NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Big 6: 2009 Ford 400 at Homestead

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

After his Richard Petty Motorsports teammates suffered damage (Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson were involved in a domino-effect pit road accordion mash-up, and Kasey Kahne got a hole in the roof of his machine from an errant brake rotor), AJ Allmendinger carried the RPM torch to a 10th-place run, bookending his season with top-10 finishes, and making a statement that the team made the right choice to keep him around in 2010.

What… was THAT?

When Juan Pablo Montoya took a skirmish with Tony Stewart a little too far, NASCAR parked him for two laps for overaggressive driving. Yet in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, the powers that be only sat Denny Hamlin for one lap – despite the fact that Hamlin said before the race that he was planning to wreck Brad Keselowski and confirmed on his team radio that he had intentionally wrecked Keselowski. Not only that, but NASCAR then allowed him to get his lap back with the free pass on a subsequent caution. This is the same NASCAR that parked Kevin Harvick for threatening to wreck Greg Biffle a few years ago. But Keselowski is only a Nationwide Series driver, and NASCAR is obviously going to allow the Cup drivers to run rampant in that series in more ways than one.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

On a whole new page in the history books. Jimmie Johnson finished fifth in the race, easily enough to clinch his fourth straight Sprint Cup title. He’s not the youngest driver with four titles – Jeff Gordon was younger, but Johnson’s fourth championship comes in just his eighth full season on the tour. Gordon’s came in his ninth season, and Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt won their fourth titles in their 14th and 12th seasons respectively. While many fans dislike Johnson, his peers have little else but respect for him, as evidenced by the many visitors to victory lane as Johnson pulled in to receive his trophy – Mark Martin, Brian Vickers, Casey Mears and Gordon among those who came to wish him well. One final note: Several years ago, before Johnson won a title, Johnson, Vickers and a few other mutual friends took to calling Gordon “four-time” in honor of his four titles. Kinda doesn’t have the same ring now, does it?

When… will I be loved?

It honestly looked like it started as a racing incident-when Stewart pulled a slide job on Montoya, he lost a little momentum, and Montoya ran into Stewart’s back bumper. There was no damage to Stewart’s car, but Stewart took umbrage with Montoya, and turned into him, cutting a tire. Montoya, not one to let things slide, sent Stewart sailing through the grass a little while later, at which point NASCAR put a stop to things with the black flag for Montoya. Montoya and Stewart can split the final Unloved Award for 2009.

Why… wasn’t Rick Hendrick in Homestead to celebrate his ninth championship?

He was in North Carolina, at the side of his family, while his niece underwent emergency surgery. Hendrick returned home when the situation became critical, and his team did Hendrick proud in his absence, locking up the top three spots in the final points standings.

How… long until the Daytona 500?

Just 83 days… and counting. Or 1,997 hours, if you want to look at it that way. Have a happy and safe offseason, race fans, and I’ll see you on the flipside!

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