Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bristol, California and Richmond put a period on race to the chase – 12 drivers in, 31 drivers out heading to New Hampshire.

Jimmie Johnson wins Phoenix, Brickyard 400, California, Richmond and maybe the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship? (Photo by John Harrelson Photography - Pool/Getty Images for NASCAR)

What an interesting last three weeks for the Cup Series drivers, teams, owners, media and fans, from the half mile bullring at Bristol to the west coast at California Speedway (yes, I know, it’s been renamed the Auto Club Speedway in California) and back to the east coast only to dodge Tropical storm Hanna at Richmond International Raceway and yet, it all ended…

Starting back at Bristol three weeks ago, what a night to watch a good race, one of the best races all season long for a number of reasons, personally I love watching races (on TV) from Bristol, Richmond, Martinsville, Phoenix and a couple others, but the best races normally come at Bristol and this one was no exception, Bristol is still Bristol, I believe the added variable banking only added to the excitement on the track once the surface aged and it did.

Sure the race was mainly dominated by Kyle Busch, but the racing behind him was good as it always has been, however never go away, exceptionally in the final 100 laps, Saturday night also marked my 29th birthday and watching that race was just the present that I wanted and you know, Carl Edwards gave me the perfect present and yet he didn’t even know. No, I’ve never meant Carl Edwards, but I am referring to the action on the track in the pass for the lead, a slight bump by Busch, and I mean slight bump, which I might add, Kyle Busch had been doing all race long, to get the lead and go on to victory.

Nice and thank for not saying your sorry, and at the same time, what a statement, but you know it wasn’t over yet, I have been waiting for a driver to get on Kyle Busch’s bad side, you know, rough him, slap him around and Carl did just that, and on the cool down lap, Kyle hit Carl twice in the door to only get Carl to spin him around, what a picture and add 10 bonus points to Carl Edwards total entering the chase. Again, good job Carl, good victory and a good race.

You know, the points chase only got tighter after Bristol, I just wish that Dale Jr. didn’t jump the start, no recovery from that. But you know, penalties are a plenty in NASCAR, and Busch and Edwards got probation for 6 races, seriously, what is NASCAR probation?

However, with every good race, comes a sleeper race, and that best describes the California Speedway race and while Dale Jr. finishing 11th, and Greg Biffle trying to make a statement of his own finishing 2nd, this race was a simple statement, JimmIe Johnson, Chad Knaus and that entire #48 are championship contenders and don’t count them out. Even more, it sad when one of the biggest stories coming out of California wasn’t that Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Jr., and Jeff Burton clinched a spot in the chase, but two cautions came out due to falling debra for a caution light and a bar from a caution light, yeah right…

The first though that went through my head was, (besides laughing, was humor), can you imagine what the conversation was in the track’s suite: “Get me the head of maintenance on the phone, yeah, you idiot, that debra was suppose to fall in the closing laps of the race so we have a green white checkers, not in the beginning, now we got nothing…NASCAR is sure to dock us one race date, because we can’t sell out anymore, at least a good race would have helped…” Like I said, humor is best thing in this case.

Heading into Richmond, oh yes, a Saturday night under the lights race that is always fun to watch, nope, Tropical Storm Hanna postponed not only the Cup Series race, but the Nationwide Series, what a double header.

Would racing even in the day time at Richmond and the added drama of the bubble drivers of Stewart, Kenseth, Gordon, Hamlin and Bowyer battling to stay in the top 12, while Regan and Kahne were just trying to make the chase, be the ticket? One thing to keep in mind, is that Kasey Kahne is the only contending Dodge for the chase, well they already pulled all financial support in the truck series, I wonder if they will pull it from the Nationwide series and Cup Series?

When it comes to racing at Richmond, It makes no difference between racing in the day time vs. the night time (night racing at Richmond is better), it’s almost always good side-by-side, bumper to bumper racing and today (Sunday) was no different…however I was surprised that we had three groves and at times, three wide racing. David Reutimann staying out and leading a lot of laps was a welcome change, I just wish that the guys in the booth didn’t praise him so much, lead, that’s it.

However, leave it to Kyle Busch to make a smoke screen after contact with Dale Jr.. I feel like I have to comment on this one, from what the camera angle was, Dale Jr. was going into turn 1 behind Busch, had his splitter up to Busch’s door and Busch I guess didn’t hear inside, inside or something, came down and got spun out by Junior, that’s it…personally, I loved it, but it’s not Junior, he’s not going to risk championship points to payback “shrub”, not when winning the championship is worth much more period.

But in the end, Tony Stewart would come up shy as Jimmie Johnson would make yet another statement with his fourth victory of the season, like I said, don’t count out Jimmie Johnson from capturing his third championship. “Jimmie Johnson wins at Richmond and Clint Bowyer makes the chase”.

When it comes to the chase for the Sprint Cup, there was no surprise last minute driver getting in, Clint Bowyer is in, David Regan, Kasey Kahne and Dodge, out of the chase. I though David Regan would make it in, but let’s see what he does in the final 10 races.

So the championship standings going into New Hampshire (not attending due to no money, not high gas prices) are: Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth, what a lineup, let’s see what happens at New Hampshire, the first chase race...enough said.

- Racedriven