Nextel Cup Making The Grade : Kansas · Thomas Bowles · Monday October 2, 2006
Editor’s Note : Regular columnist Dennis Michelsen is on vacation this week. Look for him to be back with his usual humorous take on the Nextel Cup world next Tuesday; for this week, Managing Editor Tom Bowles fills in.
The track was so slick on Sunday, rumor had it the pace car was considering pulling off the track for the restart entering turn 3…no need to wreck a nice new sports car.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee…and George Lopez for Kansas Speedway grand marshals? Didn’t realize NASCAR was looking to expand its fan base by drudging up D-list celebrities…
How could Jeff Burton pit for fuel in the final 20 laps of the race? Didn’t he realize the pure drama and hilarity for TV viewers the “Kim-Cam…” would have produced for the second week in a row? Then again, his wife may have needed medical attention if the No. 31 car ran out of fuel on the track…so maybe things worked out for the best.
Race Grade: A-
With a tricky turn four, Chasers problems galore, a fuel mileage finish, and so much more, Kansas looked like a speedway that’s finally coming into its own. Now, if we could only say the same for the other five “cookie-cutter” tracks…
F For Jeff Gordon’s Equipment
In the high pressure world of the Chase, one can understand an engine failure like Kevin Harvick’s last week, where a team is pushing its equipment to the cutting edge to gain any advantage they can. But for a fuel pump to fail on Gordon’s car…how is that possible? When’s the last time one failed in a Nextel Cup race? You don’t see a lot of fuel pumps in the “did not finish” explanations in many of these races anymore, I can guarantee you that.
I am just upset right now,” Gordon said after the race. “I want to know what happened, I want to get out of here and move on.”
I don’t blame him.
D For Jamie McMurray
While teammates Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin are busy chasing a title, McMurray is watching any chance of salvaging his season with Roush go slip-sliding away. Qualifying 41st, Jamie ran like junk all weekend until a spinout by himself on lap 131 put the No. 26 car out of its misery, giving him a season-high seventh straight finish outside the Top 15. Meanwhile, McMurray’s old ride, the No. 42, scooted by on its way to a second place finish with Casey Mears. Think the word “regret” crosses Jamie’s mind at night?
C For Matt Kenseth
Considering Kenseth was able to spin off turn four and not hit anything, a 23rd place finish is pretty respectable for the No. 17 bunch considering how bad things could have been. But with a car better suited for Junkyard Lane than Victory Circle all weekend, this team has everyone wondering when they’ll step back up to championship form after leading the points after Richmond.
B For Mark Martin
When you talk about Martin’s luck, there’s nothing to say, because he doesn’t have any…until Sunday afternoon. The defending champ of the race had nothing for the leaders all day, but a little extra fuel in the tank allowed him to sneak out of the track with a third place finish he shouldn’t have had. With Talladega on the horizon, it’s the perfect time for a good luck charm to settle down inside the Martin camp.
A For Tony Stewart
When the Smoke cleared on the fuel mileage gamble that was Kansas, it was Stewart and the No. 20 team coasting to Victory Lane with just enough fuel to cross the finish line. After taking out good friend Kasey Kahne at Dover the week before, Tony showed everyone that wreck didn’t cost him his focus, as he looks to take the checkered flag first several more times before the year is out.
Extra Credit For Jeff Burton
The Cingular Chevrolet nearly lost its signal when Ryan Newman spun directly in front of Burton on lap 15. But the veteran did a remarkable job of avoiding the crash, soldiering on to post a fifth-place finish that extended his points lead to 69. Should he survive the “Big One” at Talladega, I might be forced to admit a title could be in the cards for this humble Virginian after all.
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