I am going to start this post by apologizing right now- obviously my picking Jeff Gordon for the Championship has thwarted him somewhat. Forgive me Jeff Gordon, team 24 and all your fans. I promise from this point forward to root for Joey Logano (ok not really) as 2014 Sprint Cup champion.
Okay now back to business. Between knowing that Tony had qualified 28th and that he had spun out during the last five minutes of final practice I admit I didn’t think this would be our breakout race of the season. What I didn’t bargain for was the fact that I was ready to throw Tony’s crew chief under the (proverbial- for some reason I feel that I need to clarify this) bus by the midway point of the race. As you may know, my beloved readers, I am an eternal optimist when it comes to team 14. I am the one always saying, “Well, we’ll get ‘em next week.”
But the “next weeks” are starting to dwindle now (we are down to EIGHT left in the whole season) and are returning to tracks that we have already been to. Performance should not be so dismal. I, the eternal optimist, am frustrated by the way the team is running- I can only imagine how Tony must feel. This was our second race at New Hampshire so the team should not be posting the slowest ten lap average of final practice (before the aforementioned spin)-that is just not really acceptable to me. Unless (here comes the eternal optimist in me- some days I just can’t keep her down) we are just testing stuff out for next season- when the rules package changes YET again. Some how I doubt that is the case- so I get a little cranky during the race when Tony can’t seem to advance AT ALL. I am to the point that when I hear Tony say that the car is tight in the middle- I KNOW that this race is not going to be a good one. It’s not that they don’t work on the car throughout the race- they threw something at it nearly every pitstop- trackbar, wedge, air pressure- it it was adjustable it was tweaked (including something to do with Tony’s feet- I remember hearing him on the radio state that he tried it with his left foot and it was worse…whatever “it” was). They adjusted that poor car until Tony proclaimed on the radio that they would just ride it out- then Chad seemed a bit befuddled as to what do for the next pitstop so they opted to stay out. It just seems whenever the car is tight in the middle Tony ends up struggling all day and then stupid things end up happening like getting run over on track by David Gilliland (who according to Tony’s spotter immediately apologized) because we are running two laps down with the also ran cars.
Team 14 desperately needs a confidence boosting race. The whole team does- hell even all the fans do- it’s been a weird, stressful year and that one little thing could help the morale of everyone involved. That said Tony finished 30th, 2 laps down and is still 26th in the points standing. He is still winless this year and there are 8 races left.
As for the race itself? Talk about a wild wild race- especially the last third of the race! I thought for awhile there Kevin Havick had it in the bag (he lead the most laps- 104 which was a third of the race). It was also a race of weird things befalling chase contenders. Case in point Denny Hamlin…yes he had that accident but he was already FOUR laps down at that point because of a weird issue with the fuel receptor not taking gas into the car- that had a devastating effect on his Chase- as Denny is now in 13th, 6 points away from the cut off for the next round. And Jeff Gordon- who was also strong- ended up dropping down to 7th in the standings after suffering a tire failure. Yikes! It’s interesting to me how these elimination rounds are working out because I think the race at Dover will be a very competitive one for the Chasers because of the eliminations. So right now the chasers below cut off line for elimination are: Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Aric Armirola. The top three in the chase going into the last round of the Challenger round are: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick.
The race winner? Joey Logano, who won at what he considers to be his home track.
I don’t really have any notable notes for New Hampshire, except to thank Jessica Bure for providing us with the great pictures of Tony from NHMS!
Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:
This weekend we are racing at Dover, the Monster Mile is the last race before the first set of eliminations.
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