The Hendrick stronghold on the Chase for the Championship tightened Sunday at Martinsville, as Jimmie Johnson scored his series-high seventh win of the season. Not to be totally outdone, teammate Jeff Gordon finished third, maintaining a 53-point lead over Johnson in what has quickly become a two-man race for the championship. As things stand right now, it’s the Gordon/Johnson show down the stretch, with Clint Bowyer barely holding on in a possible spoiler role for yet another week.
1. Safety, Schmafety – The next time anyone from NASCAR tries to say that safety is their first priority, I want to have a tape of today’s finish on hand, showing David Ragan’s car sitting sideways in the middle of the track coming off turn 1 and the leaders heading towards him full steam ahead. Rusty Wallace, a seven-time winner here who was calling the race, was incredulous: “The [No.] 6 car is sitting sideways in the middle of the track! They’re wide open!” he yelled before the caution came out. What’s worse was the No. 6 car was stopped perpendicular to the wall, with the driver’s side door in the direct path of oncoming traffic.
October has not been a good month for the Wood Brothers team. It all started back in Talladega, when Ken Schrader tagged the wall following a cut tire; it was a tragic set of circumstances that resulted in the No. 21 car falling out of the Top 35 in owner points. Sadly, that was only the beginning.
Sorry for keeping you all waiting on this edition of my diary. Sometimes our schedules just get crazy! Our last race at Talladega was definitely a good one. That was a very important one for me since Talladega is my home track. I’m from L.A. That stands for Lower Alabama, which is where my hometown of Mobile is.
Count me as being of the opinion that Tony Stewart’s Chase hopes are officially dashed. Yes, I know Stewart is arguably the most talented driver on tour (case in point: wheeling that aero-deficient car with Band Aids on the nose to a seventh at LMS) and that Jimmie Johnson overcame a 146-point deficit after Charlotte last season to win it all. However, I just don’t see it being in the cards for Smoke this year.
First up in the final five-race dogfight to the finish is actually the most challenging circuit remaining. This week, the series visits Martinsville, Va., both the oldest and shortest track on the schedule. The paper-clip oval looks tame, but don’t be fooled by the slower speeds; this race poses just as many pitfalls as Talladega when it comes to a driver being caught up in someone else’s mess. As a result, expect to see some bumping and banging that can ultimately cost a driver his shot at victory – and perhaps your fantasy title dreams – come Sunday.
Whenever I am feeling down and I’m sure that my world is going straight to heck in a hand basket, I can always count on a bit of NASCAR PR to brighten my day and reassure me that the world is, in fact, a good and happy place. This week was no exception. The press release that once again allowed me to sleep peacefully wasn’t actually from NASCAR itself, but rather, Michigan International Speedway. However, since MIS is owned and operated by International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and ISC is essentially the conjoined twin of NASCAR, I consider it all from the same source.
Be assured that I have a ton of respect for the history of NASCAR and am fully aware that Martinsville has hosted NASCAR races since almost the sanctioning body’s beginning. And understand, I am not suggesting that the owners, International Speedway Corporation (Okay, the France family) convert the place into a 1.5-mile cookie-cutter of a track. I only want to see them attempt to put a hint of a second racing groove into the venerable old bastion of stock car racing. Just enough so that drivers might be encouraged to attempt to engage in some side-by-side competition, complete with skilled passing.
10. “Dude, I can’t hear a word you say… are you sure you have the radio on?”
All weekend long at Lowe’s, both complaints and concern centered around the tire Goodyear brought to the event. After seeing the race unfold, is the tire still too hard for this surface – or are drivers getting to the point of whining about something a little too much?