Stay In, Stay Safe – The Kevin Ward Jr. Rule

kevin-ward-jr

By now you no doubt already know that there was an incident at a dirt track in up-state New York over the weekend that resulted in the death of 20 year old Kevin Ward Jr. when he was struck by a competitor’s car. That car happened to be driven by NASCAR star Tony Stewart.

Unlike seemingly every other media outlet, The Garage Blog will not be displaying the sole video of the incident out of respect to Ward’s family and good taste in general. Viewing the video does nobody any good, especially not those who know nothing about motorsports or more specifically, sprint car racing.

Likewise, I have never seen winged sprint cars race in person, nor have I driven one of the very specialized machines, so I can’t comment on things like visibility and lack of control at low speeds. Nor should you, or any of these other mainstream media talking heads.

What I will say is that the testosterone fueled displays of anger that have become common place at race tracks across the planet have gotten out of hand and have to stop.

There was a time when oval track racers with a beef would beat the tar out of each other in the paddock, pit lane or even the winner’s circle, after a race. At some point that was outlawed and driver’s began showing their displeasure trackside, as the driver they were angry with passed by under yellow. Usually the display includes a shaken fist, a flipped bird or even a thrown helmet. Childish behaviour at best, tragic at worst as we have learned this weekend.

In road racing, it is a very common rule that the driver of a car which is stopped on track must remain in their car, with safety equipment intact, until given the all clear to exit the car by safety workers. The exception to this is when the car is on fire. The reasons for this are many, not the least of which is that inside the car is the safest place for a driver to be while the track is still hot. From an attitudinal standpoint, the combination of rage, adrenaline and possibly even disorientation following a crash is not a good one when it comes to walking around a live track.

Tragedy in motorsport often leads to innovation and the creation of new rules designed to protect those involved in the sport. To that end, musician and oval track racer Derick Hamrick has started a petition to vote for the creation of The Kevin Ward Jr. Rule, with the tagline Stay In, Stay Safe which puts a name to what the road racing crowd has done for years.

I think it is a great idea. If you agree, please click on the link below and sign the petition.

Stay In, Stay Safe – The Kevin Ward Jr. Rule Petition

Tony Stewart two hand’s Delana Harvick

Ok, so the video below has absolutely nothing to do with racing. I just think it’s pretty funny, because it is something I would do. Of course I probably wouldn’t do it in front of a TV camera, but you get the idea.

Not only does Smoke take hold of Kevin Harvick’s Wife’s butt, he gives both cheeks a good squeeze!
[Read more...]

NASCAR – Busch Finds The Front in Loudon – Stewart Haas Are Counting on Success

Kyle Busch edged Kasey Kahne and teammate Denny Hamlin for the Pole by a mere .003 and .004 of a second.

Kyle Busch came out of the hauler as the fastest car on the track, and he backed it up by taking the pole for today’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  After setting the pace in the first practice, Busch was the last of 44 drivers to run his qualifying lap. Edging Kasey Kahne by .003 seconds and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin by .004, Busch won the pole for today’s race with a lap at 133.417 mph. It was a lucky Friday the 13th for Busch as he was the 13th driver to set the pole time and also the last.  Just happy that he kept it off the wall, Busch had this to say about his run.

“I got in the throttle really early in [Turns] 3 and 4, trying to make speed and was able to finish it,” Busch said. “But the car slipped right at the last second when you get to that older asphalt — it seems like this tire [new from Goodyear for this race] is different from the older tire, where you lose just a pinch of grip — it slid out right to the cushion point, I guess you’d say. But, no, there’s no mark on the car, so it’s a good day.”

Hamlin thought he lost the pole coming to the green on his first qualifying lap.

“Yeah, I thought maybe I could have gotten to the green a little bit better,” Hamlin said. “You know your first lap’s going to be the money lap, so I typically run into Turn 1 — really at all race tracks — a little bit easier and try to make up the ground as I go.

“But with qualifying as tight as it is, you’ve got to maximize everything to get poles, and obviously that was the difference.”

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Stewart Haas Racing loves coming to Loudon.  Ryan Newman won this race in the spring with a 1 – 2 start and a 1 – 2 finish for Stewart Haas racing, then team owner Tony Stewart came back and won the fall race as the team continued to assert their dominance in New Hampshire. With Newman starting 6th and Stewart starting 10th the team is looking like they know which direction they need to go to make their way back to victory lane here in Loudon.

“We’re decent, I think,” said Stewart, the owner-driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet. “We were pretty good here for both races last year, so I’m pretty excited about coming back here.”

