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10 Points to Ponder… After the 2008 LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at Loudon

1. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? – Hendrick Motorsports made it official last Friday that Casey Mears – who joined HMS in 2007 to replace Brian Vickers – would be released from his No. 5 Chevy ride at season’s end. Said team owner Rick Hendrick at the time of Mears’s signing, “Casey is a talented driver and a high-character person who is going to be a great fit with our organization.” Hendrick went on to say, “He has the ability to win races and ultimately contend for championships, so we’re thrilled to welcome him to Hendrick Motorsports.”

After just 52 points races… next!

2. Do The Math – Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 from the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway was altered by the race sponsor in a promotion that had the race length extended an extra lap this year. The toolmaker said the extra mile was added in honor of Lenox customers – users and suppliers of industrial tools – who perform physically demanding jobs yet receive little recognition.

Hey, wait a minute! 301 laps x 1.058-mile track length = 318.45 miles. Oh, wait; no, they didn’t go an extra 18.45 miles did they? Maybe just an extra 1.058-miles for hard working folks… wasn’t the race supposed to be 300 miles plus one mile? Oh, Brother!

3. It’s Official!Tony Stewart will become part owner at Haas CNC and bring fellow Indiana driver Ryan Newman with him to the team next year… or, he might be in the HMS No. 5 being vacated by Mears… or, he will be held to his contract at Joe Gibbs Racing and be required to continue to chauffeur the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota until 2010… or…

Readers may insert their own Stewart rumor here: _______________.

4. Bank It – In 2002, New Hampshire Motor Speedway underwent an extensive facelift, largely due to the fatal and tragic accidents at the track in 2000. Those accidents claimed the lives of Kenny Irwin Jr. and Adam Petty and were attributed in part due to the lack of banking in the turns, causing cars to hit the outside retaining walls at particularly high rates of speed. Progressive banking was constructed into the turns as a result of those accidents, with angles that ranged from four degrees installed into the lower lanes to seven degrees of banking from that point to the top of each turn at the oval.

Yet… people continue to refer to Loudon as a “flat track.”

5. You Ain’t Just Whistlin’ Dixie – Rain had been in the forecast for the running of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 for several days, yet the race was a sellout. Sellouts are nothing unusual for NHMS, though. In fact, Sunday’s standing-room only crowd at the almost 96,000-seat motorsports facility was just the latest in a 27-year streak of nothing but sellouts for the track’s Cup Series events.

Who said NASCAR racing is a Southern sport?

6. We’ve Gone Global – Canadian Patrick Carpentier became only the second foreign-born driver to qualify for the pole in a Cup Series race in the more than 60-year history of NASCAR. The last non-American polesitter was Lloyd Shaw out of Toronto, Canada in June of 1953.

Considering the influx of international talent into NASCAR the last three years, isn’t it a safe bet that the sport won’t have to wait some 45 years for the next foreign Coors Light Pole Award Winner? And not necessarily just by Canadians…

7. Lagging BehindMichael Waltrip and his No. 55 Toyota scored a second-place finish in the rain-shortened Lenox Industrial Tools 301. Pit strategy gave the owner/driver of the three-car Michael Waltrip Racing team his first top-10 finish of 2008. In fact, it was only MWR’s second top-10 finish combined for the three teams in the first 17 events of this race season (David Reutimann finished 10th at Charlotte in May).

Word to Michael… Toyotas are supposed to be competitive this year!

8. Good PR? – During the last caution period of the race brought out when Sam Hornish Jr. and Clint Bowyer wrecked on lap No. 280, NASCAR’s most booed driver Kyle “Rowdy” Busch and Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya had an on-track altercation. Montoya took exception to what he perceived as unnecessary contact by the Sprint Cup points leader and admitted to intentionally spinning the No. 18 driver out down the frontstretch. As a result, Montoya was penalized two laps for rough driving and credited with a 32nd-place finish.

Lose a few positions… gain a bunch of fans?

9. Not A Total Dud – NASCAR officially ended the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on lap 284 of 301 while the race was under red flag conditions due to rain. On lap 270, leaders including Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson hit the pits during a caution period for an accident that saw Jamie McMurray slam into the rear of Dale Earnhardt Jr. as Junior attempted to enter pit road. It looked like a real nailbiter might be developing, as those cars with fresh tires were set to battle others who’d stayed out on fuel mileage to gain track position. But instead, after just two green-flag laps, the race ended with the top finishers being those cars that did not pit – nor were running up front at any time during the race. The rain certainly made for an anti-climatic ending to an otherwise good event.

But the day wasn’t a total loss. During the SPEED TV pre-race show, a man in the trackside television audience had a monkey on his shoulders… drinking beer! Long live NASCAR!

10. New Old News – Busch wins!

Wait, not him… the other one!!!

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