Each week, Frontstretch Staff Writer Becca Gladden looks at the prior weekend’s Nextel Cup race from a reporter’s point of view, covering the “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How” of the race, the drivers, the TV coverage, even the commercials. Check back every Wednesday for Becca’s fun and thought-provoking commentary.
Who: Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton.
Those are the only two full-time Nextel Cup drivers who have not used a “Lucky Dog” pass so far this season. Kyle Busch has used nine, the most of any driver, including the five he received at Watkins Glen.
What: A Funny Winning Moment.
This week, I had to laugh when the TV broadcast flashed the “Team Chevy Winning Moment” banner across the bottom of the screen. The accompanying picture was not a burnout or a victory lap, but simply the No. 20 car being pushed to pit road by the No. 11. Stewart won the race fair and square, but it was rather anti-climactic heading to the checkered flag, as both the first- and second-place finishers coasted across the finish line out of gas. I don’t know what was funnier – that, or reading an article this week by NBC pit reporter Marty Snider who said, “I enjoy fuel mileage races. I really do.” Well, OK.
When: Oct. 2, 2005.
That was the last time Dale Jarrett and the No. 88 team finished in the top five… until Sunday. DJ’s fourth-place finish at Kansas from a 32nd-place starting spot gave his diehard fans something to cheer about. Said Jarrett, “It was a long time coming. These guys never gave up. Butch made a good call and came on the radio and told me at about 36-37 to go that if I could save some fuel, we might be able to make it, so we had nothing to lose by trying to make it.”
Where: Turn 1.
That’s significant because it was pretty much the only corner that didn’t cause trouble for drivers at Kansas, a track where it’s hard to hit on the right setup to get through all four corners successfully. As a result, a number of different drivers had problems at the track in completely different places. Denny Hamlin, David Gilliland and Robby Gordon lost the handle in turn 4, turn 3 collected Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer, and turn 2 got Ryan Newman and JJ Yeley. 45 of Sunday’s 267 laps were run under caution.
Why: Because he wasn’t in the Chase.
Stewart was out of gas when he crossed the finish line in Kansas and made it clear that he could not have taken the fuel gamble if he was in the Chase. “We had nothing to lose today. Not being in the Chase gave us that opportunity to go ahead and run for it. We were able to take a chance that we wouldn’t have been able to if we were running for the championship.” Many predicted that Stewart would relish the roll of spoiler as a non-Chase driver, and it looks like he’s going to have a blast doing it.
How: A broken fuel-pump pin.
That’s how Jeff Gordon may have lost his bid for a fifth Cup championship. Gordon had a solid run going and was second in as-they-run points on lap 230 – just 38 points behind Burton with 37 laps to go. Moments later, a dejected Gordon was out of the race, thanks to the failure of a 30-cent mechanical part. Gordon fell to sixth in the standings, and now runs 120 points behind Burton. Said Gordon in the garage, “We still can win the championship, but I am just upset right now. I want to know what happened. I want to get out of here and move on – go to Talladega, and go from there.”
Here’s my question for our readers: Can Gordon come back to take the title?