Asked why he thinks the SHR teams are so good at New Hampshire, Stewart said: “I wish I knew, but it seems like where we were last year it’s continuing on so far — even though it sounds like we’ve got a little bit of a different tire. I’m pretty happy with it. I mean the car right off the first lap felt like it had really good balance to it. We’ve just got to keep working with it and see if we can keep making it better all weekend.”

Newman said he thought he had a better idea about why he and his boss are tough to contend with at New Hampshire.

“I think our cars are good, there’s no doubt,” Newman said. “I think the Hendrick engines [are strong], and everything’s clicking. I like the track because I think you have to feel the tires and be on the edge.

“I was thinking about it last week. I think it kind of reminds us of our old IRP [Indianapolis Raceway Park] days. This kind of drives like that kind of race track where your car is on top of the race track, and you get everything that you can. There is nothing to really make it go any faster. It’s not like you’re pushing the car on the banking to make it grip better. There’s none of that really to speak of here. I think just a little bit of our past, a little bit of us as far as the way we drive race cars, is what helps us here.”

“It was awesome for us here last year,” Newman said. “It was a time when Stewart was struggling a little bit, too, so to have the one-two start and one-two finish, that was awesome. Then for him to back it up — for us to win the spring race, and him to win the fall race — it was an amazing place for us here, for Stewart-Haas, this race track here in Loudon. We’ll try to do it again. There is no reason that we can’t.”

When asked about the 6 point penalty assessed by NASCAR for the cooling hose violation, Stewart id not even seemed concerned as he weighed it against the possibilities for this weekend.

“It was a mistake on our team’s part and we deserve the penalty for it,” Stewart said. “Luckily it was in qualifying, so it wasn’t something that made us win the race. We didn’t win the race because of that. Like I said, it was just a mistake on our part and we’ve just got to make sure we don’t overlook that again.”

NASCAR – Joey Logano is the Fastest of the Record Breakers and Takes the Pole in Pocono

Joey Logano set the pace that 36 other drivers after him could not break. Setting a new record at Pocono that has stood since 2004.

36 different drivers were fast enough to break the record for the fastest qualifying lap at Pocono yesterday afternoon.  Kasey Kahne held the previous record of 172.533 mph at the track back in 2004, but when the 10th driver out smashed the record by a full 7 miles an hour everyone stood up and took note.  Joey Logano was the man who did it, and then waited as 36 more drivers went out to beat his time. Even though he had just broken the qualifying record for the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR, Joey felt as if he had left some speed out on the track when he slid it on some speedy dry through turn 1.

“The track was dirty,” Logano said. “When I went out there and got to that trouble spot, I got loose a little bit and didn’t get to the bottom as well as I wanted to. So I felt like I left a tenth and a half [of a second] or so right there, but I felt like I nailed [Turns] 2 and 3 pretty well.

“I was hoping it would be in the top five, and it ended up being good enough.

Carl Edwards will start in second on the outside of row 1

Carl Edwards will start on the outside of row one in second place.  He was asked about his feelings about the speed out there on the track.  The day had started overcast and cloudy and finished in the sunshine, and most thought that the speeds would have improved throughout the afternoon.  Edwards was at a loss for an explanation.

“I think it’s really hard to determine what makes this track faster right now,” Edwards said. “I don’t know if being a little warmer makes it faster. I thought, as we went on and that speedy-dry and the groove got cleaned off, that people would go a lot faster, so it’s a surprise to me.”

Paul Menard will be starting in the 3rd spot and the Joe Gibbs teammates of Logano round out the top 5 with Kyle Busch in 4th and Denny Hamlin in 5th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is having his best season in points in the past 10 years qualified in 8th after having the 3rd fastest car in first practice.  His speeds had fallen off in the second practice but when push came to shove he went out and left everything on the track with a speed of 177.939 MPH.

Tony Stewart sounded up beat about his chances despite a 22nd place qualifying effort.

Tony Stewart, NASCAR’s current reigning Sprint Cup Champion has had some troubles on the track after getting off to his best season start ever.  Winning 2 of the first 6 races Stewart has been inconsistent since then.  His results in practice had him sounding up beat despite his 22nd place qualifying effort.

“Yeah, not bad so far,” he said after his No. 14 Chevrolet was eighth of 44 race cars. “We didn’t do any qualifying runs [in testing Thursday], so I’m pretty happy with the way that the day started here. I think our race pace is fairly reasonable. We’re still trying to figure out things to do to keep it good for a long run. But for the most part, we’re pretty happy with it so far.”

