First and foremost, I would like to extend my condolences to the entire Poole family. I never had the opportunity to get to know David, but I am very familiar with his work and he was one of the best writers out there. The NASCAR community has lost a friend and he will truly be …
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR and all of 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 car owners themselves. This week, here’s a special Nationwide Series peek at what the drivers were thinking following the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Brad Keselowski raced the Aaron’s 499 in the same manner as one would want to play a game of poker. After starting in the top 10, Keselowski spent much of the afternoon darting to the front of the pack, only to fall off the pace soon thereafter – leaving his competitors scratching their heads as to exactly what was under the hood of his Miccosukee Chevy. In fact, the Michigan native almost unknowingly twice caused an accident – once on lap 82 when the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. quickly came up on the back of the No. 09, forcing Keselowski below the yellow line; and then again with 55 circuits remaining, when he pushed Elliott Sadler to the front, only to lose momentum and create a logjam behind him.
With both restrictor-plate wrecks and engines evening the playing field, six cars outside the top 30 in the owner standings wound up in the top 15 at the finish. Were Sam Hornish Jr. and Robby Gordon among the lucky group that broke through? You’ll just have to read on to find out in this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown.
Another one bit the dust in the sands out west at Phoenix Saturday night. But as the smoke cleared from the Cup Series’ eighth race of the season, we’re left with plenty of storylines from a weekend’s worth of action at PIR. Mark Martin became one of the oldest drivers ever to win a NASCAR race, scoring his first victory in nearly four years, while points leader Jeff Gordon surrendered nearly half his lead because of a late-race pit-road miscue – garnering him his first finish outside the top 15 all year. Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart’s solid finishes will keep Gordon honest atop the standings heading into this weekend’s restrictor-plate showdown at Talladega.
While youth has been the preference of many NASCAR owners over the last decade, it appears as though the trend may be reversed for the moment. On a night where the ageless wonder, Mark Martin, drove to victory lane at the age of 50 years young, the newbies of the sport continued to struggle with the handling of these Sprint Cup cars. While Joey Logano started his Nationwide Series career with a bang and Speed decimated the ARCA field last season, both appear to be having a difficult time adjusting to new cars raced at the sport’s top level.
Jeff Gordon’s large winless streak came to an end Sunday in Texas – where everything is big. But while Gordon had a giant weight lifted off his shoulders, other drivers felt huge swings in the points. Greg Biffle gained eight spots in the standings after his third-place Texas run, while Mark Martin’s sixth-place finish gained him nine positions. AJ Allmendinger’s ignition issues relegated him to a 34th-place finish and lost him five spots in the points, while Kevin Harvick and Michael Waltrip each lost four places after lousy runs. Inside the top 12, most drivers changed at least one spot, with Matt Kenseth leading the charge, climbing three spots to ninth after running fifth in Texas. Gordon also is seeing his points lead stretch, as you will find out in this week’s list of HOT, WARM and COLD drivers.
How fitting is it that Jeff Gordon’s 47-race winless streak comes to an end at a track where he’s been winless for his entire career? Gordon was strong for much of the race, but it was a combination of a good pit stop by the No. 24 bunch and yet another poor stop by the No. 99 team that led to the coveted clean air needed for Gordon to pull away for the victory. The win may have been a long time coming, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise with the way the No. 24 team has been running this season.
They say that everything is bigger in Texas; and in the case for most of the rookies and almost rookies, it was bad news that loomed large this past weekend. Brad Keselowski offered the lone bright spot as he once again shined in his Hendrick ride, finishing in the top 25 for the second consecutive race at the track. Marcos Ambrose may have also offered some good news if it weren’t for a faulty engine. I mentioned earlier this season that the No. 47 team may have an outside shot at the Chase, but they are quickly seeing those chances disappear as their engine department has not been able to keep pace with the rest of the team.
The 2009 Sprint Cup season rolls into April, and while nothing is carved in the sand, let alone stone, things are starting to become a little clearer for several teams. While some are living up to preseason expectations, others are struggling to live up to them. I’m going to take a closer look at the seasons of five of our preseason favorites – and see where they shake down six races into the year.
Well, it certainly was a disappointing weekend at Martinsville last Sunday. I thought we had our best chance so far to turn this season around when we were riding in the top 10. It just seems like Kyle Busch has it out for me this year, between the Las Vegas Nationwide race and now last week! I’m kidding actually, in reality we’re buddies. I don’t know what exactly happened, but honestly I think it was one of those deals where I think he was trying to be even too careful around me because we’re friends. In any case, he feels bad and I’m not worried about it. At the end of the day, I root for Kyle more than anyone and I’m sure he feels the same way about me.
Luckily, Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 went off without a hitch on the weather front, and there were some interesting tidbits that I took from the broadcast. First of all, I mentioned last week that I thought I had missed something, since I didn’t remember seeing or hearing a Digger cartoon during the pre-race show. Well, it wasn’t just me not paying attention. It appears that FOX has nixed the pre-race cartoon. Yes, some people might be a little bit disappointed to hear this… but it’s for the best. Race fans deserve a professional broadcast, and CGI gophers talking about random stuff that isn’t exactly related to anything going on in the series is not really professional. Earlier this season, I said that I believed that the gopher and the accompanying cartoons were hurting FOX’s, and, by extension, NASCAR’s credibility. As much as I’d like to claim at least partial credit for this action by FOX, I know that I’m not responsible. If I were alone in my outright criticism of FOX’s actions with Digger, then I might be willing to take more credit. As it stands, there was substantial public outcry online against FOX’s cartoons, and I’m not the only person that has written about Digger this season.