Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway teaches NASCAR media not to write it before it happens.

8 down, 2 to go, what should we be watching in Phoenix and Homestead for the Chase for the Sprint Cup?

First, coming into Texas, the big story wasn’t Jamie McMurray winning a wild Amp Energy 500 at Talladega nor would he get a ride because of the victory but rather it was an ESPN report on during the week that said that JR Motorsports will sign Danica Patrick to a three deal to run somewhere around 13 races in the Nationwide Series, however the way I look at it here is, one, I will believe it when I see it. Two, we all know that the brand Danica Patrick will be big, but how will the on-track performance be. I’m not going to make any predictions on this one and it’s just a wait and see.

The main story before the start of the race was Jimmie Johnson’s 184 point lead over second Mark Martin and 192 over Jeff Gordon with just 3 races to go. Some of the media had already written the chase for the Sprint Cup over, where calling for fixes, engraved Jimmie Johnson’s name on the trophy and looking to 2010. I can tell you from experience (17 years of being a NASCAR fan) that nothing is every over in NASCAR until the checkered flag waves in the season finale and in this case it would in Homestead. Every race is wild card race including Texas, Phoenix and Homestead.

Well Texas would end up teaching the NASCAR media not to write it before it happens as on lap 3 the point’s leader Jimmie Johnson would Johnson got took out by Sam Hornish Jr. that did get a tap from David Reutimann.

I would imagine that once news spread throughout the field, especially the chase drivers that there focus suddenly would turn to making the best of the points leaders troubles. I have to say that even I was wondering just who would capitalize on this misfortune. But I had to laugh when after the green flag came back out at the conversation that Carl Edwards and his crew chief was having over the radio.

The crew chief was telling him (Carl Edwards) that Jimmie Johnson is in the garage and that car was badly wrecked. Carl Edward’s response caught my attention and inspired the title of the piece, he said “Maybe that will teach all those media a little lesson they are going to have to rewrite their articles from this morning”.

The Texas race actually taught me two things, first that crew chief Chad Knaus and the entire #48 team is a championship caliber team that will do what it takes to get the job done and in this case they took a wrecked race car, rebuilt it and got it to run at the minimum speed to gain a few spots, and finish the race. That shows a lot of talent out of that group and if they don’t win the championship for any reason, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

I have to say that the Dickies 500 was all about fuel economy, at least it was in the end. If you know that you’re going to be short on fuel right after you make the final pit stop, then the crew chief has two chooses, one tell your driver that you are too many laps from making it and to stand on it and get what you can get. Or tell the driver we are a few laps from making it, start saving fuel, but you don’t do it with less than 30 laps to go.

I couldn’t believe that this race would come down to the Busch Brothers, Kyle out front and Kurt Busch already saving fuel in second or third. It really didn’t surprise me that Kyle Busch ran out of fuel with a few laps to go and more so that Kurt Busch won the Dickies 500. If the fact that Kurt Busch winning the race bothers you, consider this, with this victory the 2009 Dickies American Worker of the Year, a Teacher and horse trainer Michael McGee becomes millionaire thanks to Kurt Busch winning the race. One Million dollars, after taxes, what is he going to do with the money?

And second, I was surprised that really only Kurt Busch and maybe Mark Martin and Tony Stewart would be the only drivers to capitalize on Jimmie Johnson’s misfortune and not by much neither.

At the end of the day, Jimmie Johnson’s lead 73 points over second place Mark Martin and 112 points over Jeff Gordon. I really don’t see Kurt Busch who is 171 points back winning the championship, but dispite what the stats or history says, this championship isn’t over yet and Mark Martin still has a chance, but he needs to finish in from of Johnson, lead the most laps and finish in the top 2 at both Phoenix and Homestead.

Following the Texas race, the #1 Martin Truex Jr. failed post race inspection, the car was too low, on Tuesday, NASCAR handed down the penalty, crew chief Kevin Manion was fined $50,000 and remains on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. Car owner Teresa Earnhardt and driver Martin Truex Jr. were penalized with the loss of 50 owner and 50 driver points. The penalty is right in line with NASCAR has handed down in the past.

As I look ahead to Phoenix, it’s going to be a good old fashion short-track style race in the desert, this is exactly what fans need right now especially after the weak Talladega race a week ago. As for predictions, I look for Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, to all be threads to win the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil. Two dark horses would be Kevin Harvick who runs good at this race track and Dale Earnhardt Jr. who has been running better in reason weeks, but has had no luck in finishes.

Beshore to check out my new blog, ThinkingBrian.com where I am thinking out loud on life on just about any topic including NASCAR, Automobiles, Entertainment and Beyond.

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)