I wanted to let the race soak in a bit this week before writing my post (okay who am I kidding- really I was totally slammed at the day job yesterday and not in the mood to write by the time I got home).
Let’s start with my usual fodder- Team 14 and their run at TMS. I admit I started the weekend a bit excited after hearing that Tony was the first driver to break the 200 mph mark in a stock car at Texas Motor Speedway. Of course it’s all relative considering Tony has gone around TMS in an indy car at well over 200 mph. Still it’s cool and like Tony mentioned who knows how long the record lasts- but it’s always cool to be the first one to do something! Tony was able to qualify for the race 6th which is not bad at all!
However once the green flag waved, he started dropping and radioed into his crew cheif Chad Johnston and reported those words I have learn to dread this season: Tight in the middle third. It seems whenever the car is tight in the middle Tony has handling issues throughout the race. And this was the case. Before the first round of pit stops Tony asked for the right rubber to be removed- however Chad was only willing to remove the spring rubber on a green flag pit stop- and that pit stop ended up being under yellow- so they worked with adjusting with wedge which worked for the first part of the run. The ill-handling car had Tony falling backwards and soon seem stymied around position 20 and despite changes made to the car- that far back in the field it was hard to move up.
On the plus side neither the driver nor the crew on that Team 14 gave up. Since the car wasn’t able to muscle it’s way up to the front Chad Johnston used pit strategy to get him up there. The team had fairly solid pit stops all day- even considering that Tony actually missed pit road once thanks to what sounded to me like Casey Mears blocking him inadvertently from the entrance to pit road. Then there was the time Tony pitted around lap 303 because he thought he had a flat tire but really according to Chad it was fine- (Tony sounded flummoxed on the radio when Chad told him that all tires were up when they checked them after the pit stop). It all worked out because Tony ended up in the front at the end of the race when it counted. Second to last caution saw Tony pushing Jeff Gordon who was in front of him into the lead. Jeff even took off with a commanding lead- and if it hadn’t been for the last caution Jeff likely would have won and Tony would have likely ended up with a top five or ten. However that was not in the cards. A very late race caution bunched the field together. Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon ended up “rubbing” and that was the rub heard around the world…Brad ended up second. Jeff Gordon ended up with a cut tire.
Winner was non-chaser Jimmie Johnson.
And now- for a little bantering about the post race altercation on pit road. Here are my opinions on that:
NASCAR themselves are partly to blame for the altercation. It’s my opinion that things might not have escalated the way that they did if NASCAR cut down on the teams being able to pull out the side skirts on the cars during pit stops. Yes it allows for better aerodynamics- but those things look pretty darn sharp and are likely what caused the damage to Gordon’s tire. Personally I think that if they had rubbed and the side skirts on Keselowski’s car hadn’t been pulled out likely there wouldn’t have been such severe damage on Gordon’s car. Also- this new chase format- the elimination race coming up in Phoenix- it’s stressful!
That said yes Harvick did give Keselowski a little push towards Gordon (#Harvicking) and then it was all on like Donkey Kong but I personally don’t see him as being overly involved in the scuffle. It will really be interesting to see what NASCAR hands down penalty wise. I think that last time they kind of set a precedence with not fining Matt Kenseth for the headlock (also Keselowski btw) at Martinsville. Basically to me that is like stating that fist-a-cuffs are okay as long as you aren’t using your car as a weapon or putting others in danger (hence why Brad and Tony were fined). Of course last time you didn’t really have crew members really getting involved in the fruckus either- it was just driver-on-driver with crew members pulling them apart not throwing punches. So all that to say what I think may happen penalty wise: I think #NASCAR may penalize specific crew members (specifically a couple of people on Jeff Gordon’s crew as well as Kasey Kahne’s crew who were in there throwing punches), give Gordon and Keselowski monetary fines but not points because points would pretty much ruin their chances at a championship run in Phoenix this weekend and maybe put Gordon on probation and since Brad is already on probation perhaps extend that into next season.
So what’s your take?
The Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:
Next race is in Phoenix on Sunday – and is the final elimination race before the season finale.
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