The latest “new” Bristol is still not the Bristol of old. But between the buzz, the wrecks and a decent crowd, the August night race resembled its former self for the first time since the pre-Chase era.
Jimmie Johnson had the dominant car once Mark Martin was speared by the pit wall opening in a scary, mid-race crash. But as J.J. was strolling to what would have been his series-leading fourth victory, a valve spring failed with less than 15 miles left to run. That handed Greg Biffle Christmas in August, gift-wrapping him a second victory after a green-white-checkered finish and a pesky push from Michigan native Brad Keselowski.
If Michigan proved anything, it was that the best car doesn’t always win. Ask Jimmie Johnson. But if you have a great car, you can sometimes still make a statement, regardless of what the results sheet says. This week, Sam Hornish Jr. did just that, though he wound up 12th when the smoke cleared. Hornish, who is contending for the Nationwide Series championship, made the decision to stay in Montreal until the conclusion of that race, forgoing all practice for the Sprint Cup race (Parker Kligerman practiced and qualified the No. 22.). Starting at the back on Sunday, Hornish made quick work of most of the field, despite his lack of practice, charging to the front and looking like his lightning-fast No. 22 would be a contender for the win.
For the first time in 2012, the man who started on the pole was able to seal the deal and take the car to victory lane. Joey Logano ended the day right where he started. His car was fast during the early going; then as pit strategy and many miles began to change things, the No. 20 faded just a bit as Dale Earnhardt Jr. dominated much of the middle of the event. But when it counted, Logano was able to stay out on a late caution while Earnhardt and others were forced to pit for fuel. Martin looked like he might have a shot, taking the lead on the final restart, but Logano, with a faster car, was able to loosen Martin up just enough to slip by and that was all she wrote as the No. 20 opened a commanding lead en route to the checkers.
A week after winning the pole in Charlotte and driving home with a top-15 finish, Aric Almirola showed once again that Richard Petty Motorsports is a team on the verge of a breakthrough year. Almirola drove the No. 43 to a sixth-place result at the Monster Mile on Sunday, while teammate Marcos Ambrose finished 10th. That made RPM the only multi-car organization to see each of their entries finish inside the top 10 at Dover; it’s also the first time the team has done it all season. Mike Ford continues to work wonders since becoming Almirola’s crew chief; they haven’t finished lower than 19th in four starts together.
Everyone knows by now that the next Sprint Cup win for Hendrick Motorsports will be the organization’s 200th, but another driver is looking for a career milestone as well. Ryan Newman’s next pole will be the 50th of his career. Pole number 50 will move Newman, a driver known throughout his career for his qualifying ability, into sole possession of ninth place on the all-time pole winners’ list. Newman currently ranks third among active Sprint Cup drivers for pole positions, behind Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin.
There’s a reason why the biggest story the last few weeks was the return to NASCAR racing at Rockingham – and that was just the Truck Series.
Did anyone else feel they had tripped into some sort of Doc Brown-engineered bunny hole the last two weeks in the desert? I guess the heat and blazing sunlight can wreck havoc with a man’s faculties – and I’m not referring to an unseasonably warm 81-degree day here in the murder mitten known as Michigan. …
Chalk one up for the crazy old man. Not only did Mark Martin take the pole for Sunday’s race, he backed it up with a very competitive ninth-place finish, and Michael Waltrip Racing had two of its three cars in the top 10 at the end of the day, with Martin’s teammate, Martin Truex Jr. finishing seventh. Despite Clint Bowyer’s mechanical woes, it was a strong showing for Martin and MWR. Could this be the promise of better days ahead for the team?