place or something like that. I was never running 13th or 14th, so I don't know what to say…I completed the most laps, I was first car to complete them. We came here to win the race, and that's what we did. If they're going to say we finished two laps down, I guess we finished two laps down; they make the rules." Robby Gordon, who finished 18th after the NASCAR penalty

"I knew that (Robby) was going to try and hit me. We were talking whether we should pull over and let him pass, but you know, I've got two laps to go and I'm trying to win the race. If somebody is going to take me out, they're going to take me out. If they feel strong enough, they're going to do it.

“I'm disappointed; I promised myself that I wouldn't get mad. This is an opportunity for me over here. I'm thankful for what I've been given, and today is a bad day, but tomorrow we'll look to next week. I'm pleased that I'm here and holding my own against some of America's best." Marcos Ambrose, who finished 7th

When asked to describe how hard it was not to be upset about the finish:

"I'll be in therapy for about two years, I think." Marcos Ambrose

Official Statement By NASCAR On The Finish Of The Race:

"Once the caution came out on Lap 72 the field was frozen. Once the field is frozen, all cars must maintain cautious pace in order to be scored.

"At the time that the field was frozen, the 59 was in the lead. The 55 did not maintain cautious pace and by NASCAR rule, cars not maintaining cautious pace are scored only when they blend back into the continuous line. The 55 based on our scoring was ordered to blend back in behind the 33 in front of the 7.

"The tower ordered the 55 multiple times to get in to position. The directive was acknowledged by the crew chief of the 55 and the crew chief also communicated the order to the driver of the 55. The driver ignored NASCAR's directive.

"He was warned that he would be black flagged if he did not comply. Once the 55 crossed the start-finish line he was posted per the NASCAR rule book and at that time the directive to display the black flag was given.

"After contact with the 59 on Lap 73, NASCAR took emergency action per the rule book Section12-2 thus parking the 55, which was also ignored. The black flag with the white cross was displayed to the 55 when it crossed the start-finish line on lap 74. The 55 finished the race in the 18th position." Ramsey Poston, NASCAR Communications

Next Up: For the first time in Busch Series history, the schedule includes two road course races back-to-back. No more jaunts up into Canada until next year, though; the series heads home to the States for the running of the Zippo 200 at the Glen. Held in the beautiful summer backcountry of Western New York, the race can be seen on ESPN2 at 3:00 P.M. on Saturday, August 11th, or heard on the radio courtesy your local MRN affiliate.

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M. B. Voelker
08/05/2007 05:12 AM
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IMO, Nascar should never have restarted the race with a car in the wrong position. Once Robby refused to obey Nascar’s authority they ought to have red-flagged the race and removed him — dragged him off with a wrecker if need be.

I have seen other incidents where drivers who were spun under caution had to line up where they blended back into line rather than where they originally were. There’s a good argument to be made that it should be otherwise. And one could make a good argument that Ambrose sould have been penalized for spinning Robby — though the matching damage on the 59 and 55 showed that Marcos was doing unto Robby what Robby had done unto him.

BUT, once Nascar made its ruling Robby should have obeyed. And its completely indefensible for Nascar to restart the race with Robby in that position when anyone with a lick of sense knew was he was planning.

Marc
08/05/2007 06:29 AM
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The race should have been stopped and Robby Gordon gotten into line where he should be or removed from the track. He didn’t get put into 12th place for being spun out, no problem there. He did not maintain cautious pace when he failed to blend back into line in his first retaliation attempt attempt on Ambrose, speeding through the traffic.
\He did not think he had won the race either as some sites indicate. He had been told what to do by NASCAR and by his crew chief, and the burnout was simply a smart-%## play. I see five weeks suspension and a $100,000.00 fine coming, at least, and Robby I don’t believe can afford either. And since he failed to follow directives from the tower, that affacted the outcome of the race,I believe the penalties will follow him into all divisions of NASCAR.

falcon325
08/05/2007 08:04 AM
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Robby Gordon has a well-deserved reputation as a hot tempered cry-baby. When he spun Ambrose, the TV guys said, “There it is!” “You couldn’t see that coming, could you?”

