Friday, May 8, 2009

What was the biggest story of the Crown Royal presents The Russ Friedman 400 at Richmond?

Runner-up Tony Stewart and third-place finisher Jeff Burton race for position in the closing laps of the CROWN ROYAL presents The Russ Friedman 400 at Richmond International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

As I sit here watching the NASCAR Nationwide Series racing on a green racetrack at Darlington, I want to put a cap on last Saturday Night’s Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway. After every race, I like to ask myself a question, what made the race exciting and more so, what was the biggest story of race?

Some NASCAR fans would say the biggest story of race had to be the pit strategy by the #18 team that not only got Kyle Busch out front during the race, but once out front, couldn’t by catch, and won the race, or the fact that his teammate Denny Hamlin after leading the most laps was once again denied victory at his home racetrack.

While those are two interesting stories to some, in my eyes, it wasn’t. The biggest story of the Crown Royal presents the Russ Friedman 400 had to be the “wrecks to riches.” What are wrecks to riches?

Wrecks to riches isn’t a television show, the term describes a driver or group of drivers that sometime during the race at one time or another wrecked, either was spun out and hit the wall or got hit by another driver and came back with a top 5, top 11 finish.

For some reason or another, several drivers fit this term perfectly, the first driver had to Jeff Burton. Burton had a busy night, of course so did just about every driver except the start and park one’s anyway. Jeff Burton got spun out and hit the turn 4 outside wall on lap 211 after contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jr. looked like he got loss on the bottom and got up into to Burton. By the end of the race, Jeff Burton was chasing down the leader Kyle Busch, but ended up battling Tony Stewart and finished in the 3rd spot.

Second had to Mark Martin, during the late stages of the race, Ryan Newman bumped Mark Martin, which sent him spinning in front of the field, Martin would get in the driver’s door by Martin Truex Jr., Fortunity, Mark Martin would rally back for a 5th place finish.

The third driver had a rough night including at one point went a lap down, but on lap 167, Jamie McMurray spin out trying to avoid another wreck and hit his teammate Edwards who just had a bad night, Jamie McMurray would come back for a 7th place finish. Mark my works, that is going to get him into the chase for the Sprint Cup in September.

Fourth was Marcos Ambrose, Ambrose slammed the outside turn 2 wall after contact with Sam Hornish Jr. who had his best cup series finish in 6th, Ambrose would finish 11th.

With the old car, most of these stories wouldn’t be so successful, however just like so many times in the past few years, this COT racecar has shown that it is pretty strong and can take a good hit and yet keep going. Of course, last year at Darlington in the Dodge Charger 500 was a classic example when Kyle Busch had to have bounced off the walls several times and yet he won the race.

The COT car also seems to have created some even better racing on some tracks, (I didn’t even think that that was possible at tracks like Phoenix, Darlington, Richmond, Martinsville, but a prime example of a better race is New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Those two races have gotten a lot better, the racing is now exciting, thank god too.) I wonder what tomorrow night’s Southern 500 with Matt Kenseth on the pole (while Scott Speed didn’t qualify and went home) is going to be like?

At Richmond, Tony Stewart showed that he and his entire Stewart-Haas Racing is inching closer and closer to not only their first cup series victory, but Tony Stewart’s first cup series victory as an owner/drivers, ironically enough, as a NASCAR fan I remember the last owner/driver to win in the cup series, do you?

The last owner/driver to win in the Cup Series was Ricky Rudd, some NASCAR fans might remember RPM (Rudd Performance Motorsports), before Ricky Rudd sold his raceteam, his last victory as an owner/driver came back in 1998 at Martinsville Speedway. I remember that victory at Martinsville, “Rudd was dealing with high air temperatures and a faulty cooling system. As a result, Rudd suffered burns and blisters over most of his body, and gave his victory lane interview lying on the ground breathing from an oxygen mask.” - Wikipedia