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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Monkey off Jr.'s back

Don’t be surprised if you’re still hearing a chorus of screams every time you open your windows.
That’s just the echo of Jr. Nation celebrating their driver’s first win in a points race in more than two years, after a brilliant fuel management performance that literally took him to his last drop of fuel.

While many people like to discredit victories that come from fuel mileage, being able to save fuel definitely is a skill some drivers have more than others. With gas at $4 per gallon, I certainly wish I was better at doing it in my vehicle.

Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers were clearly the class of the field, with Jr. just running in the back of the top 10 most of the afternoon. But he was able to stay out, and all the stronger cars had to come in for fuel. So anyone who would give Jr. less credit because he didn’t win by virtue of passing his competitors is missing the point. If those other drivers had been able to conserve enough fuel, they’d have been in Victory Lane instead of Jr. He did the best job, so he won. Don’t blame him for the hand he was dealt.

Now that he’s got that elusive first points win at Hendrick Motorsports, you can bet Jr. will be focused on continuing the success he’s had all year, and he can do it without the endless pressure of the “When will you win again?” questions. He’s been the top performer at Hendrick all year, and this win cements that. He’s closing in on Kyle Busch’s points lead, still in third place in the standings, and should continue having solid runs leading up to the Chase.

The Earnhardt name is a double-edged sword. On the bright side, he automatically has millions of fans and is the most popular driver. On the other side, that comes with immense pressure and his late father casts an enormous shadow. No one expects him to win seven titles like his dad (that’s not realistic in today’s NASCAR). But if he doesn’t win even a single title, people will call him a failure who’s just coasting on his daddy’s name. (On a side note, I’m glad the TV guys didn’t get gimmicky and try to get an emotional answer out of Jr. by asking him what his dad would have thought about this win, it being Father’s Day and all … I have a feeling the Fox guys would have done that.)

Through the years, I think Jr. has walked that fine line very well. Even the people who hate Jr. have to admit he has extra pressure, and should give him credit when he deserves it. He deserves it today.


PIT STOPS:

Don’t be surprised if you see Brian Vickers in Victory Lane in the very near future. That Red Bull team is on fire, and it’s beginning to look like more than a flash in the pan. Vickers, Matt Kenseth and David Ragan all gained some ground Sunday in their quest to reach the top 12 and be in the Chase.

Does any driver have worse luck than Greg Biffle? He’s had more late-race mechanical breakdowns and pit road penalties than other driver I can think of, including a penalty for running over his air hose at the very end of Sunday’s race that dropped him from a strong top 10 to a 20th place finish. Eventually, he’s got to catch a few breaks.

As a side note, my prediction that all five Roush cars would be top-10 finishers almost came true. Four of them did, and Biffle would have if he hadn’t gotten his penalty on the final pit stop.

During a pit stop Sunday, Kenseth was slowed from exiting his pit stall by a NASCAR official, and was saying on the radio that he should have been given a position on the race track since it wasn’t his fault that his exit was delayed. I’m not sure what the precedent is for this scenario, but he may have a point. The officials shouldn’t play a part in determining the order the cars are running.

1 Comments:

Blogger BAMA23SMOKE20 said...

First, let me start by saying I am a "true" NASCAR fanatic, and have been for years (back to when Cale was driving).
I have always said, in my opion, NASCAR was a "true" athletic sport and drivers were "true" athletes, try having the "average-Joe" do what these death-defying drivers do, not just for one race, but an entire season. However, my opinion was been greatly altered as of yesterdays Michigan "Life-Lock" 400, not my opinion on the latter point, but on the first opinion....THE SPORT.
A sporting outcome is determined on the field, on the court, on the diamond, on the rink, maybe even by the officials, but NEVER, let me repeat myself in case you missed that last line....NEVER by management or ownership, that would be titled by another name....... maybe....... COLLUSION!!!
Maybe the U.S. Senate should leave Bob Kraft and the Pariots alone and start talking to the France Family.
NASCAR accomplised what it, not only wanted to do, but, what it NEEDED..... divert the attention of media and fans from the "black-eye" (pardon the pun) of the surprise anouncement of the upcoming racial and sexual harrasment lawsuit, to the "faux-win", no matter how fixed it was, of the NASCAR "golden-child.
Can someone please explain to me how a driver with so little to claim as accomplishments can garner so much attention by fans and media.... that however is enough for a whole series of article in itself?!?!?!
Way to go NASCAR...... "WAG THE DOG"..... noone does it better than you!!!!!

June 16, 2008 at 6:36 PM 

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