The Frontstretch: Frontstretch Breakdown : Zippo 200 by Toni Montgomery -- Sunday August 13, 2006

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Frontstretch Breakdown : Zippo 200

Toni Montgomery · Sunday August 13, 2006


In A Nutshell: Say what you will about Kurt Busch, but he sure has a way of being involved in exciting finishes. Busch probably had the best car all day Saturday at Watkins Glen, but it was no mean feat to hold off Robby Gordon on a road course, especially when Gordon decided to pull out all the stops. Gordon had been glued to Busch's bumper in the closing laps, looking for an opportunity to get by when he made a bonsai move through the chicane on the last lap, running over the curbs to get up to Busch's left side. It was full contact racing as Gordon shoved Busch into the grass, but Busch isn't one to be intimidated by a little beating and banging. He shoved back and held on to come out on top exiting the turn, sealing up the victory in the Zippo 200. Gordon also managed to get his car back under control, and remained in second place across the line. Jamie McMurray nursed his overheating car home in third, followed by Greg Biffle and John Andretti to round out the Top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Kurt Busch. Busch, the pole sitter, did have the best car almost all day, but nearly saw the race slip away after a slow stop midway through the race cost him the top spot. He'd have to drive past Robby Gordon, one of the best road course racers out there, to get it back; but Busch had both the skills and the equipment to make that pass work. Kurt certainly does not get enough credit for his own road racing skills, but the finish of this one proves how strong they are. Even if he didn't have the best car at the finish, just for hanging on and prevailing under direct attack from Gordon Busch definitely deserved the trophy based on the skills he demonstrated. He certainly didn't steal this race, that’s for sure.

Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend:

1) Does the presence of drivers not racing for points make for more exciting action in this series?

Kurt Busch pointed out that neither he nor Robby Gordon were racing for points, meaning that they were more willing to do some beating and banging to get the win. He raises a good point, as championship leader Kevin Harvick behind them was content to merely play it safe and get as many points as he could.

2) Is too much expected of rookie development drivers?

Not quite related to this race, but Mark McFarland was unceremoniously dumped this week from the No. 88 JR Motorsports ride. Supposedly the seat will go to Shane Huffman, another JR Motorsports development driver that, according to Dalr, Jr., shows more “emotion.” Realistically, McFarland wasn't doing any worse than most of the other Busch Series rookies, but with things the way they are this year, owners are expecting these guys to go out as rookies and keep up with Cup veterans instead of learning from Busch veterans first as in years past. Realistically, McFarland wasn't doing any worse than most of the Busch veterans as far as that goes…but he still paid the price anyway.

3) Should Robby Gordon have been penalized for aggressive driving in the closing laps?

Bite your tongue! It was exciting, no one got wrecked, and no one was even angry. Kurt Busch might have been less jovial about the whole thing if he had wrecked, but still, in this case, everyone came away smiling, so as far as I'm concerned, there's no harm and no foul. But it does make for an interesting point in the whole issue of when you penalize and when you don't.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:

John Andretti scored his first ever Top 5 Busch Series result to make him both the highest finishing Busch regular and the Raybestos Rookie of the Race. The presence of both the Buschwhackers and the road course ringers took its toll on the Busch regulars, as the next highest finisher among their ranks was David Green in 15th.

Regular road course ringers Boris Said, Ron Fellows, and Scott Pruett brought home nice finishes for their respective teams, coming to the line eighth through tenth, respectively.

Also a nice run for an open wheel star turned NASCAR hopeful, Max Papis. Mad Max made his Busch Series debut and brought home a 14th place result in his first run in a stock car. The fact he did so with a team who had finished no higher than 19th in all previous races this season made the run even more special.

As for the championship, Kevin Harvick can almost phone it in now. His points lead just continues to grow, and it now stands at 443 points over second place Carl Edwards. Denny Hamlin remains third, 497 points off the pace of Harvick. Clint Bowyer and J.J. Yeley remain fourth and fifth.

The only change in the standings this week comes at the sixth spot, as Greg Biffle moves up to take the spot, dropping Paul Menard to seventh. Kyle Busch, Johnny Sauter, and Kenny Wallace remain eighth through tenth.

Buschwhacker Watch:
Buschwhackers in this race: 15
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 330 of 1040
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 6
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 173 of 240
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 22 of 24
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 7

"I was leaving a gap between me and the guys in front because they were fighting like dogs. First and second were beating each other, and second and third were kind of watching that but they were kind of aggressive on each other, too. I just wanted to see what was going on and I didn't want to get slowed down because that's when I'd get passed. Martin Truex really has a lot to do, I think, with where we are, too because I raced him and he raced me really fair. I think he gave us a bit of a cushion, and he had a really fast race car. But it would have been a lot of work for him to get around us so, therefore, I think he protected us. It was kind of nice." John Andretti

"Today was a lot of fun. We came here to win, and we would do what it took to get to Victory Lane. I had issues with my transmission almost all day, and that's what eventually allowed Kurt (Busch) to pass us going into turn 1. I did all I could to get back in the lead there at the end. We knew where we had him beat, and I just stuck my nose in there and leaned on him and just didn't get in deep enough." Robby Gordon

"Honestly, I missed one downshift going into the chicane there and blew it. I broke it. We never have any problems with our transmissions at all. Those guys do a really good job. The only time they break on me is when we come to road course, so that tells me it's my problem. I missed a shift and tried to force it in and that was it. I knew the next two turns after that that, it was going to break. It was just a matter of when." Todd Kluever

Next Up: The Busch Series heads off to the high-speed, multiple groove Michigan International Speedway next Saturday for the Carfax 250. Coverage begins at 3:00 PM ET on TNT.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
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IndyCar Driver Profile: Takuma Sato
Beyond the Cockpit: Tommy Baldwin on Owning His Team, Hall of Fame and the Number Seven


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