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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2007 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono

1. Robby Robbed? – I’m going to take the minority position here, but I believe NASCAR initially made the right call placing Robby Gordon in 13th for the restart in Saturday’s Busch race. The issue according to NASCAR was not where Gordon was when the caution came out, but the fact that he failed to “maintain a cautious pace” under the yellow. However, NASCAR did compound the confusion by initially telling Gordon to line up in first… then in second… then in 13th. The officiating crew also messed up by restarting the race with Gordon still in second, knowing full well that he would wreck Marcos Ambrose after the restart – which, of course, he did. For his part, Gordon said that the reason he didn’t move back was that he was going to appeal the finish and “wanted to make sure that the race played out the way it should.”

2. Robby Wrong – Even if you side with Gordon on the initial protest, his failure to acknowledge the black flag and subsequent burnout after the checkers was quite over the top, a move which resulted in his suspension from Sunday’s Cup race. On his website today, Gordon apologized for his actions, stating, “I want to start by expressing my regrets to the sponsors, fans and all competitors for any part I played in the miscommunication, confusion, and uncertainty surrounding the finish in this weekend’s Busch [Series] race in Montreal.” Robby added, “It was not my purpose to disrespect the authority of NASCAR or the officials. I do respect their authority to run the race and make the calls, and I understand the significance of the black flag.”

3. Robby’s Revenge – On the other hand, Gordon might show everyone next week that hell hath no fury like a racer scorned. “We’ll sit this weekend out, but we will come to Watkins Glen with a vengeance to win both races,” Gordon said Sunday. In his career, Gordon has one Cup win in eight starts at Watkins Glen – he has yet to score a Busch victory there.

4. Ambrose Annoyed – Ambrose led half the laps in the Montreal Busch race, but was on the receiving end of a retaliatory spin by Gordon with two laps to go. Despite finishing seventh, Ambrose maintained his composure after the race, explaining, “I promised myself that I wouldn’t get mad” about racing incidents in the Busch Series. Asked how difficult it was not to be angry, Ambrose quipped, “I’ll be in therapy for about two years, I think.”

5. Pocono Runaway – Looks like the Car of Tomorrow can’t come to Pennsylvania soon enough. Today’s Pocono race was a total yawner – even Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s official race report described the event as “mundane.” There was very little passing up front, and the majority of lead changes occurred on pit road. Kurt Busch simply blew the rest of the field away – leading 175 of 200 laps for an easy victory. Not even a series of late-race cautions could create a close finish in this one.

6. Tussle for 12th – Entering today’s race, Earnhardt Jr. was barely hanging on to the 12th-place Chase cutoff spot with a slim 13-point lead over Busch. Busch and Earnhardt finished 1-2 on Sunday, but the win was enough to give Busch the 12th spot and move Earnhardt into 13th – now seven points behind Busch. Before the race, Earnhardt said that he had the Chase situation “under control,” but Busch clearly has the momentum, with an average finish of fifth over the past four races compared to 23rd for Earnhardt Jr.

7. Kenseth Consistency – In typical under-the-radar fashion, Matt Kenseth is quietly having an impressive year, second only to points leader Jeff Gordon in top 10s, lead lap finishes, and average finishing position. Matt has finished 14th or higher in all but three races this season and is third in points after Pocono, trailing Gordon and second-place Denny Hamlin.

8. Bud on Bud Pole – Were you as surprised as I was to hear that Earnhardt Jr.’s Pocono pole was his first in 175 races? Before this weekend, if someone would have bet me that he had gone that long without a pole, I would’ve lost.

9. Waltrip’s Woes – Here’s the good news: All three Michael Waltrip Racing cars raced on Sunday for the first time since the season opener in Daytona. The bad news: None of Michael Waltrip‘s cars finished well, with Waltrip coming in 38th, David Reutimann 41st, and Dale Jarrett 42nd. The funny news: Mikey’s new NAPA commercials take full advantage of his troubles, as Waltrip responds to “fan” mail in truly self-deprecating fashion. In the meantime, Dave Blaney had the best run for Toyota at Pocono, finishing 20th.

10. Pondering the Points – It’s kind of funny to still hear folks using the phrase “under the old points system” with the Chase now in its fourth full season. But a Jeff Gordon fan emailed me this week to say that “under the old points system,” Gordon would be solidly en route to his sixth Cup championship, having theoretically “won” his fifth in 2004. Your thoughts?

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