Tony Qualified: 13th, but started 43rd
Tony Finished: 10th
Points: 661 (26th in the points standings)
Wow what a great race for Tony Stewart. I will gladly take that 10th place finish especially after having started in the back. Tony Stewart qualified 13th at Martinsville but crashed during practice on Saturday and had to go to a backup car which is never a good thing. What made me sightly disheartened is when I heard that the team had built that car specifically for Martinsvile and that they didn’t think that the backup car would be as good. After hearing that my mind was pretty much relegated to the fact that likely it would be another race where Tony struggled in the mid-rear of the field and would end up a lap down early on. It’s so easy to get a lap down on the short tracks like Martinsville and Bristol. That is what I expected anyway. Thankfully it was NOT what happened.
Tony Stewart and crew may have started at the back but he slowly and steadily started passing cars and steadily moving up the field. His car wasn’t perfect handling- he mentioned it having a slight issue with being tight into the run. Turns out after the first couple of pit stops the tires were used up- specifically the left-rear. Tony’s crew chief Chad Johnston let him know this over the radio- telling him that if he had to use a tire – try to use the right front if he could. I am assuming Tony adjusted something or the crew adjusted something (or they both adjusting something) because Tony continued his steady, drama-free march towards the front of the field. He broke into the top 15 by lap 100.
The team stayed positive and kept making what seemed to be subtle changes like air pressure when needed. They might lose a position or two in the pits here and there but Tony would make it back up on the track just moving through the field. My favorite thing about Tony’s march forward? He wasn’t mentioned much on TV- which meant he wasn’t involved in anyone else’s drama- which is quite easy at a short track. We will talk more about the drama later in this post. While sure they got some nose damage it didn’t harm the car at all and Tony was able to keep his momentum and finally cracked into the top 10 by lap 352- where he stayed for most of the remainder of the race (with the exception of getting shuffled down to 12-14th a couple of times during restarts). Tony didn’t get frustrated though- he just worked his way back up through the field. He was as high as 7th at one point even. I didn’t see or hear it mentioned but I can’t imagine that he wasn’t the biggest mover of the day since he came all the way from the back. So heck yeah I will gladly take that top 10 finish (which just happens to be number 300 in Tony’s career).
Now of course the talk of the race isn’t Tony’s awesome run, nor is it Jeff Gordon and how excited he was to lock into being one of the “final four” for the championship race in Homestead during his final season as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. The talk of the race is Matt Kenseth, taking out Joey Logano while he was leading. Matt happened to be many laps down at the time- after suffering damage from an accident that involved Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski. As many fans know however- this was NOT just a single incident- but has been brewing at least for several weeks if not all season long. Two weeks ago at Kansas, Joey Logano essentially performed a PIT maneuver on Kenseth while he was leading the race. Joey then went on to not just finish the race, but win it. This week, Kenseth returned to the track and seemingly waited until he caught up with Joey and ran Joey (and himself) into the wall. Sponsors and fans don’t want to see their driver in the grass every single week. And if Matt didn’t stand up to being pushed around on track then he was risking just that- fellow competitors viewing him as nothing more than someone they too can push around on track. Matt (a seasoned veteran of NASCAR) was just putting Joey in his place so to speak and letting him know that what he did a couple weeks ago? That had consequences now. Matt picked a slower speed track to do it on, and when the situation presented itself he took it. I would think of it more of a “teachable” moment for Logano (and other drivers): That your actions have a consequence. How you race me is how I will race you.
My thoughts on the whole situation are this: Karma is a bitch- and an unexpected one at that. What I don’t understand why Kenseth is the bad guy in this situation. Is he suppose to just let drivers (specifically Penske drivers) just run him off into the wall or the grass or spin him out and NOT pay the favor back but instead “take the high road” and the wrecker off the track? That’s not a racer and Matt Kenseth is a racer. I am also sure that Joey isn’t as flummoxed by the situation as he tries to convince us that he is. Of course Matt isn’t going to try anything at Talladega- Matt is not a stupid person. He knows that track is dangerous even when everyone is minding their p’s and q’s so why risk injuring someone (whether that be another driver, himself, or fans). He got his message across to Joey. It doesn’t matter to me that they weren’t both on the same lap. That is irrelevant to what happened. There was a reason for the action. Joey knows. Matt knows it. All the other drivers know it. Most of the fans know it.
IF Matt Kenseth gets more than a slap on the wrist fine- then I hope that NASCAR also looks hard at Danica Patrick and David Gilliliand. Those two have been turning each other ALL SEASON LONG. They are “also ran”s right now for the most part (sorry Danica and David fans) and haven’t been the focus of media attention because they are not part of the chase but it’s only fair to treat all drivers the same (of course then Joey should have been penalized for Kansas). If NASCAR is going to start penalizing the drivers for standing up for themselves on track- for not continuously allowing other drivers to run over them so to speak then you are going to end up with a racing product where drivers are afraid to rub another driver. After all “rubbing’s racing,” is it not? How is this not more than just a seasoned driver not taking shit from a younger driver?
Those are my thoughts on the situation. Guess we will find out what NASCAR does about it on Tuesday.
And how great was it to see Jeff Gordon win? I loved that. It means he is in it for the “final four” at Homestead. You have to love that.
The Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:
(This week from Texas Chase race 2011)
Next week we will be racing at Texas- where everything is bigger!
Do you #StandWithSmoke? Showing him is as easy as 1. Donate at least $1.00 (but seriously if you can- do at least $10- because then your donation will get doubled by an anonymous donor) to the Tony Stewart Foundation atStandWithSmoke.Com 2. Download the sign (the link will be in your donation receipt) 3. Take a photo (or a short video) with your sign and either post it to the Tony Stewart Foundation facebook page or Tweet it using #StandWithSmoke and @14TSF. Let’s all show Tony Stewart we #StandWithSmoke.
#StandWithSmoke #KeepDiggingTony #TonyStewartFan4Life #HellbentOnVictory
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