NA$CAR stole that race from Ambrose. They should have thrown the red and removed Gordon from the track. Now, the Daytona Beach suits are pondering what to do.

NA$CAR sat Kevin Harvick out for a race after some shenanigans in the CTS.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/motor/nascar/2002-04-14-harvick-parked.htm

Harvick’s actions didn’t impact the winner of a race.

Ambrose’s right rear showed how Gordon got by him in the first place. Gordon refused to fall back in line, ignored a black flag and then intentionally wrecked the leader.

What does NA$CAR need to think about?

LARRY D. BROOKS
08/05/2007 08:13 AM
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I agree with the comments above stating that Robby Gordon should have been removed from the track before the race restarted. I said the same thing as soon as the race was over. However, I really would love to have seen NASCAR use the strap which attaches to the roof of a car and picked it up with Robby Gordon still inside just to humiliate him in front of the crowd.
NASCAR should penalize themselves for letting the race restart with Gordon in P2.

4x4s
08/05/2007 08:24 AM
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Ah, so a new racing strategy is now made official, and it seems you all here will support it.
When a yellow comes out you can spin someone sending them back in the pack since they can’t maintain thier spot under yellow if they are sideways on the track.
Yeah, right. That’s going to make some interesting racing.
Also, if a driver is getting screwed, he is supposed to meekly follow orders and plead his case later.

Robby may not have handled this as elegantly as he could have (he shouldn’t have punted Ambrose) but no one can deny that he got screwed.

NASCAR should have red flagged the race to sort out the starting order – and if they had done so fair and objectively Robby would have gone along with it. But they couldn’t do that now, could they – the X-Games were supposed to start soon, and ESPN had to get the race over with.

R. Waltman
08/05/2007 08:24 AM
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Based on NASCAR’s initial actions (which it appears they regretted), Robby Gordon went on to win this race. Simply put. (After the yellow came out he spun Ambrose which inturn was given back. NASCAR told him to go back to second, which he did. Then nearly 2/3rd’s of a lap later and told him to go back to 12th because he didn’t maintain “cautious speed” Ah, yea, he was purposely spun out under the yellow so it’s kinda hard to do so!). After the re-start, he spun out Ambrose, which isn’t precedence, to take the, I guess in NASCAR’s world, the unofficial “lead” (as for spinning out the leader, re: J Gordon vs Kensath – Chicago or Montoya vs Pruett – Mexico). Now they have suspended him for Pocono. This is and has been typical NASCAR these unfortunate days. Dictate the outcome as to hopefully prevent a specific driver from winning (am I hearing Tony Stewart here…). Some will disagree I’m certain but I applaud Robby for highlighting (though unintentional I’m certain)) NASCAR’s continuing inconsistancy with the on track managment of their “product”. Robby didn’t cause the mess that started this Harvick did yet once again everyone wants to beat down Robby. The man is a hell of driver and yes reckless at times, but NASCAR could use some rebel personality in it’s driver’s these days!

MoRaceFan
08/05/2007 09:04 AM
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I’m at a loss for all of these “poor little Marcos Ambrose” comments people are coming out with. You seem to forget that Robby made a clean pass on him for the lead—even if there was contact, the fundamental difference is that Robby moved Marcos while Marcos DUMPED Robby…UNDER CAUTION no less!!

Kudos to Robby for refusing to move after the BS call by Nascar. Precedence in Nascar has always been that when a car is intentionally spun under caution, that car is given its spot back. There is no arguing that, and no supporting the call that was made. Ridiculous.

Those are the facts gentlemen, you can spin it anyway you want just because you don’t like Robby Gordon, but don’t expect to earn any respect as a writer for such irresponsible reporting.

