Q: I’m no fan of Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr. – I pull for the Roush cars on race day – but I had to get a laugh out of the way Talladega ended. Hendrick shuts Brian Vickers out of his team meetings after years of making him run races with crappy stuff and rookies in the pits. Then, Vickers finally wins a race on his way out, giving ol’ Rick the finger in the process and putting Johnson out of the Chase picture. I think Vickers is a helluva talent, and I’m glad to see him develop some stones. – Blue Oval
A: I’m happy for Vickers from the standpoint that I do think he’s been running without quite the level of support the other Hendrick drivers get, and it was clearly important for him to win before he left the No. 25 to honor the memory of best friend Ricky Hendrick. However, this incident brings back to mind the same issues raised when Vickers took out Mike Bliss last year in the Nextel Open to win the event: he’s fast, but can be sloppy, and I don’t think he understands yet that he’ll lose a lot of fans if he keeps driving this way. I thought Johnson’s team took a cheap shot at him after the race, but it wasn’t necessarily incorrect from a factual standpoint. As you might have been able to tell from that reaction, I think this whole issue has become a major distraction for Hendrick in the Chase.
Q: I’ve never been a Johnson fan, but he got jobbed by his own teammate. And don’t even get me started on what happened to Junior. – Great8
A: I just want to say I was surprised by Junior’s take on things. I wouldn’t have been nearly so calm.
Q: Is Mark Martin really a threat to win this thing now? I can’t decide whether I want him or Jeff Burton to win it more. I kind of hoped Mark would retire after this season if he won it, but it looks like he’s going to go drive the No. 01 next year. I just don’t want to get up any false hope for him if he’s going to struggle down the stretch. – Gayle K.
A: Hard to say, Gayle, but he’s certainly in the best position he’s ever been in. Getting through Talladega with no damage was huge for that team. I think he’ll be fine on the races that are coming up; the question I have is whether Matt Kenseth or Kevin Harvick is going to pass him and Burton from behind.
Q: You called it on Scott Wimmer; I see he’s got a plum Busch ride next year with Childress. Do you think we’ll see him in Cup again? – Artie Calendula
A: I think we will, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not with Childress. I think Wimmer showed enough maturity and competence this year to get another look in the near future. There are about 5-10 guys next year that are going to have Cup rides that aren’t even close to being ready to handle this level of racing yet.
A: While it was a disappointment to a lot of people that Stewart and Biffle missed the Chase, in all honesty there are 15 or more cars that are Chase-worthy, and some capable drivers are going to miss it every year that could have made it if they had just a little more luck. My personal list of disappointments includes Ken Schrader, Sterling Marlin, Jeff Green, the entire BAM operation for going with Brent Sherman to start the year, Kyle Petty and Michael Waltrip. Of those, Schrader and Petty started to get better recently when they replaced crew chiefs, but they never should have been that bad to start with. All those names pale in comparison with what I think is the biggest disappointment of the year, though; Jamie McMurray and Roush Racing. I would list David Stremme, too… but I was kind of expecting Stremme to finish low in the rankings anyway.