This week’s race was a crucial one for a number of teams who ran into problems last week at Talladega. One of those contenders – the No. 99 of Carl Edwards – saw similar luck this weekend, when electrical issues forced him to lose a number of laps en route to a 33rd-place finish. But Edwards was not the only Chaser to follow up a bad day at Talladega with a poor finish at Lowe’s. To see who else needs a good run this weekend at Martinsville and who is ready to battle Jimmie Johnson for the title, check out this week’s summary of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not, Chase Edition.
The Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte did not produce many exciting storylines besides the weekly plight of the Chasers. ESPN reported on the state of these drivers well, however, and also made a move in the race’s first half that went above and beyond that coverage. As stated many times in this column and others like it, ESPN, TNT and FOX each have struggled to cover both the racing action and those that exist outside the top 10 in the running order – unless the driver is one of NASCAR’s biggest stars. Well, ESPN finally responded to those numerous complaints with a segment that addresses the problem.
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint 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 Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
10. Under The Radar – Running amongst the leaders from the drop of the green, Jeff Burton, the veteran Richard Childress Racing racer, won the Bank of America 500 to score his second win of the season. A “splash-and-go” pit stop put Burton in the lead that he never relinquished, even after a dicey battle with points leader Jimmie Johnson. Burton has now moved into second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings and only 69 points out of first with five races remaining. Could it be that after all the hoopla, the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion might be a guy that virtually no one bet on, has not had a physical altercation with anyone this year, is universally respected by fans and peers, rarely criticizes other drivers…and is never jeered by race fans?
One driver in particular made it through the carnage unscathed; and despite running like he was towing an anchor at the finish, Jimmie Johnson did what he had to do to put a third title firmly within his grasp. It also increased his lead in the Frontstretch Top 15, making him a clear favorite to end the year on top. Behind him, the shuffling was as fast and furious as the Talladega draft — and two drivers got left behind. Read on to see if your driver made the slingshot move towards the front of our list, or if his fortunes were swept up by disaster in this week’s Power Rankings.
In the end, after a number of Chasers raced conservatively for three quarters of the Talladega race in anticipation of the big wreck, it was ironically one Chaser tangling with another that triggered a multi-car pileup that included several of those in the top 12. No. 2 in points Carl Edwards ran over teammate and No. 3 man Greg Biffle to start a chain reaction that claimed 11 cars. One of the few Chasers surviving the race was points leader Jimmie Johnson, who opened up a sizable 72-point lead in the standings as a result. Johnson remains on the HOT list this week, but a surprising driver joins him, becoming a surprise player in this year’s championship battle. To see who it is, and whose Chase hopes went up in smoke, check out this week’s edition of Who’s Hot/Who’s Not in Sprint Cup, Chase Edition.
This past weekend’s on-track action at Talladega Superspeedway will be remembered for three notable things: One is the shear number of lead changes (64, the most since the Talladega 500 in July, 1984). Another is the now infamous judgment call that gave Tony Stewart the victory and dropkicked Regan Smith back to 18th. However, the one factor that was prevalent all weekend were the tires and their propensity to fail, once again.
The race was decided in NASCAR’s control room almost a minute after the event itself ended. Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over until it’s over.” Apparently sometimes it’s not over even when it is over.
1. Change In Direction – Joey Logano, heir to the No. 20 Toyota presently driven by Sunday’s race winner Tony Stewart, will not compete in any further races this season in the No. 96 Hall of Fame Toyota. The 18-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing phenom had been scheduled to fill the driver’s seat in the HoF ride for three of the final six races of the Sprint Cup Season. “We talked to Gibbs and both decided that, for [Logano’s] development and for our team, this the best thing for all of us. The best thing for all of us is for them to focus on Joey’s development, and for us to focus on our team,” said the co-owner of HoF, Tom Garfinkel. Is that kind of like being fired?
The furor over the dominance of multi-car teams reached its peak in 2005, when half of the Chase field consisted of Jack Roush’s machines. Especially in a season where the immensely popular Dale Earnhardt Jr., driving for a much smaller operation, failed to make the Chase, it seemed unfair to many fans that two powerhouses with twice the ability to practice, test, and learn seemed to dominate the circuit. And so, responding to these complaints, NASCAR announced they would be knocking down the multi-car operations, starting with Jack Roush.