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… gets my shout-out of the race?
This week I salute Dale Earnhardt Jr., who brought home a sixth-place finish at Texas and moved up one spot to third in the standings. Junior was not only battling strep throat, joint aches, nausea and heartburn during the race, but also had to deal with the effects of carbon monoxide after hitting the wall on lap 166, knocking out the crush panels and allowing the noxious gas to seep into the car. Junior described the feeling as “sort of like taking a Valium” – never a good thing at 180 mph.
What… was the best quote of the weekend?
I would like to draw your attention to Jeff Burton, who answered a reporter’s question with this philosophic observation during the pre-race show: “If you can’t get your wife to bring you food, then what the heck?” What the heck, indeed.
When… is Tony Stewart especially happy about a victory?
According to Stewart, his Texas win was particularly sweet because, “I finally won at a track that Jeff Gordon hasn’t won at.” He was quick to point out, however, that it’s a particularly challenging feat because Gordon has won at so many tracks. In fact, there are only three tracks currently on the circuit at which Gordon hasn’t won – Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. Coincidentally, they’re the last three races in the Chase.
Where… has Roush Racing slipped this year compared to last?
In lots of different places… just ask Greg Biffle. Last season, Biffle led all drivers with six wins and finished second in the points; this year, he’s been to Victory Lane just once, failing to even make the Chase. On Speed’s NASCAR Raceday program Sunday, Biffle explained, “We’re not as good aerodynamically. I think we’ve slipped a little bit aerodynamically where other teams have improved. I think that’s left us just outside a little bit. I think it’s a combination of handling, chassis and aerodynamics.”
Why… is Allen Bestwick so underrated?
Because of his generally understated demeanor and his lack of sensationalistic reporting, Bestwick doesn’t really catch your attention the way some of the TV broadcasters do. But if you watch him week in and week out, he is consistently the most polite, intelligent, and accurate of all the NBC/TNT reporters – and a really nice guy, too.
How… fast was Brian Vickers in qualifying?
He got the pole at Texas, so you know he was plenty fast, but Vickers’s 196.235-mph run on Friday was actually the fastest single qualifying lap of 2006. Vickers also had an impressive save on lap 104, when his car was so sideways that he said he was driving looking out the right-side window. Overall, it was a pretty eventful weekend for the soon-to-be Toyota driver, who finished 29th after blowing a tire near the race’s conclusion.