Well, last week most everyone correctly thought that Talladega would be the wild card when it came to who would be in or out of the next round of the Chase. But what should never be forgotten is that short tracks can be just as much of a wild card and that was certainly the case Sunday. There are a number of drivers who are now desperate for a win heading into the next two races to try and make the final four at Homestead.
This is one of the more emotional and memorable wins in NASCAR in recent times, as Jeff Gordon became the first to make the final four at Homestead his ninth career win at Martinsville. Gordon will now have a chance to win his fifth title in what is his final season. What appeared to be more of a slow march toward retirement for Gordon for much of this season now has the potential be the Cinderella ending that Gordon fans had been hoping to experience. And with Gordon being the lone Hendrick car at Homestead, you can bet all of the Hendrick crew chiefs and engineers will be sharing notes on how to make Gordon’s car as good as possible there. It would be an ending that would bring NASCAR the kind of attention it craves right now.
Whether you thought Matt Kenseth was justified in putting Joey Logano, who just happened to be leading late in the race Sunday, into the wall or not, if you didn’t see this coming then you weren’t looking very hard. Kenseth felt he was wronged by Logano when Logano spun him while they were battling for the lead at Kansas two weeks ago. That wreck basically took Kenseth out of the Chase. All along Kenseth felt he was wronged in that incident; whether you agree or disagree with him or not doesn’t really matter. What did matter is that Kenseth felt quite strongly about it, enough to give Logano a little warning tap getting onto pit road at Talladega last week. So, if you want to say Kenseth was completely wrong doing this, OK. If you want to say Logano got what was coming to him, well, OK, too. But if you want to say you had no idea that Kenseth would do something like this if given the opportunity, you just weren’t paying attention.
Tire Rubs (Warm)
The late race wrecks were a bit of good news for a group of Chase drivers who hadn’t had the of best days, but all of sudden won’t have to be in win or go home mode (figuratively here). Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick each had some type of issue during the race that caused some bent fenders. But they hung around and they each finished in the top eight. So at this moment, they would be the next three drivers to make it to Homestead. But of course, we all know how things can change in just a moment. They are however, sitting in a lot better position than Logano and a couple of others.
Jamie McMurray had a pretty decent year, making the Chase and competing well in several races. McMurray also competed quite well on Sunday and ended up second. He was gaining on Gordon in those final laps and never quite got to Gordon’s bumper. But knowing McMurray, unless Gordon was using some severe blocking tactics, it would have been a real shock to see McMurray use his bumper for the win. At least someone out there still has a bit of dignity.
In The Cooler (Cool)
I’ve always questioned why NASCAR puts Martinsville on the schedule so late in the year. This race did take place in November and with the unpredictable weather in the Virginia mountains, it could just as easily snow as be 70 degrees. Well, the weather wasn’t a problem Sunday, but the lack of daylight was. The other issue here is that when you have a race in the Eastern time zone after Daylight Savings Time ends not start until after 1 p.m. at a track that doesn’t have lights. Well, it’s not out of the question that darkness can be an issue. And it was almost an issue Sunday. So, NASCAR either needs to move this race earlier into the schedule or move up the start time by an hour to make sure it doesn’t flirt with the lack of light again.
Lost in the late race drama was the fact that two other drivers nearly got into a crash-fest midway through the race. It appeared that David Gilliland turned Danica Patrick into the wall. Patrick, as expected, wasn’t too happy about that and understandably so. But here’s the problem: she needs to take Kenseth’s class on “How To Wreck An Enemy 101.” After being spun, Patrick did wait for Gilliland to come around during the yellow-flag laps and then tried to let her car back into Gilliland, only to miss. Patrick’s got to learn if you want to retaliate, you’ve got to do it right.
Parked In the Pits (Cold)
You have to wonder what Brad Keselowski was thinking when he was running near the front, along with Kenseth, behind Logano, when he turned up into Kenseth a second time in a lap to cause a wreck that also took out Kurt Busch, who gets the innocent bystander award here. Keselowski is in the Chase and had the all-important bottom lane and in hitting Kenseth a second time, also took himself out. A real head-scratcher there. If Keselowski was not in the Chase and trying to run a little interference for Logano, then, OK, like it not, at least it’s understandable. But why would a Chase driver running in the top five turn up into a non-Chase driver? Kenseth hinted pretty heavily the incident played a role in his late-race wreck with Logano, too.
In the post-race commentary, Kyle Petty pretty much challenged NASCAR to hand out a pretty severe penalty for Kenseth’s actions. That may or may not happen. But one thing a Petty should know is that things like the Kenseth-Logano back and forth have been going on for decades in NASCAR. There’s no pitcher to throw a fastball up and in to send a little message in NASCAR. Sure, drivers do talk things out sometimes, but that’s not a cure-all either. Also, Dale Jarrett said the Kenseth-Logano accident could have caused an injury. And while that may be possible, that was highly unlikely considering the slower speeds on the short track. But one thing Jarrett said that I did agree completely with, and that is Kenseth should have just come right out and said that NASCAR wants a ‘boys to have at it” policy and he used it to the fullest extent Sunday afternoon.