Did Kurt Busch go too far?; Miracle day for Mark Martin; No teammates in Chase
Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick were at each other's doorsides once again, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson got a little snippy, Kyle Busch called Jimmie a synonym for a female dog and some other not-so-kind words, almost everybody got sideways at some point, and the only person smiling at the end of the day was winner Denny Hamlin, who dropped Jimmie's points lead down to just 6 points after coming back from a rough start.
It was a perfect combination that led to one of the more enjoyable, though often interrupted, races of the season. Short track racing is always bumper to bumper, and when you add in a close Chase it's bound to be a wreckfest. Tempers flared, and no one seemed to care if the people they were racing hard were their teammates or not.
The incident that many will say was most avoidable is the Kurt Busch dumping of Gordon, but I say that's just a consequence of Gordon making a bad decision. I heard a lot of talk from the broadcasters that "the punishment doesn't fit the crime" in instances like this, but I don't subscribe to that theory.
Jeff Gordon knew that Kurt Busch wasn't going to take it well when he got nudged out of the way. He chose to do it anyway, and you saw what happened. In the process, he greatly crippled his chance to compete for the championship.
Just like everything in life, you have to decide when to take a risk, knowing what might happen as a result of your actions. So while some are feeling sorry for Jeff Gordon, I say he made his own luck.
Martin's miracle day
If you were watching the first half of the Martinsville race, you would have thought Mark Martin was a moving target. Everywhere he went, people seemed to get into him, and eventually he spun around and had what looked like a ragdoll of a racecar.
But somehow, he came back from 2 laps down and finished 2nd, his best run of the year.
Martin said that early in the race, he didn't even think he could finish.
"Yeah, lap 30 I started overheating my brakes, started having to baby them. I thought there was no possible way we were going to run 500 laps. At lap 150, 175, I thought, Oh, my goodness, it's going to be a long, long day."
After his car was finally adjusted to the point where it ran well, he smoked his way through the field and had a car capable of winning. Martin said he enjoyed running everyone down as the race winded down.
"That last hundred laps was fun. I've had guys pass me and I wondered how in the world they did that. Now I see how. What an incredible racecar that Alan Gustafson and everyone gave me."
Martin said he's glad the team finally was able to have a good run after a tough year left them out of the Chase.
"I really want to thank my teammates and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for supporting us through a really tough summer. We've turned it around with some good runs. Hopefully we can continue to do that. "
It just goes to show that it's not about how pretty the car looks, it's about what's under the motor.
Was that Jr. leading?
Something strange happened Sunday at Martinsville. Dale Earnhardt Jr's crew made some smart decisions that got him up front and led to him leading some laps, before he eventually ended up 7th. Too bad he didn't do that all season. It doesn't really mean much now.
Still, the fans got a rise out of it, and there's some proof, however small, that he and crew chief Lance McGrew are finally connecting and capable of competing. He just needs to back it up in the final few races, and he's pretty good in restrictor plate races so next week at Talladega would be a great time to pick up a win.
Good start for Kahne
Kasey Kahne had a decent run in his first time out for the Red Bull team, finishing 14th. For a car that hasn't done much this year with a variety of drivers, that's a positive first step toward being successful next season.
Meanwhile, his former team ... the perhaps soon-to-be-extinct Richard Petty Motorsports, had a decent run most of the day from Kahne's replacement Aric Almirola, but he ended up 21st. Teammates A.J. Allmendinger and Paul Menard, managed to survive the wreckage and finish 12th and 13th, while Elliott Sadler did his usual 28th place run. He is probably just as eager to leave RPM as Kahne was, considering how badly his tenure there has gone.
After last week, everyone said it was a three-man race, and I thought that was a bit premature. After this week, it really is. Hamlin is right on Johnson's bumper in the points, and Harvick is within throwing distance, but the rest of the field needs the top 3 to wreck out at Talladega to really have a legitimate shot.
The upside for them?: It's Talladega, so that could actually happen.