1. Lucky at Lowe’s – Jeff Gordon is a great racecar driver, but even the best sometimes need a bit of luck, as Gordon acknowledged in his post-race comments from Victory Lane: “I can’t tell you how many times we tried to give this one away. I was having trouble with the [fuel] pickup on the banking. Even on the last [restart], the tires spun so bad, Clint Bowyer could have gone right by me.” Gordon pulled out the win despite two cautions and a red flag in the last 16 laps of the race, a green-white-checkered finish, an almost-empty gas tank and a group of talented hard chargers right behind him, including Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards.
2. Translation, please? – There was some serious fender rubbing going on partway through the race between future teammates Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. After Jeff got into Dale, an angry Junior warned, “Tell him I ain’t gonna forget that!” But I’m really curious about what Gordon meant when he said a short time later, “I really don’t want to race him tonight,” referring to none other than his future teammate. What’s your interpretation?
3. Kenseth’s Calamity – It’s not often that Matt Kenseth has the kind of dismal night he had at Charlotte, bouncing both off the wall and other cars several times. Said a dejected Kenseth after the race, “I have absolutely no excuse. I really feel like an idiot out here tonight.”
4. Almost Alltel – With the race winding down, Newman made a sweet move on a lap 329 restart as the No. 24’s engine sputtered, allowing him to sweep past the three frontrunners and take the lead. True to his nickname, Newman took off like a rocket in clean air, but blew a tire just two laps later, slamming the wall and finishing 28th. Curiously, both Rusty Wallace – who was calling the race live – and subsequent reports from Goodyear engineers hold that all four tires were up when Newman arrived back in the garage… even though Newman was adamant that he felt the tire pop.
5. CBD – I got a kick out of SPEED’s new acronym for the No. 07 team’s improbable Chase run this season: CBD, which stands for Clint Bowyer Denial. But there’s no denying the fact that this guy is for real. Bowyer is now just 10 points behind reigning Nextel Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, and he’s the only driver besides Johnson still within a one-race points margin of Gordon. Bowyer’s worst finish in the Chase (if you want to call it that) has been 12th, but he’s also had two seconds and a first, giving him an average finish in the Chase of 5.6. Johnson’s average finish in the Chase? 9.8.
6. Broadcast Blunders – I checked in at a number of fan message boards during the race, and you know what the number one topic of discussion was on all of them? Hint: It wasn’t the racing, the drivers, the Chase or even college football scores, which apparently ESPN thinks race fans can’t live without. The big topic yesterday, as it has been for the past several weeks, was the TV broadcast itself. I can tell you this much: NASCAR is not doing itself any favors with the way ABC/ESPN currently covers the races. And WHY doesn’t that network understand that after sitting through a 500-mile race, fans want to see more than one (sorry, two) post-race interviews?
7. You Might Be a Redneck – If government officials are afraid to visit you without first updating their immunizations. Many fans were outraged after hearing the news that some Homeland Security staffers were advised to get a series of inoculations before attending the Talladega race to study public health issues. My feeling is that all you can really do is laugh at such ignorance. As Kyle Petty put it, “That’s our government at work.”
8. Shave and a Haircut – Earnhardt Jr. encouraged a little friendly razzing over the weekend after his cousin and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. started work at Hendrick Motorsports. According to Earnhardt, Tony Jr. was told to get a haircut, tuck in his shirt and report to work at the break of dawn. Hey, don’t laugh too hard, Junior – your turn is coming soon.
9. Over it? – Speaking of Dale Jr., did you hear that he left both Friday practice sessions early, stating that the car was so good there was nothing else they needed to do to it? This seems quite odd considering how poorly he ran, starting 22nd, finishing 19th, and not leading a single lap. Is it possible that Junior is mentally and emotionally done with this season, just going through the motions at this point? Sure looks like it to me.
10. Castroneves Can-Can – Okay, it’s not a NASCAR story, but IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves has proven that not all of a driver’s moves take place on the racetrack. The quote of the week, however, goes to Sam Hornish Jr., who was asked to comment about the colorful sequined costumes that Helio and other competitors wear on Dancing with the Stars. “I haven’t seen him wear anything that he didn’t already have in his wardrobe,” he joked.