 

NASCAR – Kahne Takes The Checkered Flag in Charlotte For His First Win in the #5

Kasey Kahne takes a celebration drink after winning the Coca~Cola 600 at Charlotte Motorspeedway

600 grueling miles in almost 90 degree heat, saving equipment until the end, making changes to keep up with the track as the sun goes down, and strategy to gain track position at just the right time. Kasey Kahne had all that working for him. Kenny Francis made all the right changes to his car and stayed ahead of the track, while Kasey took care of his car, keeping it off the wall, saving his brakes, and finding the speed he needed right at the best time to find it, in the final 25 laps.

After a rough start to the 2012 season Kahne has had a solid run for the last 6 weeks finishing top 10.  He never gave up despite the string of DNF’s early on, he kept any complaints he may have had to himself, and forged on.  The end result of that patience it seems is a win at one of NASCAR’s marquee races.

“I never doubted myself,” said Kahne.  “I was upset at some of the things that may have happened. I made a huge mistake at Phoenix and hit the wall there, but other than that, we were solid — we were fast.

“It was just a matter of getting past those [six] weeks and moving on and putting some solid races together.”

“I think the biggest thing for myself was just to figure out the cars, figure out how they drove,” Kahne said. “It’s been a little bit different for me. We’ve had speed. Even the last five, six races, we’ve been in the top 10, but not near as fast as Jimmie Johnson or a couple of those guys who have been winning races.”I just knew for myself, I needed to step up. Our team is solid. Our car is solid. Mr. Hendrick gives us everything we need to win races and run up front. [Sunday] night we were able to put it all together.”

Denny Hamlin did everything he could to chase down Kahne, even coming to within a second of him after the final restart, but Kahne could not be caught as he just kept pulling away right up to the checkered flag.

“As the track cooled off, it freed up for us — the car got better,” Hamlin said. “Ultimately, it gave us a shot to win. … The first 10 laps of the last run, we got to them [Kahne], but we wore our front tires trying to get around them.

“Everything was executed great [Sunday], the pit calls, getting on and off pit road, the pit crew themselves. We had a very, very solid day.”

Greg Biffle had been the dominant car all day, leading 204 laps, and looking like the car to beat, until Kahne got by and never looked back.

“It’s so frustrating,” Biffle said of his fourth place finish after having the event’s dominant car. “You’re driving your heart out, you’re wondering, ‘Am I doing something wrong? Come on, come on.’ You’re doing all you can do, but the car won’t do what you want it to do. You just take what it gives you, otherwise you wreck it. And I just about wrecked it a half a dozen times trying to get forward.”

Other notable finishers were Carl Edwards who charged from the back of the field towards the front gaining more than 20 positions to finish in in the top ten in 9th place.  Dale Earnhardt Jr also did well, running in the top 15 for most of the race and climbing to as high as second on a call by his Crew Chief, Steve Latarte, to stay out on 12 lap tires when the leaders came in to the pits.  The gained track position was what he needed to stay inside the top 10 to finish in 6th place.  Good enough to stay within 18 points of the points leader Greg Biffle in 4th place overall.

 

NASCAR – Jimmie Johnson Takes Home Hendrick’s 200th Win in Darlington

Jimmie Johnson took home to trophy for the Southern 500 from Darlington, and the 200th win for the Hendrick's stable.

200 wins. Now there’s a lifetime achievement to be proud of. But in typical Rick Hendrick fashion, while the mile stone is great, he is already looking towards the next one.

”That guy’s something,” Johnson said about the owner. ”He said, `We won 200. Let’s get 250.”

Jimmie Johnson could not have been more proud as he beamed his trademark smile around everywhere after the race.  Johnson presented his owner with a helmet signed by the 15 drivers who ran for Hendrick since he began his operation. ”Thanks, buddy,”  Rick Hendrick said with a smile. ”This will definitely be the centerpiece of the mancave.”

The win brings Johnson’s personal total up to 56 wins, and he is the 8th different winner out of 11 races so far this season.

Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart each did their best trying to postpone the 200th victory celebration but we’re simply unable to run down Johnson in the late stages of the race.

Tony Stewart did everything he could to postpone the 200th Hendrick win, but lost fuel pressure and held on for a 3rd place finish.

“I was trying to postpone [No. 200] for another week by trying to get to Jimmie, but I just couldn’t do it,” said Tony Stewart. “The closer I got to him, the tighter I got. That was one of the best runs we’d had, but still I wasn’t strong enough.

“He had plenty of car left. He was just riding, trying to save fuel. They won it in dominating fashion. To win a 200th race, you don’t want to back into it. They dominated and took it the way they should.”

