2 – number of times winner Jimmie Johnson led the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 Sunday.
Alright, so that was a bit more like it. The Martinsville weekend provided entertainment on all levels. There were neon pink hot dogs, a bit of impatience in practice, a grandfather clock to be won, a late-race bump-n-run and even a moment of history. History – usually the kind that fills the books at school …
Nobody can accuse Jimmie Johnson of being too boring or too perfect anymore. The man dubbed “Mr. Martinsville” by teammate Jeff Gordon drove deep into turn 1 with 16 laps to go and body-slammed Denny Hamlin for the lead and eventual win Sunday. The pass was not perfect, a little daring, and showed a side we haven’t seen much of from the three-time defending champion – hunger.
The last remnants of the 2008 season have finally been cast by the wayside, as NASCAR now uses this year’s owner points in determining who has a guaranteed starting spot and who has to qualify on time. But as the drivers now outside of the Top 35 readied themselves to give it all they had at Martinsville in order to qualify for the race on Friday – it rained. So, the field was set according to the owner standings, sending the last four cars back to their shops while the top 43 lined up Sunday afternoon. Of the ones that remained, which drivers were able to race their way up into the Top 35 for the first time under the 2009 points standings? Read on in this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown to see who moved up and who dropped out.
We can talk about how Travis Kvapil’s situation reflects an ongoing problem NASCAR has – the difficulty of teams finding sponsorship in tough economic times. There is certainly truth to that. Drivers less worthy than Kvapil are on the track in Sprint Cup races every week, because they’re more marketable, better looking, or have an easier name to spell, and so sponsors gravitate to them. Yes, that’s troubling, but as long as companies fund racecars, you’re going to have this.
One of the oldest friends I have in racing is Bill Kimmel of Clarksville, Ind., and I’m proud to be friends with the rest of the Kimmels as well. Bill is the patriarch of a very proud racing family, and is of course the father of Frank Kimmel, the eight-time ARCA champion, and Bill Jr., the crew chief on that operation. I first came in contact with Bill Kimmel when I was selling National Speed Sport News as a kid of not quite 11 years of age. He was racing what we called “hardtops” at the Jeffersonville (Ind.) Sportsdrome in 1949. Those were mostly 1939-41 Ford coupes and sedans, with a Hudson or two from the same time period thrown in. We had a real interesting introduction.
Clint Bowyer, the pride of Emporia, Kans., was on virtually nobody’s preseason list of “drivers most likely to win the 2009 Sprint Cup championship.” But five weeks into the season, the top-performing driver with RCR – on its newest team, no less – finds himself as one of the top contenders in this year’s points Chase. And why wouldn’t he be? After all, Bowyer has finished in the top five in points each of the previous two years on the circuit.
Last week I reported, in part, about the press conference held at Lowe’s Motor Speedway that announced another press conference would be forthcoming in a couple of weeks. Oh, that’s right! They also named Ric Flair as the Honorary All-Star Race Director for 2009… but that was just a sideshow. Instead, at the time LMS officials dangled “the carrot of All-Star Race change” in front of a vegetable crazed-media but declined to comment further, presumably to let them stew a bit. After all, no good stew is worth anything if there ain’t a carrot or two involved! Well folks, it hasn’t quite been a couple of weeks, but the carrot has been lowered for the media to chew on, as the All-Star format changes were revealed yesterday.
Q: How about that! NASCAR or Lowe’s or Sprint or somebody finally got one right! A 10-lap shootout to end the All-Star Race is what we have needed. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to go away from that in the first place, but I am glad someone showed some smarts and brought it back. Finally, a great decision is made!
Martinsville Speedway is still a flat-banked, claustrophobic paperclip that provides the most old-school racing still seen today in big-time stock car competition. And with the help of Frontstretch’s Fantasy Insiders, there will be no need for fantasy racers to make use of the ample free samples of Goody’s that will be circling the track this weekend. We’ll leave those to the drivers knocked out in all those crashes, leaving your fantasy team to dominate on the .526-mile oval with the right drivers capable of making it through.