Hank
08/05/2007 09:41 AM
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robby got screwed over again, thanks to NA$CAR. He has the support of this David Reutimann fan for sure.

falcon325
08/05/2007 05:45 PM
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After looking at the replays again, it seems to me that NA$CAR blew the call; actually several calls. Unfortunately, ESPN cut away from the leaders to the big wreck and didn’t show Robby mugging Ambrose for the lead. But you Robby apologists need to take a hard look at the replays.

http://www.nascar.com/video/busch/2007/08/04/bg.mon.gordon.nascar/frameset.exclude.html?MostPopular

Ambrose was clearly in the lead when the wrecking started behind him, although Robby was in the process of caving in Ambrose’s right rear fender—from the rear. Robby has claimed that he passed Ambrose cleanly, but Ambrose’s right rear tells a very different tale. NA$CAR ruled that Ambrose was still in the lead when the caution flew, although, again, ESPN never really established for the viewers exactly when the yellow came out.

What a lot of fans saw was the replay of Marcus spinning Gordon as the yellow flew. Robby now says that he doesn’t think Marcus spun him intentionally. Maybe. Maybe not. If the big boys are going to come down from Cup and steal candy from babies, the least they can do is race the real Busch teams cleanly. I don’t have a problem with Ambose letting Robby know that he was not going to be bullied by a Cup driver. But if NA$CAR was going to do anything, it probably should have sent both of them to the back of the pack for rough driving.

But after watching the tapes again, no way should Robby have been sent back to 12th or 13th. If Ambrose was leading when the caution flew, then Gordon was clearly in second. And his failure to maintain a “cautious speed” was the direct result of being spun AFTER the caution flew. NA$CAR should have put Gordon back in second and just warned him that if he so much as touched Ambrose’s car in the final laps he would be seeing black. Robby was right today when he said that the rule needs to be changed to make clear that if a competitor is spun out by another driver after a caution, then no spots will be lost.

But Robby lost any right to sympathy when he ignored the black flag and blatantly and intentionally took Ambrose out. Racing is a dangerous sport and if Robby Gordon chooses to act like a two-year-old, he doesn’t not need to be allowed back out on the track.

Todd H.
08/05/2007 06:57 PM
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Check the replay! Caution was already out when Ambrose spun Robby Gordon, thus the field was already frozen. Robby should’ve restarted 1st or 2nd, but once again, NASCAR fixed another race! NASCAR is not all knowing and all seeing, they make plenty of mistakes, but would never admit such. Gas on Robby!

Lou
08/05/2007 10:16 PM
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Robby didn’t knock ambrose off the track to pass. Ambrose got into Robby so hard his rear wheels were off the ground for some time. It looked intentional to me.

I raced 30 years and have seen many bad calls by officials. Bias and favoritism is the rule with racing sanctions. WWF likenees.

Nascar should hire an independent firm to call the races. There should be a review panel consisting of drivers and owners to oversee sanctioning body bullying. There is no room for bias any longer and Nascar clearly is biased in its management of the races.

The drivers need a union to represent them with Nascar. Nascar is a bully and gets real mad if you don’t march lock step to their goose stepping cadence.

Marc
08/06/2007 08:41 PM
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Right or wrong, when I was a kid, if I didn’t listen to what Pop told me, I got my tater tapped pretty hard. What’s the difference here? In any sport, a bad call is a bad call, but you have to obey. Otherwise anarchy reins. I don’t give a fat rats butt about Ambrose, but Robby can’t make the rules as he drives, that is Brian Frances job. The fact is, everybody knew what was coming, I think NASCAR let it play out as it did. There were no rights in this situation. Everybody was wrong, Ambrose, Gordon, NASCAR, Loren Wallace, who started the whole thing, and Jeff Gordon. Oh, don’t forget that if Dale Jr didnt jump ship for HMS, none of this would have happened, and George Bush for starting the war in Iraq.

 

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Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
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