“I think it’s phenomenal, especially with the competition over here getting tougher and tougher,” said Stewart, who lost second position to Hamlin when his car temporarily lost fuel pressure coming to the final restart. “It’s getting harder and harder to win these races.

“Especially for it to happen in the Southern 500 — it’s such a historic race. It’s a pretty cool milestone.”

When asked how he felt about bringing home a third place finish at a track where he still has yet to mark a W in the win column, Stewart said he was happy with the way things worked out for him and his #14 Office Depot team.

“You know, considering the hurdles of the day, I’m pretty happy with a third-place run,” Stewart said.

“We kind of struggled there the first half of the race,” Stewart said. “We fought loose in [Turn] 1 and 2, really tight in 3 and 4. So it’s really hard to fix the balance of the race car when it’s doing two different things on two different ends.

“Really proud of [crew chief] Steve Addington. He just kept throwing things at it to try to get a direction.”

“It’s why we won a championship last year,” he said. “We never give up.”

Johnson was a bit worried when he saw the grille of the 14 car in his rear view mirror.

“I still was really nervous with the 14 behind me,” Johnson said. “He’s been the guy week after week that can go the distance. I was trying to pace myself off of him. It worked out.”

It was fuel pressure however that, in the end, cost Stewart the position on the track and the chance to really give Jimmie a run for his money.

“We ran out of fuel coming off of [Turn] 4,” Stewart said. “It didn’t run all the way out of fuel, but it laid down enough that it didn’t run a 100 percent going down into Turn 1. Once we got into 1, we got the fuel to the pickup, and we just lost our spot doing it.”

NASCAR – Kesolowski Makes All The Right Moves to Win at Talladega

Brad Kesolowski celebrates with a burnout after getting his second win of the season in the #2 Miller Lite Dodge.

Talladega has always had the danger, the excitement, and the reputation for the “Big One” with the potential for disaster.  43 cars entered the arena ready to do battle with the high temperatures Mother Nature provided and the other gladiators vying for a win.  Everyone chose their dancing partners but for the first 3/4 of the race, chose to battle their own cars instead of those around them.  Doing their best to keep the engines cool and their equipment ready for the final push at the end of the race.  Those who tried and failed are amongst NASCAR elite.  Jimmie Johnson lost his oil pump as did Ryan Newman.  Jeff Gordon succumbed to over heating issues late in the race, only to be caught up in the first of 3 wrecks in the final stages of the race.

But in the end it was Brad Kesolowski who made a move that no one expected.  He kept his engine cool, he stayed out of the carnage, and he made it look easy pulling away from Kyle Busch, the car that was pushing him to the lead, with a move that broke the momentum of the push and allowed the lead car to win the race instead of the slingshot pass we’ve become so accustomed to.  Riding up the track to the outside of turn 3 and diving down towards the infield, Kesolowski broke the 2 car draft leaving Kyle Busch with a wall of air to slow him down, as the #2 Miller Lite Blue Deuce pulled away by what looked to be at least 3 car lengths.  With the 5 previous races having been won by the car in second position after passing the car they were pushing, everyone was expecting a different outcome, but Brad had a plan.

”I had this whole plan if I ever got in that situation where I was leading; I thought about it and thought about it, dreamed about what to do, and sure enough, going into (Turn) 3, it was just me and Kyle,” Keselowski said. ”I knew the move I wanted to pull. It worked because the guy running second should have the advantage, but I had this move all worked up in my mind.”

”That allowed me to drive untouched to the checkered flag,” Keselowski said. ”It wasn’t easy to convince myself to do that, but it was the right move.”

”Two wins, with the wild card and all, that almost makes you immune to missing the Chase,” Keselowski said. ”This team is going to be strong come Chase time. The best is yet to come.”

Kyle Busch was caught flat footed by Brad Kesolowski's finshing move at the end of the Aaron's 400 at Talladega.

The move caught Kyle Busch completely off guard, even thinking he had screwed something up himself when Brad broke loose and ran away from him.

”I must have screwed something up, because we got to Turn 3 and came unhooked,” said Busch. ”Just gave the win away over there. Not sure exactly what happened. We definitely need to go back and figure out what it was.”

“I’m not sure he did anything,” Busch said. “If he did, he’s pretty smart. But I think our stuff just came unplugged.”

”If you’re leading, being pushed, plan on finishing second. That’s all there is to it. He’s no dummy, that’s for sure,” said Busch in post race interviews.

