NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2010 Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas

Who… gets my shout out of the race?

For one of the most remarkable performances by an injured driver, Denny Hamlin gets my shout out for pulling off a win just two and half weeks removed from ACL surgery. This is the same surgery that many athletes take as many 18 months to recover from and in fact, most people can’t even driver their street car for over a month after the same procedure. Hamlin turned in two gutsy performances by driving the entire race at both Phoenix and Fort Worth and his loyalty to his crew was rewarded on Monday with a big Texas-style victory.

What… difference did the new spoiler make at Texas, the fastest track it has debuted on so far?

There really wasn’t any difference. I did not see the rear end of cars violently whip around every time a driver tried to pass and it seemed that for the most part, the usual suspects were running up front. Sure, we saw some wiggles and wobbles out of a few cars and some even brushed the wall, but when doesn’t that happen during a Sprint Cup race? Overall, this was a typical event at a 1.5-mile quad-oval which saw some tight racing but mostly cars strung out for the majority of the event. In fact, the only major incident was caused by drivers going for the same real estate, a mistake that would have resulted in a wreck with the spoiler, the wing, the shark fin, the whicker or nothing at all.

Where… were all the lead changes?

There was a whopping 29 lead changes among 12 drivers on Monday afternoon, yet why did this event seem like a snooze-fest for most of the race as drivers got strung out during long periods of green-flag racing? Remember, with runs under green come green-flag pit stops among teams who each appeared to be on their own strategy during the middle portion of the race. 10 lead changes happened during the course of pit stops under green while another seven changes at the front occurred during yellow flag stops. That accounts for over half of those 29 total updates on top of the scoring pylon. This just goes to show you, numbers alone don’t always tell the full story.

When… was the last time every driver in a big wreck agreed that it was just “one of those racing deals?

Did Tony Stewart come down into Jeff Gordon? Or did Gordon slide up into Stewart? No matter how you view it, the contact was just enough to break the momentum of the No. 14, forcing Carl Edwards into the back of Stewart and igniting the Big One with just 17 laps to go. With nine drivers involved, at least one of them has to be ticked off at somebody right? Not so this time. Everyone interviewed seemed to be in agreement that the wreck was a result of a bunch of drivers going for the win in the late stages of a race. In fact, if anything, many of the drivers (Stewart and Gordon) tried to take the fall themselves. When will we see such agreement in the wake of a massive pileup again? Don’t expect it anytime soon.

How… long will the feud last between Hendrick stars Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson?

The reality is that it is probably over as you are reading this. I’ve heard at least one of these drivers (Gordon) hurl some nasty insults – or shoves – towards others when he’s angry, yet when it came to Johnson, the best the driver of the No. 24 car could do was that he was “disappointed” in his young protégé. As for Johnson, he was so fired up and angry that he too was… ”disappointed” in his boss. Yeah, I’m pretty sure Mr. Hendrick had these two in a “Kumbaya” session on the plane ride back and by the time they get to Talladega, it will be “what incident?”

Why… did Mark Martin believe that Kasey Kahne was the best suited successor for the No. 5 car?

Well, if one race is any indication, just look at how they performed at Texas. Both only had brief mentions of their name throughout the race. Both men struggled throughout most of the event and neither were even within eyesight of the lead with just 20 laps remaining. Yet at the end of the day, both Kahne and Martin brought their cars home in one piece for solid finishes of fifth and sixth respectively. Looks like Hendrick Motorsports (via Stewart-Haas Racing?) is in good hands for years to come.

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