The NASCAR Sprint Unlimited race just finished and all I can do is liken it to a frustrating appetizer. Why is it frustrating you ask? Because to me watching the Unlimited is like eating a delicious yet commercial-ridden appetizer only to have to wait a week for the main dinner course (the salad course will be the Bud Duels that are happening on Thursday while I am at WORK! URGH!). This year the format of the (too short) non-points paying race was voted on by fans (yes I voted too). The fans chose a race that was segmented into 30 laps, 25 laps and 20 laps respectively. They also (wisely) chose a 4 tire pit stop after segment 1 and for no driver eliminations (don’t worry though- there were only 12 drivers left by segment three anyway and only 10 of them were really in any sort of contention for the win- with two cars being cut off from the main pack). They also could choose the fire suit that Miss Sprint Cup wore in victory lane. I think it is fun that NASCAR does things like that to encourage fan participation- especially on non-points races.
Personally I was anxious for the Unlimited because except for a couple laps of pre-season testing and practice- I hadn’t really seen much of the Gen 6 cars on track at all. Seeing the cars on track- I am liking how easy it is to tell the manufacturers apart with these cars. And one thing that I was kind of iffy on when I heard about it- the names on the top of the windshields? LOVE it- I find it very aesthetically pleasing.
I was surprised that the cars seemed to be able to bump draft somewhat- even across manufacturers considering that the bumpers supposedly do not line up as well now with the new car bodies. Tony seemed to find a strong drafting partner in Martin Truex Jr in the first segment- from what it LOOKED like in the Unlimited- while you could bump draft somewhat- the two-car pod style racing does seem to be a thing of the past. I was hoping to see Tony and Martin Truex Jr pair up in later segments but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
Tony seemed like he had a strong car tonight- a REAL strong car. There were times he seemed to me like he was able to pull away with no drafting partners really. The car seemed to be very maneuverable. Almost too maneuverable as on lap 15 he dove down from the outside lane to the inside lane at the track and nearly took out an unsuspecting Marcos Ambrose in the process. The two did touch (Tony’s left rear quarter panel to Marcus’s right front) which caused Marcus to drift up towards the outside lane slightly. Jimmie Johnson – seeing Marcus drift upward into his lane checked up a little and slowed down and got tagged in the rear by Denny Hamlin who had a head of steam going. That unfortunately collectively eliminated 7 cars from the race- including Johnson, Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Mark Martin. During the race FOX played a hard to hear snippet of Tony and Spotter Bob’s conversation and it seemed that Tony might have thought he was clear when he wasn’t. He even took responsibility after the race- that I don’t think he should have taken because neither he nor Marcus Ambrose really lost control so I can’t really blame Tony or Marcus for causing the wreck really as they kept themselves under control and didn’t even spin. Jimmie Johnson also did what he was suppose to do by checking up slightly as to not run down Marcus Ambrose.
Tony came back from his dust up with Marcus Ambrose to win segment one of the Unlimited. He was also strong in both segment 2 and segment 3…however he finished fourth after drafting with race winner Harvick. On the last lap he decided to drop down to the inside lane to pick up (or block- which I am not quite sure) Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano on the inside lane. What resulted was that Tony lost the draft and Kevin Harvick won. However- the car was strong…so so strong. And Tony seems to have the new car figured out pretty well. That encourages me for the Daytona 500. I admit- I am tired of Tony Stewart being a bridesmaid when it comes to the Daytona 500! I am ready to see him win that sucker!
What I was disappointed with were the commercials. I had forgotten how commercial ridden Fox races are. The commercials seemed too numerous. I am not stupid- I do realize that they have to have commercials to pay for the broadcast. But they seemed too plentiful and shown at inopportune times (near the end of the segments). The last set of commercials? Were within 10 laps of the finish of the Unlimited! That is crazy annoying. Maybe they should have figured a way to play more commercials between the segments so that we didn’t have to miss racing action- especially racing action at the END of the race- where things are likely to get good and racy. I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I hadn’t said anything about the plethora of commercials when my dad started cussing at the end of the Unlimited because they went to commercial with ten laps to go (under green flag conditions) and then went on to say that it indeed was unlimited- unlimited commercials (amongst other unprintable things).
All in all the Unlimited left me with the taste of NASCAR in my mouth and I am ready for dinner! Come on Daytona 500!
Notes About the Sprint Unlimited:
1. I caught hell for being a Tony Stewart fan this morning- from A GIRL SCOUT! Okay- really it was her parents. Picture if you will several weeks ago a Brownie girl scout is on the doorstep with her cookie order form. Well she hit the jackpot here because 1. I love girl scout cookies- who doesn’t? and 2. I was a girl scout for a couple years and I LOVED brownies (I hated actual girl scouts- I had a terrible troop- but my brownie leader Debbie? SHE ROCKED!). Anyway I remember what it was like to go door-to-door and hawk the cookies and I HATED it. The girl was polite and nervous and her accompanying parent had an adorable little dog with her…so I ordered up some cookies. Well today my bounty of cookies was delivered. I had been expecting it and had the check all ready for them. My checks are NASCAR checks. The dad thought it was REALLY cool that I had NASCAR checks and proclaimed himself a big Jeff Gordon fan…and then promptly said “I’ll forgive you for being a Stewart fan.” They got it from my car because they saw my license plate (I was not wearing any Stewart gear- I was actually just about to go to the grocery store). Of course it was all said in fun….
2. Brad Keselowski was darn good as an announcer! If that racing thing doesn’t work out for him- he might just want to give that a shot. Also- regarding Brad…you know he was the CHAMPION last year- you would think that they would maybe let last year’s champion run in the Unlimited- just an idea for next year incase the previous year’s champion doesn’t qualify for the race on other grounds.
3. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Twitter account (@StewartHaasRcng): If you aren’t following for whatever reason- you definitely SHOULD. Heck if you don’t have twitter- you might want to consider joining just for them. Trust me- it is worth it (even when their tweets wake me up at 7:00 in the morning -I am on the west coast- on the one day I get to sleep in). For the Unlimited alone- they (and @SpringWolf) taught me that the Gen 6 cars are pretty much on the same chasis as COT…it’s just the body - and some of the framing- to protect the driver) that is different. I guess I just assumed that the chasis would be different since the whole car looks different.
4. Speaking of the Stewart-Haas Racing Twitter account- they tweeted a quote from Tony about his car during the race- as they often do…but I had to REFRAIN from posting a smartass reply. I actually saved my smart-ass reply to my twitter draft folder:
5. The new Gyrocam in the car- the one that stays level even when the car is on the banking- wow that was a cool shot was it not?
So- don’t forget that Daytona 500 qualifying is tomorrow, the Bud Duels are Thursday of this week and that the 500 is on Sunday February 24th!
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