Nobody can accuse Jimmie Johnson of being too boring or too perfect anymore. The man dubbed “Mr. Martinsville” by teammate Jeff Gordon drove deep into turn 1 with 16 laps to go and body-slammed Denny Hamlin for the lead and eventual win Sunday. The pass was not perfect, a little daring, and showed a side we haven’t seen much of from the three-time defending champion – hunger.
Maybe not winning in the first five races of 2009 got under his skin, but you could tell as Johnson was reeling in Hamlin in the closing laps that he was determined to not to lose the race. On another note, I am extremely proud of Hamlin for the way he acted in his post-race interviews. He could have easily slammed Johnson for the overaggressive pass, but instead said he was honored to drive with him and kindly said if the roles were reversed next time around he would do it again. Kudos to both for providing fans with the most exciting racing we’ve seen this season.
USF1 for Allmendinger: Possible? Yes. But just say NO
It was reported this week that both AJ Allmendinger and Scott Speed are on a short list of prospective drivers for the newly formed USF1 Formula 1 team expected to see the track in 2010. I can understand what Ken Anderson and Pete Windsor see in both drivers, with Speed already having F1 experience and Allmendinger being a proven Champ Car race winner. But while Speed is determined to make a mark in the Cup series with Team Red Bull, Allmendinger’s future is still cloudy. The No. 44 team still does not have full funding for the entire season and if a rare F1 opportunity came up, Allmendinger may bite.
‘Dinger has mentioned he will keep all options open – but this F1 ride could be career suicide. After finally finding success in Cup, and showing signs of more progress, there is no reason to ride around in the back in F1. Not to mention that if he goes over to F1 and struggles, what Cup team will take him back?
Young drivers sprout up every year, and someone is sure to take whatever seat he leaves open. Some days may be better than others and his future with RPM may be up in the air, but NASCAR is where Allmendinger needs to be right now. Just say no!
Junior not as bad off as people think
For all the talk of how poorly Dale Earnhardt Jr. has raced this season, his past four races are not all that bad. People need to realize A) He’s not his father B) He’s not Gordon and C) He’s not Johnson. These guys are all multi-time champions and perhaps the greatest drivers in the history of the sport – Junior is not. His fans and doubters both need to temper back expectations and realize he’s not going to come out and win five races and breeze to a championship this season.
Instead, Junior’s four consecutive top 15s are solid enough to have him 16th in points and just 44 markers out of the Chase. So, give the poor guy a break and let him race. Stop talking about the pressure he’s facing and how bad his crew chief is… and maybe the good finishes people are hoping for will come.
Frontstretch LIVE BLOG provides some interesting stats
Among the polls asked in Sunday’s live race blog on Frontstretch, viewers were asked which driver they would pick to build a startup team around among the following drivers: Allmendinger, Brian Vickers, David Reutimann, Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya. All drivers are in the top 20 in points and having solid seasons, but viewers voted 83% in favor of Bowyer.
It seems, perhaps, that one of the most underrated drivers in the sport is no longer as underrated. Sitting second in points with a new fourth car at Richard Childress Racing while Casey Mears struggles to find consistency in the No. 07 car that Bowyer drove to two consecutive top-five points finishes shows just how talented the Kansas native is.
In the same blog, our resident TV critic Phil Allaway mentioned that FOX’s Digger seems to be making less and less appearances on the tube these days. When viewers were asked what they thought about the rodent, 83% said they can’t stand it while not one person said they were a fan of the creature. Perhaps FOX is starting to get the picture?
Frontstretch will have another LIVE RACE BLOG next Sunday at 1 p.m. for the Samsung 500 at Texas. Be sure to check it out!
Today’s Truck winner is Kyle Busch
Well, not really… yet.
Busch has won at least once each weekend so far this year; but with no Nationwide Series race, he must win in today’s truck event to keep that streak alive. And why shouldn’t Busch win today? He was fifth fastest in final practice, rolls off in the 11th position, and is obviously the field’s superior talent. He is a favorite in any race he runs in the No. 51 truck and my favorite to win today (I’m really going out on a limb on that one, huh?) Lil’ Busch admits he is not that strong at the paperclip; but with arguably the best equipment in the field today, it’s hard to bet against him.
Notes to Ponder
- Mark Martin making progress: After four solid runs with no results to show for it, Martin has reeled off back-to-back finishes of sixth and seventh to move up to 27th in points.
- Not too good of a start for…: Martin Truex Jr. and David Ragan, who both sit outside the top 25 in points despite high expectations.
- Good start for…: Allmendinger and Montoya, who both sit in the top 15 in points.
- Monday night special: What a way to start the work week – short-track truck racing!
- Remember the name: Brian Ickler will drive 10 races in the No. 51 truck this season when Busch isn’t available. Ickler, 23, led the most laps in the Camping World East Series in 2008 and is considered a five-star prospect by popular scouting service DavidSmithMotorsports.com.