Tuesday, April 5, 2011

NASCAR: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Johnny Sauter where the feel good stories of the spring Martinsville races

This past weekend at Martinsville Speedway where both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced. In each the race, I always seem to find the feel good story of the race. A feel good story is exactly what it sounds like, its a driver, team, an owner, a particular moment in the race that for one reason or another that makes you feel good and it doesn’t have to be the winner of race, but maybe a underdog or low-budget teams making a statement.

In any case, this past weekends racing at Martinsville, while tires were once again an issue and (they) should have simply brought last years tire, the racing was exactly what you would want on a short track, fast, furious, bumper to bumper, side-by-side, beating and banging racing and it was a classic series of Martinsville racing from back in the day. The feel good stories, that easy, Johnny Sauter and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

1. Johnny Sauter races hard to win Truck race: On Saturday at the half-mile, paper-clip, the Truck Series was in action. Johnny Sauter lead the most laps, but feel back due to a pit stop and had to make his way back up to the lead. By the end of the 250 lap race, Sauter found himself racing one of the Truck Series “Truckwackers” if you will, namely a Cup Series regular driving in the Truck Series, Kyle Busch.

Racing Kyle Busch in any series, let along his favorite series’ the Truck Series and Nationwide Series is no easy task. But in the last stages of this race, Johnny Sauter went into turn 1 with a few laps to go and just had the better Truck, gave Kyle Busch a classic Martinsville move, a nice hit to the back bumper, getting Busch loose and Sauter just drove on by to pick up his first win of 2011.

The move was nothing new, it was a classic short track move and something that Kyle Busch had been doing all day, so what goes around, come around sort of speak, but in this case, it was as clean as you were getting in the closing laps of a short track race.

Johnny Sauter, leading a lot of laps, making a classic move on Kyle Busch to make the pass for the lead and winning the race makes Johnny Sauter the feel good story of the Truck Series race. Sauter now finds himself leading the Truck points by –5 over Matt Crafton, 4 races into the season.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues comeback and finishes 2nd: If you’re a member of JR Nation like I am, the first five races of the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series have been entertaining to say the least especially seeing Dale Jr. climbing the latter in the points as a result of 4 top 12 finishes in the five races. But in Martinsville, JR Nation came to their feet to cheer on their driver. By the end of the Goody’s Fast Relief 500, Dale Jr. had worked his way into second and with 20 laps to go, made his move for the lead on none other than Kyle Busch.

Dale Jr. had the better car coming up off the corner and heading down into turn 3, Dale Jr. had position, but Kyle Busch came down anyway and as a result Busch went up the track and Dale Jr. went on by. Note to readers, mark my words, Kyle Busch will remember that move and later in season, payback Dale Jr. on-track despite the fact that Kyle Busch going up the track as a result contact was Busch fault, not Dale Jr.

Nonetheless, when Dale Jr. went by with less than 20 laps to go, I was on the edge of my seat and watching the laps click down, 18, 17, 16, 15, 10…thinking damn could this finally be our day and yet in the corner of my eye, watching the closer, Kevin Harvick close in on Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead and possibly for the win. And with 4 laps to go, Harvick made the pass and took the lead. I have to say at that point, my heart sank because as much as I wanted that, as much as JR Nation wanted that win, I know Dale Jr. would be upset and in this case, all I could do is watch Kevin Harvick drive off and pickup his second win 2011, with back to back victories, but at least Dale Jr. held Kyle Busch for second place, but as Tony Stewart said after the Las Vegas race, second place suck.

But you know seeing Dale Jr. lead several laps once again at Martinsville, contend for the victory and finish 2nd was a feel good moment. It means that Dale Jr. is making a comeback and is contending for wins and hopefully a championship later this season. But I do want to say one thing, I don’t think Kevin Harvick is the bad guy for taking the lead from Junior and winning the race, Harvick simply had the better car at the race and he won. Congrats to Harvick, he earned it fair and square. But Texas and Talladega is on the horizon and those are both good tracks for Dale Jr.

Also, I credit Steve Letarte (the crew chief) in his role of turning Dale Jr. around and getting him back on track. Chemistry in NASCAR with driver, crew chief, team and owner needs to be perfect to win and be success in NASCAR and Letarte knows how to setup this COT, talk to Dale Jr. on the radio and keep junior focused.

And with that said, that’s all folks, see yeah after Texas.

Full Disclosure: This article was originally published on Brian Vermette's former blog called BVinsight, however once RaceDriven.com was re-launched and rebrand, BVinsight was renamed BVDaily with 33 of 44 articles being published here on RaceDriven due to subject.