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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Becca’s Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2007 Auto Club 500 at Fontana

Each week, Frontstretch Senior Staff Writer Becca Gladden looks at the 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 Monday for Becca’s fun and thought-provoking commentary.

Who… gets my shout-out of the race?

Congratulations to Brian Vickers and Team Red Bull for a top-10 finish in their first points race of the year. Vickers spent the latter part of 2006 under rancorous conditions at Hendrick Motorsports, and his new 2007 team was unable to qualify for the Daytona 500 last week. Vickers was understandably happy about Sunday’s performance: “Everybody did such a good job. Team Red Bull and Toyota – everybody involved. This is really our first intermediate track for us and for Toyota. To come out of it with a top 10 – I don’t think it could have been any better.” Vickers qualified the No. 83 car 15th and crossed the finish line in 10th.

What… was the most overused phrase of the whole post-Daytona 500 controversy?

Well, I heard it at least twice in this week’s pre-race programming, and many more times throughout the past week – the phrase “throw caution to the wind,” as in “Kevin Harvick threw caution to the wind” or “NASCAR threw caution to the wind” with regard to NOT throwing the caution flag. Here’s any idea: Let’s all throw caution to the wind and try to come up with some original lines.

Where… does Jeff Gordon rank on the all-time pole winners list?

With his Fontana pole this weekend, Jeff Gordon now has 56 poles, moving him past Bill Elliott to fifth on the all-time pole winners list. Gordon is now just three poles behind Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip who are tied for fourth on the list. Richard Petty is the all-time poles leader with 126, while the next-closest active driver to Gordon is Mark Martin with 41. Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how much Gordon has already accomplished in his career – and he remains just one victory away from tying Dale Earnhardt with 76 wins, fifth on the all-time wins list.

When… have you seen a spiffier exit from a car than Dale Junior’s mid-track bow on lap 67?

Okay, so he looked a little like a kid who just finished a piano recital – but Junior was apparently impressed with his own ability to keep the No. 8 car off the turn 3 wall after blowing an engine big time and spinning out. Despite serious concerns about the DEI engines – they blew two at Las Vegas testing in January and two in the race yesterday – Earnhardt managed to put a positive spin (no pun intended) on things, both with his bow and with his optimistic view: “If we get this bad luck behind us, look out.”

Why… are so many fans unhappy with the pre-race programming?

Judging by my email, not too many viewers are pleased with FOX’s emphasis on the musical entertainment portion of the pre-race festivities. Last week it was Kelly Clarkson and this week it was Sammy Hagar, but what I’m hearing from fans is that they’d rather have more racing coverage and less fluff. NASCAR fans have very diverse musical tastes and it’s unlikely that any particular artist is going to please a majority of fans, so why go there at all?

How… scary was that David Reutimann crash?

Very scary if you ask me. David Reutimann‘s in-car camera clearly showed him slumped against the steering wheel unresponsive with a fire burning under the hood. Even when he came to, he appeared disoriented and had considerable difficulty extricating himself from the car. Didn’t it remind you of Earnhardt Jr.’s LeMans crash in Sonoma a few years ago, only with less fire in the cockpit?

Final Thought

I’ve never been one to jump on the conspiracy theory bandwagon, but that “debris” caution with 25 laps to go might be the one that pushes me over the edge. Matt Kenseth was clearly headed for victory after dominating the field all day, and after all the complaints about the Daytona 500 being B-O-R-I-N-G until the last 30 or so laps, it’s easy to see why folks might believe that NASCAR threw the debris caution to bunch up the field and try to manufacture a little late-race excitement — especially with TV ratings down for the 500. The FOX team didn’t even try to show the so-called debris to TV viewers, adding to the notion that there never was any debris to begin with. Hmmm… are those black helicopters I’m starting to hear overhead?

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