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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Big 6: 2009 Dickies 500 at Texas

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

When you’re a championship contender, a top five is just another day at the office, but when you’re not, it’s a small victory. Kevin Harvick, a title contender just a year ago, grabbed a fifth-place finish at Texas on a fuel gamble, coasting across the line. It’s just Harvick’s fourth top-five run all year, and the driver sits 21st in points, worst of all four Richard Childress Racing teams, so this finish could give the No. 29 a little momentum to carry through the end of the year.

What… was THAT?

NASCAR has done a lot of things that make fans scratch their heads, but to blame the television networks for the boring racing at Talladega has to be one of the most ridiculous. Sure, the commentators called it like they saw it. But does NASCAR really think the fans are so uneducated that they need the network to tell us the race was a disaster? I think the fans could see it with their own eyes, and the television coverage had little part of forming the collective disappointment that the fans felt. That is all on NASCAR.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

After fighting tooth and nail for every position, Jeff Gordon finished 13th, better by two positions than his 15th-place average in the Lone Star State. This track has never been kind to Gordon, who scored his first win here in the spring, leaving only Homestead on the list of tracks Gordon has yet to conquer; Gordon has three DNFs at Texas and has failed to lead a single lap nine times.

When… will I be loved?

Late in a race, with the finish on the line, drivers need to be aggressive and take chances. But to do it on lap 3 and taking out the points leader for absolutely no reason just gets you the jerk of the week award in this column – and this week it’s David Reutimann singing along with the Everly Brothers after trying to take Sam Hornish Jr. and Jimmie Johnson three-wide into a corner-and promptly punting Hornish into Johnson, ruining Hornish’s day and nearly erasing Johnson’s points lead singlehandedly. If a driver other than Johnson wins the championship, they owe Reutimann a chunk of the winner’s check, thereby proving that you really CAN make a living by being an idiot.

Why… is “premier Nationwide Series ride” an oxymoron?

Easy answer: because the premier rides in that series are simply Cup teams masquerading as Nationwide teams. The James Finch ride is easily the best independent Nationwide ride available for 2010, and yet that driver will go into the season with little chance to win each week and the added knowledge that Finch’s revolving door of drivers doesn’t exactly promote a feeling of optimism and hope. More like a bad rerun and wondering when it all fell apart.

How… far out of the point lead is too far with two races to go?

Well, by the books, 322 is the most points a driver can earn in two races, if he wins and earns the bonus for leading the most laps. So, theoretically, the best that eighth-place Denny Hamlin could do if he dominated and won both Phoenix and Homestead, is tie Johnson for first, which would give Johnson the title by the tiebreaker of number of wins. But that’s unlikely to happen. Everybody from ninth back is eliminated from contention at this point. Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya and Greg Biffle all have a mathematical chance of winning, but no matter what happens in Phoenix, Johnson will be ahead of all four. Gordon would need two great races to win, but it’s not out of the question, and Mark Martin has a very real shot of taking the title should the competition take matters into their own hands again in Phoenix.