Matt Kenseth was still trying to figure out how his car, which had been the fastest all day and had led the most laps, was unable to close at the end.  On the final restart his teammate Greg Biffle was pushing him from the line, but his car was too fast for Biffle to get up behind and push.  The gap between the 2 Fords allowed Kesolowski and Busch to fly by and race themselves to the finish.

”I think we had the winning car, really just didn’t have the winning driver,” Kenseth said. ”I looked forward for a second, when I looked back, Greg and I were separated, those guys were already outside of him. With me not paying attention, keeping us hooked up, just cost us a shot at the win, cost Greg a shot at the win.”

”I wasn’t too fast. I was just too stupid I guess at the end to keep a win.”

Matt Kenseth led the most laps for the day but was unable to capitalize at the end.

“It’s hard to whine about leading most of the day and finishing third,” Kenseth said. “It’s just disappointing on the last restart when I had control over keeping Greg with me and I did a poor job of managing that. We got separated and got beat.”

“It probably didn’t help that we had a piece of the body break off on the B-post and had the fender tracked in a little bit,” Kenseth said. “That was my fault because I ran into [Mears] with the right front. It didn’t help us, but we had a fast car.”

“It was my fault,” Kenseth said. “I needed to drag the brake more and get off the gas more to make sure he stays attached. But honestly at Daytona, we came unattached and they couldn’t get a run back on me. When we did come apart, there really was no bottom lane. He lost all his speed.”

No for all the fans who have been complaining about boring long green flag runs, Talladega had a few of those, but the excitement of the last 40 laps made all the boredom fade.  The fact that no one was injured as a quarter of the field was taken out of the race and all but 19 cars fell off the lead lap is a testament to the safety developments that NASCAR has been implementing over the past 10 years.  Cars completely torn up and drivers walk away uninjured.  It may be expensive for the owners, but the fans like to see the action, as long as no one is injured.  The “Big One” is always a game changer as no one knows when it will happen, or who it will take out.

Take Jeff Gordon for example.  He is having one of the most bizarre seasons of his career.  Having won the Pole for the race, he faded back early.  He showed signs of being able to get back to the front when he wanted to, but you can’t get to the front it you drive it into the wall.

“This is just one of the most bizarre years that this Dupont Chevrolet and Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet has ever gone through,” Gordon said. “I mean, it’s almost comical at this point.

“That was not fun. I didn’t like hitting the wall, but gosh, I thought I was clear. I was just kind of cruising by on the inside. It looked to me like somebody came down and got Martin [Truex Jr.], and that turned him into me. That’s just the way our season’s been going.”

Tony Stewart was his usual sarcastic self when talking about the wrecks in the final laps of the Aaron's 499.

In typical Tony Stewart fashion his sarcasm was in excellent form as he talked to reporters after the race.  For those of you that missed it, earlier in the week Stewart lashed out at a reporter for asking if the lack of wrecks was costing NASCAR their fan base.  After yesterdays race he had this to say.

“Sorry we couldn’t crash more cars today,” Stewart said. “We didn’t fill the quota for the day for Talladega.

“Honestly, I think if we haven’t crashed 50 percent of the field by the end of the race, we need to extend the race until we at least crash 50 percent of the cars. ‘Cause it’s not fair to these fans for them to not see any more wrecks than that. We still had over half the cars running. It shouldn’t be that way.”

“I’m upset that we didn’t crash more cars,” he said. “I feel like that’s what we’re here for. I feel bad if I don’t spend at least $150,000 in tore-up race cars going back to the shop so we definitely got to do a better job with that. …

“I had a blast. It would have been a lot more fun if I could have got caught up in one more wreck. If I could have done that, it would have been perfect.”

 

 

NASCAR – Hamlin Takes the Checkered Flag in Kansas, Leaving Martin Truex in the Wind.

Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag at Kansas on Sunday after passing Martin Truex Jr with 30 laps to go and holding him off until the checkered flag.

The #56 NAPA Auto Parts car piloted by Martin Truex looked untouchable.  For most of the day he was, leading mosre laps in one race than he has in 2 season previous in total, Martin Truex looked like he ws the one to beat, and then the sun came out.  When the sun came out it loosened up everyone in the field, but for Truex it spelled the end as Denny Hamlin’s #11 Fed EX car improved enough under the new track conditions that, with 30 laps to go, he was finally able to make the pass and hold off Martin Truex Jr. right up to the checkered flag.  Truex gave it all he had making 2 serious dive bomb attempts at retaking the lea but it simply was too little and too late to catch Hamlin before the checkered flag.

