NASCAR Race Weekend Central

10 Points to Ponder… After the 2007 Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta

1. Hendrick’s Half – If you add up all the races that Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won this year – Jimmie Johnson‘s eight, Jeff Gordon‘s six and one each for Kyle Busch and Casey Mears – you’ll see that Hendrick drivers have won 16 of 33 races – just under half of the all the races this season.

2. Who Knew?Dale Earnhardt Jr., that’s who. Junior knew that he had a loose wheel well before the green-white-checkered finish, telling his team on lap 324, “That d*mn wheel is loose as hell!” He asked for another driver to look and see if something was broken on the car’s rear end, but Reed Sorenson relayed the message that everything looked okay. “Are you kidding?” shouted Junior. “It’s driving itself like a forklift here! Do you see the car weaving? That’s not me! It may be OK at speed. We’ll find out in a second.” And find out they did as he slammed the wall incredibly hard after the tire fell off. I don’t think you can hang this one on DEI.

Editor’s Note: Looking for more on Junior and his fresh start with Hendrick Motorsports? Mike Neff has a full report from Monday’s test you can read by clicking here.

3. Drummed-up Drama – With little else to talk about on today’s pre-race show, it was kind of pathetic listening to the broadcasters trying to create drama where there was none, repeatedly asking which of the top teams would make a mistake today. This is one of the unfortunate consequences of the Chase itself, in which the artificially-tight points race means one mistake can ruin a contender’s chances.

4. Questionable QuestionMark Martin‘s hard impact after David Gilliland‘s lap 65 spin wasn’t funny, but his response to pit-road reporter Mike Massaro’s question sure was. Massaro posed a somewhat convoluted query about how hard the hit was and how Martin’s body diffused the impact, to which Mark replied, “Well, I don’t know. What kind of question is that?” Perhaps in the future a simple, “Are you OK?” would suffice.

5. Never Mind – It was very early on when polesitter Greg Biffle started describing a severe vibration and was convinced that the engine was blowing up. “We’re done,” he radioed to his crew chief. Or not. Biffle completed the race, finishing 22nd. But late word is that his engine, along with those of Dave Blaney and Denny Hamlin, may have somehow had water mixed with the fuel. NASCAR is investigating.

6. Hamlin Haters – Hamlin and his team took a lot of heat for causing a late-race melee when the No. 11 car wouldn’t accelerate on the restart with three laps to go. It was reported at the time that he was simply out of gas, but as mentioned above it seems other factors may have been at play. So the Hamlin haters among you should hold your tickets until the result of the investigation regarding this strange report of water being mixed into the fuel of at least three cars.

7. An Afterthought – That’s the way ESPN treated Saturday’s Busch race, sandwiching it between college football games and once again treating race fans like second-class citizens. The game prior to the race went to double overtime, completely eliminating the pre-race show, unless you were lucky enough to have ESPN Classic or ESPN360.com. And while it’s true that the race ran long due to the excessive number of cautions, there was not a single post-race interview – not even one with first-time Busch Series winner David Reutimann.

8. Crazy Cautions – Both the Busch and Cup races saw a record number of cautions this weekend – 25 in the Busch race and 14 in Cup, though the etiology of those cautions was quite different. With the Busch race taking place at Memphis and the Cup race in Atlanta, there were very few Buschwhackers, leaving the field open to a large number of young rookies whose inexperience showed throughout the day – while the leading cause of cautions in the Cup race was cut tires, accounting for at least half the day’s yellows. Here’s an amazing stat: At one point in the Busch race, there had been more laps run under caution (68) than under green (66).

9. Silly Slogan – Isn’t it ironic that NASCAR runs a series of commercials featuring the Chase slogan, “Miss a Lap, Miss a Lot” – when the airing of the commercial itself causes viewers to miss laps?

10. Anthem Applause – I hereby nominate John Schneider as the official NASCAR singer of the National Anthem. Not only did he provide a stirring, in-tune rendition, but he preceded it with this invitation to fans: “This song belongs to all of us. Let’s sing it, shall we?” Maybe if he says that often enough, people will start joining in instead of just listening – which is as it should be.

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