No matter what you think of the ending, once the smoke cleared there was certainly no surprise up front; the Gordon/Johnson juggernaut had tightened its grip on the competition. It was Johnson who fared the better of the two, scoring his series-leading eighth win of the year to narrow the deficit to just nine points behind Jeff Gordon as the series heads to Texas. But could that monopoly on Victory Lane end this weekend, as the Nextel Cup boys head to a track where neither Jimmie Johnson or Gordon have won? Cinderella Clint Bowyer is hoping for just that, perhaps the only other driver within striking distance as the championship prepares to enter its final set of turns.
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost a left rear wheel off the No. 8 car moments after a green-white-checkered restart, sealing the win for race leader Jimmie Johnson. Honestly, he did – Johnson had gotten such a good jump that it was doubtful Carl Edwards would have caught him.
The Busch Series race at Memphis was more like a Friday night Demolition Derby than an event that originated from the number two stock car series in America. On a day when almost half of the race was run under the yellow flag, a total of 25 caution flags for 117 laps dominated the headlines, coming up one short of the all-time record for the series. The longest green-flag run of the entire race was 20 laps, from lap 20 through lap 40; the wreckfest made the race horrific to watch and caused several teams to use pit strategy to get to the front, as several teams found their fuel windows extended due to the slower average speed. In fact, all of the fits and starts allowed teams to run over half of the race on their final pit stops.
More than likely, Carl Edwards will clinch his first-ever Busch Series championship this Saturday at Memphis. An eighth-place finish is all that’s needed to secure the trophy with three races left, no matter what second-place point man David Reutimann does on the racetrack. It’s a significant achievement for a man who’s never won a title in any of the top three series, validation of a sparkling season in which the No. 60 has won four times, collected 19 top-10 finishes, and leads his closest pursuer by 638 points. Yet even with all those scintillating stats, there appears to be a slight tinge of wonder, a feeling that even things could have gone so much better.
A couple of weeks ago, after my personal favorite Dale Jarrett announced he would be retiring from Cup competition following the spring Bristol race in 2008, I transitioned into fan mode and penned a column explaining just why DJ was my favorite all these years – thanking him for being an all-around classy guy. Also in that column, I mentioned that a few years ago I had selected another driver to step up as a new favorite when DJ hung up his racing helmet. That man is Carl Edwards.
Racing On Heels: What will the well-dressed fashion maven be wearing at the track this year? A pair of NASCAR ladies’ pumps, of course! As described at the NASCAR.com Superstore, “The black and white checkered pony hair pumps are made of imported Italian metallic patent leather, and feature signature tire tread flexible molded soles with the 4-color NASCAR logo. The pumps have a 3″ heel with racing flags and soft padding for long-lasting comfort.” Price? Just $99.99 a pair plus shipping.
Jeff Gordon – In 30 Cup starts at Atlanta, the points leader has posted four victories and 18 top-10 finishes. However, he finished 12th in the race this spring.
Statistically, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have combined to win 41 races over the last four seasons – making them the two best drivers on the circuit in that category. Just 53 points separate them with four races left, setting up what should be a dramatic finish to the title – but fan reaction has ranged from plain disinterest to downright detesting this battle. Why?
Did You Notice? That even with all the driver changes in motion for next year, there has been just one primary sponsor announced for 2008 that’s new to the sport? Sure, a few old faithfuls are moving on up from the Busch Series; 3M is increasing its involvement to sponsor the No. 16 Cup car next year, for example. But most of the sponsorship movement has been in the form of recycled material.