“Whether it was coincidence or not, our car definitely seemed like, [relative] to the field, was better once the sun came out,” Hamlin said. “I felt like our car lost a lot of grip when the sun came out, but I guess a lot of guys did when that happened. I felt like all day I was behind the No. 56 [Truex], and his car looked so superior to the field.”

“We just needed some kind of change — weather or adjustments or something to get where he was at — and we kind of got both of them. In overcast conditions, the cars run a little bit tighter, the grip level’s higher in the race car, and it’s more of a track-position type race. When the sun’s out, the drivers, in my opinion, are more prominent.”

“You move around, find the grip, do things in the car to make up for what you don’t have. The slicker the conditions are, the better it tends to [be] for our race team. Luckily, we had that run in sunshine.”

Martin Truex was very dissappointed with his second place finish in Kansas

For Truex the 2nd place finish was the most disheartening second place finish he has ever felt.  After being the dominant car all day long, to lose because of something as simple as sunshie really burned the leader of the MWR team.

“I guess if we can be this disappointed with second, it shows how far we’ve come as a race team,” he said.

“I felt like [Sunday] was kind of a day where I thought I was back, and felt really strong that we’d have a car that could contend for the win going into the race. And then to be able to do that all day long, it was a good feeling.”

“I know our wins are going to come. We just need to keep running like we are. It’s been a long time since I’ve won, and I know I’m capable of it, and that’s the most disappointing thing, letting one slip away [Sunday]. If I had made a mistake or we’d made a bad adjustment or something, it would probably be a little bit easier to swallow, to be honest. But to put tires on, and not touch the car, and all of a sudden the car drives worse than it has all day, it is pretty frustrating when you haven’t won in a while. But again, I’ve got a lot of confidence in this team right now. … Good things are in the future for us, and I’ve just got to keep looking at that direction.”

When asked about his moves at the end while trying to retake the leads, Truex hinted at his frustration in his desperate moves.

“Desperation,” Truex said wryly. “I was a little bit faster than Denny at the end, but he was running against the wall right where I needed to be, and I was just trying to gain a little bit of ground.

“It was desperation — last-ditch effort — just trying something. There was no chance to make it work.”

“I’m just not really sure what to think of that last set of tires,” Truex said. “The car had been really good all day, we put the last set on, and I was just wrecking loose for the first 20 laps of that last run.

“Denny was able to get by me, and once he did, the race was over. The car got better longer in the run, and I was able to get back to him, but I’d get three or four car-lengths from him and pick up the aero push …

Jimmie Johnson feels his 3rd place finish is showing that his team is ready to be back in contention.

Jimmie Johnson however feels strongly that his 3rd place finish was a show that he and his race team are back and ready to be in contention.

“This week it doesn’t register,” Johnson said. “To me, last week at Texas [and] the week before, to lead a lot of laps at Martinsville and have our cars be one, two, three and not get the victory … [Sunday], to get near the end and not close the deal does sting. We ran well but we weren’t a dominant car and kind of finished where we should have.

“[Sunday] doesn’t bother me. Sure, I’d love to [win the 200th], but the No. 56 [Truex] and the No. 11 [Hamlin] at the end had more pace than we did.”

“I commend Chad for trying something a little different, strategy-wise,” Johnson said. “If things would’ve played out different at the end, maybe we could’ve put two on while the other guys were putting four — something, just trying to give us some options.

“I don’t think it affected our finish. We got basically back to where we were [before the stop]. I think I was ahead of the No. 11 but the No. 11 was real strong that last run and went up there and got the win.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr had another strong showing with a 7th place finish, good enough to keep him in 4th in the overall points.  Steve Letarte, in an intervfiew with Claire B. Lange from Sirius / XM NASCAR radio, said it isn’t how far you are frm teh top, they’re more concerned with not falling past 11th in the standings.  64 points ahead of 11th place is the way they are thinking right now.  If they can remain as consistant as they have been so far this season, the wins will happen, as long as they don’t get ffrustrated before they get there.

Tony Stewart, the reigning 2011 champion had another off day with the #14 Mobil 1 car.  Starting back in the field in 29th he never really seemed to gain any traction in his move towards the front.  Coming on strong at the end of the race he managed to improve his position up to 13th dropping him to 8th in teh overall points.

Next week we head to Richmond for the first of 2 races there.  Richmond being a short track is usually as very aggressive race, however the feeling doesn’t really seem to be there for the first race of the season.  Drivers and crew chiefs both expect to see a lot of green flag racing in comparison to what we will see in the fall.  Only time will tell.

