All week the media hyped today’s race at the Glen to be a race where Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon were favorites. One had a considerably better day than the other. But here I go again getting ahead of myself. Lets start with my new Watkin’s Glen fun fact…pointed out first by NASCAR INSIDER and then mentioned again during the pre-show. As you know I am fascinated by the ballet of service performed during pit stops…I have mentioned this several times. Anyway at The Glen the cars actually pull into the pits backwards at this track compared to every other track. Normally when the car pits, the driver is nearest the wall. At Watkin’s Glen the driver is farthest from the wall. This means that everything is done backwards for the pit crews- which is a challenge for all crew members. So that is your Watkin’s Glen fun fact.
Now about the race. Team Home Depot started with some sort of plan judging by their radio communications in which during lap 3 or 4 Tony radioed into his crew chief with the cryptic message of “I am already working on what we talked about.” Obviously I have no idea what he was working on…but I think he was working hard on being consistent and not overly aggressive- as he seemed to just hang in fourth place…like he was waiting for something…just nailing the turns and avoiding trouble. The only real trouble Team Home Depot ran into was on lap 24 when Stewart pitted and there was a slight stall when he was leaving the jack. Even on lap 37 when Tony was slightly tapped by lapped car Robby Gordon, he didn’t spin or over-correct. Luck was on Team Home Depot’s side and he continued on virtually unscathed. Stewart then radios in to Zipadelli that he need help cutting to the right…and then just a few laps later he says he definitely needs help turning to the right. Then at about lap 53 Kyle Busch and Tony are running first second when Kyle agrees to let tony by for his bonus points for leading a lap- and then Tony waves Kyle back around. That is teamwork there.
During Team Home Depot’s last pit stop Tony follows Kyle right into the pits and the team puts on four tires for a flawless pit stop, and nearly beat teammate Kyle Busch out of the pits. Nearly but not quite. I was not quite sure what the strategy was for Earnhardt to stay out so long- but it ended up biting him in the butt when a debris caution was thrown for gravel on the track. Or as Tony Eury Jr put it…”A cup of dirt on the track.” Ha that was actually a lot of gravel. After Earnhardt pits Kyle is again in the lead and Tony is again in second. At 14 laps to go Newman spins out and ends up rolling right back into the middle of the track, driver-side door to the oncoming track right in the middle of the racing groove. Several cars nearly t-bone Newman, including very close calls for Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch. Then with just 8 laps to go there is THE WRECK. It was HUGE. And I bet several drivers will be sore tomorrow. All in all – 9 drivers were involved and several of those trashcans filled with sand…I forget what they call them…were destroyed. The race was red flagged for nearly 45 minutes. Those taking incredibly hard hits were: Bobby Labonte (who was sent to the hospital- but later released), David Gilliand, Max Papis, and Dave Blaney. It was a hard hard crash- it looked like David Gilliland and Michael McDowell were bumping and racing hard and McDowell got into Gilliland and that is what started the chain reaction pile up.
After the race finally got back underway, Tony Stewart ended up having to spend his energy fighting off a charging Marcus Ambrose instead of trying to battle Kyle for the lead. Luckily Tony was able to hold off Ambrose for his second second place finish in two races. Overall I think Team Home Depot ran a most excellent race both on the track and in the pits.
MORE NOTES ON THE GLEN:
- At the beginning of the race when Jeff Gordon was having trouble hearing his crew- they had NASCAR black flag him. That was genius.
- I have not seen a teammate help another teammate like Sam Hornish did for Ryan Newman in years. That was really cool to see one teammate push the other all the way into the pits like that and risk dropping out of the top 35 in owners points to do it. Color me impressed.
- Why do they call Carl Edwards “Cousin Carl?” Is there something I am not getting?
- Speaking of Carl Edwards I just have to tell you this little funny. My mom said to me one night DID YOU HEAR ABOUT CARL EDWARDS??? and I was all ears…so I am WHAT? And she says: HE GOT CAUGHT COMING OUT OF HIS GIRLFRIENDS HOTEL ROOM THE OTHER NIGHT. (I seriously was waiting for the punch line like…and then he did a backflip…or something like that). Finally I said SO? HE’S YOUNG and SINGLE SO WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL? And my mom looked at me and goes NO HE IS NOT! Turns out…she was talking about John Edwards. Yeah.
- My final note for this race was while watching and listening to the communication between Greg Zipadelli and Tony Stewart and Mark Roberson I was reminded again why I am sad that Tony and Greg will not be on the same team together next year. Greg was very encouraging to Tony, telling him that his lap times were good even though he was fighting a car that didn’t want to turn right. Tony telling his crew chief exactly what the car was or wasn’t doing that he needed it to. Mark keeping Tony updated on the track clean up while he sat with his motor off on a different part of the track. Greg enthusiastically telling Tony to DIG DIG DIG DIG out of the pit box, so enthusiastically that I won’t be surprised if he is hoarse tomorrow. That kind of thing is going to be hard for both Stewart and Zipadelli to recreate with their new crew chief/driver. And it is definitely something I will miss.
Anyway…I have spent enough time waxing on about what will be next year. Next week: Michigan.