1. Exasperated with ESPN – I have heard very few positive comments about ESPN’s NASCAR coverage since they took over the race broadcasts after a seven-year absence. But today’s post-race “coverage” was abysmal, showing just two driver interviews (Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon) before switching to SportsCenter and its seemingly endless coverage of baseball and football. Despite promising race fans that they would return to the Glen for more post-race coverage during SportsCenter, they simply replayed the same interviews that had already aired. Completely unacceptable.
2. Rusty’s Remarks – I’ve also been hearing from a lot of you who are not pleased with Rusty Wallace’s work as a race commentator. The main viewer criticisms are that he talks too much and allows his personal biases to seep into his comments too often. Still, it was surprising to hear Wallace say that he was “afraid” to talk to Juan Pablo Montoya after Montoya’s tussle with Kevin Harvick because Montoya would probably answer him in Spanish. Joking or not, I’m sure NASCAR’s diversity directors just loved that one.
3. The Daly Planet – For some really interesting commentary and back story on the TV coverage of NASCAR in general, I recommend The Daly Planet blog by motorsports TV critic John Daly. Be sure to check out today’s entry entitled, “Culture Clash Explodes On ‘NASCAR Now.'” Good stuff there.
4. Stewart Streaking – When you’re hot, you’re hot, and Stewart is sizzling right now, winning three of the last four Cup races – Chicago, Indy and now Watkins Glen – and finishing sixth at Pocono. Stewart has a respectable record at Michigan where the circuit heads next week, notching 11 top-10 finishes in 17 starts.
5. Earnhardt Ebbing – As quickly as Stewart’s fortunes have risen, Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s have fallen. Junior dropped to 14th in the points today, two spots out of Chase contention, and has five DNFs on the season – four with engine failures. Interestingly, Dale is exactly 100 points behind 12th-place Kurt Busch – the same number of points he lost in a Car of Tomorrow penalty earlier this season. Despite Junior’s “What, Me Worry?” nonchalance, the time to start getting nervous is now. If Earnhardt doesn’t win a race this year, it will be his first and only winless season since going to Cup full-time in 2000.
6. Discouraged Eury – You can’t blame Tony Eury Jr. for being disheartened after today’s 42nd-place finish, stating, “We can’t go to the Chase like this.” But Eury sounded a little too resigned to a fate not yet fully decided, saying, “If we make the Chase, fine. If we don’t, fine.” With Earnhardt Jr. leaving for Hendrick Motorsports next year, it sounds like a lot of the fight has already left the No. 8 team, and Eury Jr. in particular.
7. Quote of the Race – “I just wanted to know if there was a new rule,” quipped team owner Felix Sabates, explaining why he went to the NASCAR office to ask about Harvick’s team fixing the No. 29 car under the red flag. No, there wasn’t a new rule, said NASCAR officials, and Harvick’s team was quickly informed of same.
8. Two in the Top 10 – There were just two manufacturers represented in the top 10 at the Glen – Chevy with seven drivers and Ford with three. Busch was the highest finishing Dodge in 11th, and PJ Jones, a road-course fill-in for Michael Waltrip Racing, came home the highest Toyota finisher at 25th.
9. Hamlin vs. Gordon – I’ve been saying for a few months now that Denny Hamlin, for whatever reason, is making it personal between him and Gordon. Despite all the media hype about Gordon vs. Stewart for the title, it’s Hamlin who’s currently second in points, followed by Matt Kenseth and then Stewart. Hamlin was on the No. 24’s bumper with eight laps to go but couldn’t complete the pass. “I should’ve just knocked the No. 24 out of the way,” he said later on his in-car radio. “I wish I had it to do all over again.” Hamlin came in second for a 1-2 Joe Gibbs finish, while Gordon’s late-race spin sent him back to ninth, giving owner Rick Hendrick three cars in the top 10 and all four in the top 15.
10. Bonus Points or Bust – No doubt, Gordon was going for the win when he wheel-hopped it and spun in turn 1 with two laps to go. “I wanted that win really bad. Points don’t mean anything,” said Gordon after the race. Then, asked if he would rather have the trophy or the 10 Chase bonus points for the victory, Gordon replied, “The bonus points.” But he changed his mind again in the same interview, stating, “I’d probably take that back. I’d probably rather have had the trophy than the bonus points. I think we can beat [Stewart] in the final 10 races, whether we’re ahead or behind in the bonus points.” What say you, race fans? Was Gordon thinking more about the win or the bonus points with two laps to go?