 

NASCAR – Martin Truex Sets The Pace in Texas for the Samsung Mobile 500

 

Martin Truex sets the pace for the 2012 Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway

For the second time in his racing career Martin Truex Jr will lead the field to the green flag at Texas Motor Speedway.  He will be watching his rear view mirror closely however, as the defending race champion Matt Kenseth will be close on his tail starting from his best start ever in Texas, second.  Truex in his No. 56 Toyota posted a lap at 190.369 mph (28.366 seconds) to edge defending race winner Matt Kenseth (190.148 mph) for the top starting spot.

Truex, who is tied for third in the Cup standings with Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart, is looking to get his first win since Dover in 2007.

“That’s our main goal. This team’s good enough. We can get to Victory Lane. We’re going to do it soon. I feel good about this team. I’m just having so much fun coming to the race track and driving these cars.”

“We’re going to make them proud here pretty quick.”

Tony Stewart will be one to watch as he tries to move forward from his 29th place starting position.

Tony Stewart, who has won four of the past six races on 1.5-mile tracks, including the past three (he’s a two-time winner at Texas, most recently this past November)  will be one to watch tonight as he makes his way forward from his 29th place starting position.  Stewart brushed the wall in practice before qualifying and opted to go with his back up car.  Suprisingly, the back up car seemed to respond to changes better than the primary car was.

With the pole secure, Truex will try to win his first race since June 2007, when he claimed his only Cup victory at Dover.

“That’s our main goal,” said Truex, who is tied for third in the Cup standings with Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and  Tony Stewart. “This team’s good enough. We can get to Victory Lane. We’re going to do it soon. I feel good about this team. I’m just having so much fun coming to the race track and driving these cars.

“We’re going to make them proud here pretty quick.”

Stewart qualified 29th in a backup car after scraping the outside wall during the second lap of Friday’s 90-minute practice session. The accident may have been a blessing in disguise for the Stewart, who found the backup No. 14 Chevrolet more responsive to adjustments than his primary car.

“I just got loose and didn’t have enough race track to get it gathered up,” Stewart said of the brush with the wall. “We haven’t got a lot of laps on this one [the backup car], but I think we feel better with this one so far.

“It’s doing everything that we were trying to get the other one to do … The top-tier teams, their backup cars are just as good as their primary cars, so definitely no concerns.”

Dale Jr feels like hs is on the cusp of returning to his winning ways.

Dale Earnhardt Jr is looking good with his refound confidence that his fans remember.  Sitting second in points over all and making it look easy, Jr says he is ready to win, and hopes it will be in Texas where he got his first ever Sprint Cup win.

“We’re getting closer. I feel like we’re getting closer,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t really know what the measuring stick is, but hopefully it’s real close. I’m ready to win. I’m ready to go to Victory Lane. I’ve been working with these guys, and they’re working so hard. They’re giving me really, really good cars. They deserve to win races. I think the team deserves it. Ready to make that happen. We’re just going to keep trying. We’re getting closer, though. That’s the bright spot.”

But don’t count out the Roushketeers either.  Matt Kenseth comes to Texas as the defending race champion, and Gerg Biffle is leading the overall points battle.  Carl Edwards sits just outside the top 10 in eleventh position, and is still chomping at the bit after losing the championship to Tony Stewart after tying in points.

The three current Roushketeers were not only among the most consistent drivers last year, they were the strongest. All three swept the top five and all of them finished the AAA Texas 500 within three spots of their spring effort. Just as important, the group carried that momentum over from previous seasons, which gives them a balance of recent momentum and career strength.

Kenseth may very well be the strongest of the three at Texas. His victory in this race last year was the second on this track during his career, but the first since 2002. He wasn’t simply logging laps in the intervening years, however; the driver of the No. 17 earned four runner-up finishes from 2006 through 2010, as well as another two third-place results. In his last 13 attempts, he has amassed nine top-fives and finished worse than 12th only once. Moreover, he’s earned these results despite a variety of circumstances that include green-white-checkered finishes, fuel mileage races and rain-delayed events.

 

 

NASCAR – Newman Snatches the Win From Gordon’s Dominance at Martinsville

Ryan Newman (seen here on the track at Las Vegas) came from a lap down to win the race in Martinsville.

326 laps lead.  Fastest car on the track all day.  Dominance on every restart.  Then came the first attempt at a Green White Checkered finish.   Jeff Gordon was sure he had it won, but on the first attempt to finish under green, both Gordon and Johnson had slow restarts allowing Clint Bowyer to get under them and make a pass attempt, which erupted into chaos as Gordon was pushed up the track into Johnson causing all 3 cars to wreck, and allowing Ryan Newman to pass in the melee along with A.J. Allmendinger and Dale Earnhardt Jr.  In what has become the typical Martinsville finish, the final pass to win the race came with under 4 laps to go.

