NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

David Reutimann won Monday’s Coke 600, despite scratching up the right side of the No. 00 Aaron’s Toyota. Crew chief Rodney Childers’s call for the ‘Franchise’ to stay out instead of pitting before the race’s final caution flag put the Michael Waltrip Racing driver in the lead ahead of Ryan Newman, Robby Gordon and Carl Edwards. The crew chiefs of all of these entries deserve three thumbs up for playing the Mother Nature card and snagging top-five finishes.

What… was that?

This section of last week’s Big Six installment mentioned Darrell Waltrip’s undeniable bias toward Kyle Busch. On Monday, Waltrip pulled an even bigger tool out of the bias box, by incessantly jumping the gun and saying the race was going to be called. While that fact seemed obvious to many, one has to wonder if D.W. was simply pulling for Reutimann, because he drove both D.W.’s No. 17 truck and currently drives for Waltrip’s brother Michael’s race team. Inserting personal opinion into a broadcast is acceptable to a limit. But Waltrip’s leanings were obvious, especially since his broadcast partners Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds kept urging viewers to stay tuned, because the race had not yet been called.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

Newman’s string of consecutive good runs could easily have ended Monday, but crew chief Tony Gibson’s call to keep the Army car out during the last caution period with rain looming and the race just past the halfway mark made a huge difference in the No. 39’s finish. Newman was running solidly in the top 10 before having to return to pit road after the team had issues with a pit stop during the third caution period that began on lap 41. The lost track position left the No. 39 outside the top 30, but a good-handling car and the correct strategy calls left Newman with his best finish since winning the 2008 Daytona 500.

When… will I be loved?

Tony Eury Jr. will not be the Big Man on Campus at the Hendrick Motorsports complex this week. Heavily criticized since he and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s tenure at HMS began last year, the crew chief of the No. 88’s stock with the team and in the garage has to be at an all-time low. Earnhardt started the race 27th and quickly fell back in the pack. Barely hanging onto the National Guard car this Memorial Day, Junior was the slowest car on the track that had not been wrecked and finished a dismal 38th, two laps down. Junior should have been more laps down, but the numerous cautions kept him from falling further off the pace. With this tune having been hummed the past few weeks, HMS now may be singing a loud farewell song to Earnhardt’s longtime crew chief.

Why… did NASCAR wait so long to call the race?

Before yet again criticizing the sport’s governing body for stringing out the rain delay, let’s remember that the Coca-Cola 600 is one of the season’s biggest races, was already postponed once, it is held at a track that has lighting, it is close to most of the teams’ race shops and the Daytona 500 was also rain-shortened. Nevertheless, it is a safe bet to say that many people involved, from the drivers, to the teams, to the media, and, of course to the fans would liked to have salvaged part of their Memorial Day to spend outside, instead of getting soaked at the racetrack or staring at the boob tube in hopes of some kind of action or conclusion. The conditions at the track remained stationary for at least the last hour of the rain delay and having that hour back makes a huge difference to everyone on a holiday.

How… are drivers going to like having to sit in a mandatory town hall meeting with NASCAR on Tuesday?

They are not. After qualifying on Thursday, doing nothing on Friday, seeing Happy Hour practice get shortened by rain on Saturday, some having to wait out the delay in the Nationwide Series race Saturday, waiting through the enormous rain delay Sunday and then flounder at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway waterfall on Monday, these drivers, owners and crew chiefs need the day off they deserve. Many were planning to spend Monday with their families, but instead waited all day at the track. Now, with Tuesday down the tubes with yet another NASCAR commitment, the only saving grace that will make the day productive is for NASCAR to man up and give these drivers, crew chiefs and owners some solid answers to some pressing questions. Hopefully the fans will get some insight as well on NASCAR’s take on the Jeremy Mayfield drug controversy, the Carl Long penalty, declining ratings, double-file restarts and the economy’s impact on the viability of race teams.

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