1. Change In Direction – Joey Logano, heir to the No. 20 Toyota presently driven by Sunday’s race winner Tony Stewart, will not compete in any further races this season in the No. 96 Hall of Fame Toyota. The 18-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing phenom had been scheduled to fill the driver’s seat in the HoF ride for three of the final six races of the Sprint Cup season. “We talked to Gibbs and both decided that, for [Logano’s] development and for our team, this the best thing for all of us. The best thing for all of us is for them to focus on Joey’s development, and for us to focus on our team,” said the co-owner of HoF, Tom Garfinkel.
Is that kind of like being fired?
2. All Rodney Dangerfield-like – Kyle Busch salvaged a so-so 15th-place finish in the AMP Energy 500, a result good enough to pull him out of the cellar and into 11th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings. With 19 wins in NASCAR’s top-three series this season, Busch had attempted to add to the total at Talladega by also competing in the Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday. However, two CTS vets ganged up on the “hot shoe” on the last lap of the Mountain Dew 250, relegating Busch to third place in the final running order. Todd Bodine bumped leader Busch coming into the tri-oval as the pack raced for the checkered, then moved to the outside, picking up a push from new CTS point leader Ron Hornaday to give Bodine and Hornaday a 1-2 finish.
It’s like the young, super-talented Las Vegas native is getting no respect as the season winds down!
3. Where’s He Been? – Paul Menard, driver of the Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 15 Chevy sponsored by his father’s chain of home improvement stores (Menards) announced this week that he and his father’s sponsorship money would be leaving DEI at the end of the season for Yates Racing. That leaves the team with only one primary sponsor signed (Bass Pro Shops/No. 1) for their entire four-car operation in 2009. However, Menard followed that announcement up with a second-place finish after teammate Regan Smith was penalized for passing race winner Stewart below the yellow “out of bounds” line as the two raced to the checkered flag.
Why does a guy wait until he’s leaving to “step it up?”
4. Racing Luck – It was not the best of weekends for NASCAR’s most watched and talked about driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior, who not so long ago won four Talladega races in a row, got a taste of how Sunday’s luck would be for him and his No. 88 HMS Chevy team when he blew an engine just eight laps into the first practice session on Friday. Then, in the second session, Junior blew a tire to start a multi-car wreck, causing him to go to a backup car for Sunday’s race. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver then was caught up in the Big One, relegating him to a 28th-place finish and dropping him two positions in the Chase to 10th with only six races remaining.
Isn’t this luck that should be reserved for a driver that fans have legitimate reason to dislike?
5. Further Explanation Needed? – Smith made a last-lap, last-ditch effort to win the AMP 500 by dropping below the yellow “out of bounds” line and crossing the finish line ahead of Stewart. However, NASCAR officials quickly determined that the driver of the DEI No. 01 Chevrolet made an illegal pass and at press time was showing him in 18th, the last finishing position of cars on the lead lap. Stewart was awarded the win.
In a similar scenario in 2007, CTS driver Johnny Benson executed a final lap pass to improve his finishing position, placing second. When questioned as to why Benson was allowed to advance his position by passing below the yellow line without penalty, NASCAR spokesman Owen Kearns explained that “if you see the checkered flag on the last lap, anything goes.”
6. In The News – Robby Gordon has resolved the seemingly nasty legal dispute with Gillett Evernham Motorsports over GEM backing out of an agreement to purchase Gordon’s race team. However, Gordon has now sued an investment company that is attempting to collect $1,013,656 in fees resulting from the failed merger. This past week, Gordon was also rumored to be merging his operation with DEI. This weekend, Gordon announced that he has enough sponsorship to run his own team again in 2009, and now has no intention of driving for anyone else or selling his team.
Can you even imagine how much news Robby Gordon would generate if he had more than a one-car operation?
7. Not That Stupid – Carl Edwards, who came to Talladega second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, took responsibility for triggering the Big One at the superspeedway Sunday. After hanging at the back of the field for most of the day, the driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and teammate Greg Biffle mounted a late-race charge towards the front when, on lap 174, he tagged Biffle in the left rear – resulting in both of the Chase contenders losing control and at least 10 other cars being wrecked. Among those damaged in the melee besides Edwards and Biffle were Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick, Busch and fellow Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth.
See… if you are in a points battle and you’re going to wreck, it just makes sense to take out as many other championship contenders as you can. Edwards leaves Alabama still second in points and only 72 out of the lead…
8. Winners Don’t Forget! – Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Stewart prevailed at the high banks of Talladega to visit victory lane for the first time this season. In doing so, Stewart also ended a 43-race winless streak. However, four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon found the going rough in the AMP Energy 500, finishing a disappointing 38th to extend the Hendrick Motorsports veteran’s winless tally to 35 races. Gordon’s last win came at Talladega just one year ago. See Jeff, ask Tony… it’s just like riding a bicycle.
9. Ghosts – As Stewart took the green flag on lap 186 for the green-white-checkered finish, a look in his rearview mirror would have found DEI drivers Smith, Menard and Aric Almirola lined-up second, third and fourth behind him. Was he wondering who left the door open to the museum?
10. Good, Bad, Ugly? – The AMP Energy 500 set a new record for the number of race leaders with 28… however, only 18 cars finished on the lead lap and did not spend significant time in the pits or garage for repairs.
Was this a hard-fought race or a very fast destruction derby?