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.
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?
Pole positions at the July event at Daytona as well as Talladega in the fall were the highest statistical marks for Mark Martin and the No. 5 team this season.
After the chaos that is Talladega, a pair of shoutouts go out this week. One goes to Dave Blaney, who worked all day with Brad Keselowski, hanging back for much of the race only to close at the end and finish third. The finish was a career best for Blaney, who runs for a small-time team in Tommy Baldwin Racing. Speaking of the smaller teams, two others made some real noise at Talladega as Casey Mears and Landon Cassill raced at the front of the field all day until the late-race mess destroyed their hope for a great finish. These are three drivers fighting for the sponsorship just to race, and they showed this weekend that they can get it done when the playing field is truly level.