Newman had been running inside the top 10 during the early stages of the race, but had fallen off the lead lap due to a pit road speeding penalty.  As the race worn down to the final laps however Newman earned a free pass to get back on to the lead lap.  A little bit of pit strategy and he was back in contention, running inside the top 10 again.  Then as the first GWC restart happened Newman found himself in 5th position on the grid, and as it turned out, sitting in the cat bird seat when the fireworks started.  As Bowyer slid up into Gordon, pushing Gordon into Johnson, Newman took advantage and passed them all on the bottom of the track bringing A.J. Allmendinger and Dale Jr. along with him through the mess.

“I felt like I wasn’t racing AJ on that restart — I felt like I was racing Junior behind me,” said Newman. “It was really important to me to not spin my tires and get a good start and race AJ and try to eliminate the No. 88 [Earnhardt] from the race for the win.”

Allmendinger raced Newman and Earnhardt Jr clean at the end resulting in a second place finish for the #22 Penske Dodge.

Allmendinger, Earnhardt Jr., and Newman raced each other clean to the end.

“He ran me really clean,” Allmendinger said. “He didn’t shove me up the race track like he could have. He gave me the opportunity to beat him on the outside there. We were just not turning good enough in the center [of the corners] there on the restart.

“But we had a shot at it. That’s all you can ask for.”

Allmendinger had decided to play by the unwritten racing Golden Rule…’Race teh other driver the way he is racing you’.  Running clean and racing to the finish instead of forcing the issue and driving dirty for the win.

“That’s not the way I want to win a race,” Allmendinger said.

“[Newman] did everything clean on the restart. He could have drove me off the race track, and if he would have done that then it’s kind of like, ‘OK, it’s game on.’ But he gave me all the chances that I could to go beat him.”

“We came off the white [flag] side by side and he rolled [Turns] 1 and 2 really good, and that was it,” Allmendinger said. “You race people how they race you. And if he would have just drove into the corner, [run into the] left side of me and got me out of the way, then I would have probably run into him. He didn’t do that and he didn’t deserve to get wrecked.”

“For the way we ran all weekend even if the yellow wouldn’t have come out, we would have finished eighth where we were running — I was going to be happy because we were a top 10 car all day,” Allmendinger said. “We worked our way up there and did all the right things. From 27th on, from where we started, we didn’t have any fender damage. We were clean. I was going to be happy with that. At the end, you get a little bit lucky on a restart and you have a chance.”

Dale Jr had a great car all day long, staying inside the top 10 for most of the day, ending the day with a 3rd on the track and second overall in points.

Dale Earnhardt Jr looked good throughout the race, never really falling back too far and staying in the mix for the top 10 all day long.

“Yeah I’m really happy with our finish.  We worked really hard all day, all weekend really, we worked hard to obviously get the best finish that we could.  This is our first race with AMP on the hood so I’m real proud to get a good finish for those guys.  Really, the race, the car was good on the long runs, we obviously drove up there and passed Jeff for the lead, and then at the end of the race we overcome a bad pitstop and drove back into the top three.  So the car was really good on the long run speeds, we didn’t have enough short run speed to run with a lot of people in the first 20 laps or so but after lap 45 or more the car was really great, really comfortable and would do whatever I wanted it to do.  It was a really fun racecar and this is a really fun race track, and I was enjoying how everything was playing out there, right up until the end.  We tore both sides of the car there at the end and that felt really unnecessary.”

“Now that I think about it, the leaders had old tires, more than a 100 laps on them, the guys behind them had new tires at least on one side of their cars.  Well all took of and ran into the backs of the leaders, all of us.  Clint went to the inside and that was his perogative man, he was going for the win.  I thought it was a good move, but there just wasn’t enough room for the three of them down there in the corner and all of them got together.”

“It’s disappointing for us to run as well as we did and not finish up there, I know Jeff is especially disappointed because of the way his season is going so far.  Jimmie is trying to climb back into it, and they both had winning cars all day.”

With the third place finish at Martinsville, Jr. finds himself in second in points now only 6 points out of first.  Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are tied in points for the third position which will of course be adjusted by the number of wins and last season’s points position to give us the current positioning.

Next weekend brings us to the first race break of the season for the Easter holiday festivities.  The next race on teh schedule will take us to Texas for the first Saturday Night under the lights race of the 2012 season.