Who… gets my shoutout of the race?
It might have been the most unnoticed top-10 finish of the night, but Sam Hornish Jr. grabbed his career-best finish at Phoenix with his unheralded ninth-place result. It was Hornish’s first top-10 finish in Sprint Cup competition and the second top 10 in this race for owner Roger Penske, as teammate Kurt Busch finished third. Stock cars have proven to have a long, tough transition time for Hornish; is this the start of a new phase of his career?
What… was up with that?
Here’s the newest Big Six regular question, reserved for a puzzling moment that defies explanation, or at least common sense. While not technically a short track, Phoenix produces its share of hard racing, and apparently Dale Earnhardt Jr. thought Casey Mears raced him too hard. Mears and Earnhardt did race in close quarters prior to Earnhardt’s crash, but it sure looked as though Earnhardt lost it on his own. Still, he spun Mears on the cool-down lap. Mears apparently shared my take on the incident, because the shove made him mad enough to come right back at Earnhardt.
Where… did the polesitter wind up?
Mark Martin ended the race right where he started, P1. Martin had the best car for most of the race, and as he has done for more than 10 seasons, raced cleanly all night. He was easily able to pass Ryan Newman on the final restart to seal the win, the 36th of his career. Martin is third on the win list among active full-time drivers, trailing only his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson in that category. The win also puts Martin 18th on the all-time wins list. Only Junior Johnson has more career victories without a championship.
When… will I be loved?
You couldn’t blame Michael Waltrip for humming this song after Robby Gordon did blame Waltrip for the lap 167 wreck that relegated Gordon to a 39th-place finish. Waltrip got loose, overcorrected, and lost his car, collecting Gordon in the process. The incident also produced the quote of the night, when Gordon commented that he was looking forward to a new driver in the No. 55 next year. (Waltrip had previously stated that he would consider retirement if his performance does not improve) On one hand, Gordon shouldn’t talk about inconsiderate drivers. On the other, he was talking about Waltrip, who has ridden his brother’s coattails for more than 20 years. We’ll call it a draw.
Why… does NASCAR insist on having night races on the West Coast?
Sure, everyone likes night racing, if they can stay awake to finish it. While ratings don’t suffer from NASCAR’s stupid scheduling because people who tune in at the beginning and fall asleep count, I wonder how many of NASCAR’s youngest fans got to see the end. For an organization who bills itself as a family sport, NASCAR sure doesn’t do anything to prove it when they make the schedule. Just like there need to be day games in the World Series, there need to be day races in Mountain and Pacific time zones.
How… did the Nationwide Series become the Kyle and Carl show?
I don’t know, but if you missed Bryan Davis Keith’s spot-on Nuts for Nationwide column Friday on Frontstretch, you need to go back and read it. And then ask yourself what happened to a once-great series. When the television commentators can’t tear themselves away from the Cup interlopers long enough to find out and report on what happened to a three-time Most Popular Driver who was off track for eight laps early with mechanical problems because they are too busy discussing what Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards had for lunch a week ago Thursday, it’s a very sad thing indeed. (Incidentally, Edwards and Busch have a total of one Most Popular Driver award between them.)
On a side note… does having more Most Popular Driver trophies than any other driver in the history of the Nationwide Series make one the most popular driver ever? I think I like the sound of that…