NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2010 Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

Signing a contract extension must have agreed with AJ Allmendinger. After settling his 2011 plans earlier this week, Allmendinger thanked his Richard Petty Motorsports team with a fourth-place finish at Watkins Glen, the best of the year for the underfunded No. 43. Though he didn’t quite have the car to make a bid at the end, Allmendinger dogged the leaders all day long, holding off a charging Carl Edwards in the Bus Stop on the final lap and garnering a little TV time for his often overlooked team.

What… was THAT?

As the 2011 schedule slowly clicks into place, is NASCAR admitting they made a mistake, at least indirectly? After telling everyone who would listen that they needed to keep two races in the southern California market for several years, NASCAR granted track owner International Speedway Corporation a second date for Kansas Speedway, at the expense of the unpopular Auto Club Speedway, despite that track’s location outside of Los Angeles. The sanctioning body didn’t exactly make an upgrade so much as a lateral move. Kansas, like Fontana, is a flat intermediate track with often uninspiring racing. Still, the move remains hard to swallow, especially considering that the date ultimately came at the expense of one of the most exciting tracks on the circuit, the grand old Lady in Black.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

It looked like it might be the day that Edwards would break an almost two-year losing streak and grab his first road-course Cup win all in one neat little package as he took the pole. But when the race started, it became quickly clear that Edwards was destined for a top-five finish, not for the win. He slid back to fifth and though he gained and lost a position her and there, in the end, fifth is where he finished the day.

When… will I be loved?

Most of the day’s on-track incidents were nothing more than racin’ deals, but one in particular ruined the day of an innocent bystander and the teammate to the guy who helped start it, so the villain of the day award has to come out of that. It was hard to tell with all the smoke, but Denny Hamlin had a better view of our villain, his teammate Kyle Busch and honorable mention Jeff Burton. From piecing together the post-race comments, it appears that Burton, Busch and Jimmie Johnson were racing for real estate. Johnson cleared the other two, but when Burton got into Busch, Busch got into Johnson and sent him across the track into the wall. Hamlin had nowhere to go and slammed into Johnson’s car, sustaining the worst of the damage. The damage relegated Johnson to a 28th-place finish. Hamlin wasn’t even that lucky. His car couldn’t be repaired and the No. 11 failed to finish for the first time since Talladega last fall.

Why… is Chip Ganassi smiling?

It’s been a good year for Ganassi; he already has the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 trophies for his case. So, what could the owner do for an encore? How about winning in three major American racing series this weekend? First on Saturday, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas grabbed their seventh win of the season in the Grand Am race at Watkins Glen. On Sunday, Juan Pablo Montoya won the Sprint Cup race at the Glen, and about an hour later, Dario Franchitti took the checkers at Mid-Ohio in the Izod IndyCar Series. Not bad for a weekend’s work!

How… did the road course at Watkins Glen shake up the points picture?

While only one Chase position changed hands on Sunday, with Mark Martin taking 12th away from Clint Bowyer after a mechanical issue with Bowyer’s car, the top positions saw some shuffling. Kurt Busch was the biggest gainer with his second-place run, moving up three spots to fourth and showing his hand for a championship run. Burton moved up two spots to third, and Edwards moved up one spot to ninth. Of course, all those upwardly mobile drivers had to take the spots from someone, and the day’s biggest loser was Hamlin, who fell three spots to sixth, adding insult to injury with his DNF. Defending champion Johnson fell one position to fifth. Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth also each took a one-position drop, to seventh and 10th, respectively.

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