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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points To Ponder… After the 2007 Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at Loudon

1. Bonus Points, Part One – In the wake of last week’s penalties against the Nos. 24 and 48, drivers like Denny Hamlin and Kyle Petty said that a better punishment would have been taking away bonus points – the extra 10 points per win that drivers get once they make the Chase. But I don’t see how this penalty could possibly work because not all drivers will have bonus points, making it impossible to apply across the board. Since not every driver with bonus points will make the Chase, taking bonus points away from those drivers would be, well, pointless.

2. Bonus Points, Part Two – If you had any question about whether the new bonus points would encourage drivers to go for the win rather than settling for a good points day, consider today’s admission by race winner Hamlin’s crew chief, Mike Ford:

“I don’t know that it gets more aggressive than what we did. We didn’t have the best car, and the only way we had a shot to get those 10 [bonus] points inside the Chase is to shoot for the win.”

The purpose of these bonus points was to shift the emphasis from point racing to winning, and, according to both Hamlin and Ford, it seems to be having the desired effect.

3. Phoenix Vindication? – The tracks at Loudon and Phoenix are often compared as similar flat 1-milers, and Hamlin was bitterly disappointed after losing at Phoenix in April to Jeff Gordon despite leading 70 laps there. Gordon won Phoenix with Hamlin finishing third, but Denny held off a hard-charging Gordon in the closing laps to take the win at Loudon. With these two drivers currently first and second in points, the competition will only get more fierce between them going forward.

4. Toyota Takes P1 – Sunday’s Loudon race will go down in history as the occasion of Toyota’s first Cup pole, achieved by Dave Blaney. Blaney led 30 laps early, but lost the handling as the race went on and finished a disappointing 29th in his Camry. Blaney was the highest Toyota finisher, followed by David Reutimann (38th) and Jeremy Mayfield (40th).

5. And Speaking Of Toyota… – What do you guys think about Brian Vickers missing the race? He qualified 28th, but his time was disallowed after he failed post-qualifying inspection by 1/8-inch beyond the 1/4-inch tolerance for minimum height in the left front. If Vickers was in the Top 35, he still could have raced despite the problem, but as one of the drivers outside the Top 35, he was disqualified. Fair or not? What about the Top-35 rule in general?

6. When Dale Junior Talks… – People listen, even at the company that he will soon leave behind. It was May 10, 2007, when Junior officially announced his pending departure from DEI. There had been 10 Cup races before that day and seven races since. In the pre-announcement phase, Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s average finish was 18.4 – after the announcement, 10.3. Teammate Martin Truex Jr.‘s pre-announcement average finish, 22.2 – since the announcement, 8.6. It’s obvious that Earnhardt’s criticism of DEI lit a fire under a few folks that changed the direction of the company.

7. Trackside Goes International – If you missed SpeedTV’s “Trackside” on Friday, you missed a show with a decidedly international flare. The two drivers interviewed were Juan Pablo Montoya, a native of Colombia, and Marcos Ambrose from Australia. With the Busch series racing in both Mexico and Canada this season (Montreal in August) and the latest rumor of British-born IRL star Dan Wheldon switching to NASCAR, it’s clear that the sanctioning body is forging ahead with its goal of worldwide expansion – and it’s working well.

8. Chevy’s Still Superior – Hard to believe that all of the top-eight finishers were members of the Bowtie Brigade, with Matt Kenseth in a Ford and Ryan Newman in Dodge rounding out the top 10. Chevy also has eight of the top-10 drivers in overall points, with Kenseth and Carl Edwards the only non-Chevy drivers out there… both in Fords.

9. New Hampshire’s New Nickname – Based on both pre- and post-race interviews, there was one phrase that was uttered so frequently it seems like it should be this track’s new motto… or maybe it’s what all of us can look forward to at every Car of Tomorrow track: “Hard To Pass”

10. Kudos to Cousin Carl – Edwards showed a good bit of moxie, recovering from a dreadful pit road incident to finish 13th. Said Edwards,

“The good news is we had an awesome car – the bad news [is] it fell off the jack when we’re leading the thing pitting under green. Everybody kept their composure,” Edwards noted. “The car was still good enough. But this is a race-winner right here, not a 13th-place car.”

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