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?
For the final race of the season, I have chosen to salute a broadcaster rather than a driver; race analyst Benny Parsons, who has been battling lung cancer for most of the year. Through all his treatments, Benny has continued working, becoming a shining example of class, modesty and raw determination for those inflicted with this disease. At the start of Sunday’s broadcast, Benny was asked if he was excited about the upcoming race and he replied, “I’m just thrilled to be here.” It was clear to me that he meant that on a much deeper level than simply the excitement of the race itself. On behalf of everyone in the NASCAR family, Benny, let me say that we were thrilled, too.
What… is a “California Type-B Personality?”
Beats me, but that was how NBC’s Bill Weber described Jimmie Johnson during the pre-race show. For what it’s worth, the dictionary defines a Type-B personality as, “relaxed, uncompetitive, and inclined to self-analysis.” Yup, that’s Johnson – uncompetitive. Frankly I think Weber is a Type-I personality – irritating, inaccurate and insufferable.
When… has there been a more drawn out final 15 laps to end a season?
Maybe it wasn’t that bad for fans, but it must’ve seemed like an eternity for Johnson who, with 14 laps to go, could practically “smell” the Nextel Cup. He had to endure a red flag for a serious crash involving Juan Pablo Montoya (making his Cup debut), a yellow flag after Casey Mears lost an engine, and a green-white-checkered finish after JJ Yeley ran out of gas. All those restarts might have rattled a lesser driver, but Johnson maintained his composure throughout the tense final laps.
Where… did Denny Hamlin finish in the season standings?
On the strength of an impressive third-place run at Homestead, Hamlin finished the season third in the standings, just 68 points behind Johnson and 12 behind runner-up Matt Kenseth. Hamlin easily took 2006 Rookie of the Year honors, and was the first rookie in three seasons to make the Chase. He also won the Bud Shootout and swept the Cup races at Pocono this year. At this point, it remains to be seen whether Hamlin will suffer a so-called sophomore slump in 2007, but if I was the competition, I wouldn’t count on it.
Why… should Kenseth stick to driving racecars?
Well, for one thing, he’d never make it as a comedian. During the race, it was reported that Matt told crew chief Robbie Reiser on the radio that Montoya was (paraphrasing), “Juan heck of a racecar driver.” Ha, ha. Matt, stick to your day job, buddy.
How… good was this for foreshadowing on my part?
Back in May I wrote my first Becca’s Big 6 column for Frontstretch after Richmond. In it I asked, “What one quality keeps Johnson at or near the top of the points standings every week? Simply his team’s ability to recover from adversity by race’s end.” I brought this up a few other times throughout the season, and Johnson’s run on Sunday was yet another example of what I contend is the one factor that separates the No. 48 team from the rest. Between his 15th-place start and ninth-place finish, Johnson caught a piece of debris early in the race and suffered through a pit-road miscue involving a missing lugnut… at one point, he fell as low as 40th place before charging back to the front. Don’t forget that after the first race in Chase, Johnson was ninth out of 10 Chase drivers – seemingly watching his title dreams slip away. Surmounting the insurmountable – that’s what makes a champion.