Who… gets my shout-out of the race?
The shout out of the week goes to Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge. After his rookie year in the Cup Series, many people had all but written off the former Indy Racing League champion. However, this season, the team has improved by leaps and bounds. Saturday night saw Hornish pick up a career-best sixth-place finish, besting the ninth he had at Phoenix two weeks ago.
This performance improvement is not just with Hornish, but with the whole team in general. The Nos. 2 and 77 for Penske Championship Racing are ahead of their pace in the points from last year.
What… was that?
This week’s “What the Deuce?” award goes to two drivers. First, to Robby Gordon for a strange-looking bumping incident with Martin Truex Jr. early on in the race. In the Frontstretch Live Blog, readers considered this move to be intentional on Robby’s part, although no footage was displayed to show the root cause of this.
The second award goes to David Stremme, for what really looked like an intentional spinout of Carl Edwards. However, Stremme got his just desserts later on, when contact from the No. 96 of Bobby Labonte sent the No. 12 into the wall in turn 4.
Where… did the polesitter end up?
Brian Vickers’s No. 83 struggled with handling issues early on. This resulted in him dropping out of the top 10. Vickers then missed pit road during the first round of green-flag pit stops, dropping Vickers off the lead lap. After bottoming out around 30th, Vickers came back through the field and got the Free Pass back onto the lead lap with the 14th caution on lap 347. Pitting for tires under that caution allowed Vickers to race up to a 15th-place finish.
When… will I be loved?
You could argue that Dale Earnhardt Jr. could be listed here for spinning Jeff Burton into the wall on lap 213. However, Burton’s car wasn’t hurt that bad (in fact he came up through the field to finish third). As a result, Earnhardt’s not going here.
I think Kevin Harvick goes here this week, and not because of any malicious behavior on his part. It’s simply because nothing’s going right for him right now. In the week leading to the race, everyone involved with Harvick’s car except for his spotter was shifted to the No. 07 for Casey Mears. It looks like Mears’s luck came with the people as well. Saturday saw him blow a left-rear tire after contact with Hornish’s splitter right after a restart. The resulting crash dropped him to a 34th-place finish, 23rd in points.
Why… wasn’t the plight of a NASCAR official mentioned during the FOX broadcast?
I’ll mention this during the TV Critique on Tuesday, but apparently, a NASCAR official on pit road was struck during Saturday night’s race. This was well known to people in the pit area, since it was on the scanners. This was also posted in our Live Blog. There was an update that the official was transferred to a local hospital, but no information about the official condition, let alone his/her name.
This was never mentioned on the FOX broadcast. What the heck?
How… were there so many wrecks on Saturday night?
Saturday night’s race saw a record-tying 15 yellows (including the yellow-green condition for the first six laps of the race). All but two of the cautions were for wrecks. Why the impatience? People were driving with 150 laps to go like it was lap 382. That kind of on-track behavior just isn’t going to work under normal circumstances.
Also, at least one of those cautions might not have been warranted. During the Live Blog, our own Bryan Davis Keith was debating the idea that the yellow should not have been thrown for Kasey Kahne’s spin on lap 151. Kahne got loose coming out of turn 4 and slid through the tri-oval grass. NASCAR threw the caution after Kahne had already started to pull away from the scene. There was no debris. I think that it would have been possible to just leave the green out in that situation, but NASCAR loves to keep the fields bunched up, so Kahne’s spin was a perfect opportunity to bunch them up again.
At least the on-track racing this year was better than last year’s complete dominance.